Friday, 27 January 2012

The First Mastermind #mastermind

I was recently asked how and when I was introduced to the Mastermind concept.

Aged 21, I set up my first business with all the insufferable smug arrogance that I could muster. Pretty obnoxious I suspect.

Having read all the books and having attended all the courses (as well as having a degree in economics with business), I still felt things just weren’t coming together. I had accrued way too much theory and hadn’t learned all the lessons I should have learned. But then again, I was young, very young.

It was at this point, working my little socks off and feeling that I wasn’t really making progress, that I was introduced to what is now known as a Mastermind Group: expert sessions; ‘insider secrets’; golden nuggets of research and market research; exposure to genuine how-tos and tools, tips and techniques that actually work; regular coaching and feedback sessions; peer group support; regular info updates, especially about latest and proven techniques; selective introductions, and a whole host of myriad benefits that were too subtle for me to appreciate at the time.

The experience changed my life and I continue to be indebted to the expert business grower who is responsible not only for turbocharging my business career, but also for introducing me to a career that I would later follow: namely helping businesses to grow, and fast. So, what happened?

While my programme took place some time ago, the fundamentals have not changed. The recipe comprises:

·       An expert business grower that can inspire you to make the tough decisions and take the actions required
·       Regular (but relatively brief) coaching and mentoring
·       The creation of a safe haven, a club, of trusted peers who can share your issues and your dreams. People who are on a similar journey to yourself
·       A focus on results, how to get them and how to measure them as well as putting processes and systems in place to automate as much of the business as possible and to put you in a position of working ‘on’ and not ‘in’ the business
·       Regular prompts and mini-updates to keep you fired up and focused, and much, much more...

When I signed up for the programme I wrote my targets for the programme on a piece of paper and put it in a sealed envelope to be opened at the end of the 12-month programme.

What I signed up for was the insights and the golden tips, the priceless nuggets that the others could share as a result of their combined x years of business experience.

What I signed up to was a clear pointer of what worked and what didn’t work for a business like mine.

What I signed up for was magic fairy dust that I could find in no book.

What I had signed up to was my own personalised version of ‘What They Teach You at Harvard Business School’ combined with ‘What They Don’t Teach You...’

And did the programme deliver?

Yes, the programme gave me all of the above. And yes, I exceeded all the targets I had put in that envelope. But this really is the tip of the iceberg.

What I hadn’t accounted for was that the programme changed my view of the business, my view of the world and what exactly I was trying to achieve and it totally opened my eyes to options I had never imagined. (I was young!)

Most of all, the programme succeeded in pinning me down. It got me to declare my ambition, explore how I would achieve it, commit to the strategy and be accountable for the results and my behaviour) not only to the programme leader but also to the whole group.

In the past I had got away with murder by refusing to declare my goals (not that I knew what they were!) and refusing to follow-through on plans and so I was not in any way accountable to anyone for the success or failure of my results. Like most owner-managers I behaved like a law unto myself, taking credit (where credit was not due) and moving the goalposts or blaming some external circumstance if things didn’t go my way.

The programme was the wake-up call I needed; it also provided the key, the solution (the tools) to help me move on. In short, it changed my focus, my viewpoint and my horizons. I became a grown-up!

So, is this type of programme for everyone?

Emphatically the answer is ‘no’! It is not for the faint-hearted or for people content at playing at being in business. Likewise it is not for the fresh-face start-up or the business that is about to go bust (in search of a magic wand).

Who it is for is... people who feel that they have a business that hasn’t yet fulfilled its potential. They have had some success but often feel that they are now working harder than ever and not realising the anticipated results. People who feel they need the support, focus and attention of others, specifically a particular business expert (people who have been-there-and-done-it and can inspire you to do similar things).

There are not too many groups out there that suit your individual business experience, ambition, drive and character. But they are out there. Time to start looking...

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