It’s an old saw popular with business coaches. If you want to be successful, your first step isn’t to write a business plan, spot a niche or create your product. It’s to create a mastermind support group – a team of cheerleaders who’ll buck you up when you fail to land a client, buy you coffee when the VCs turn you down and give you a shoulder to cry on when your business goes belly-up and you’re wondering how to explain the last two years on your resume.
And they’re quite right, of course – although it does help if that support group can actually offer some sound advice rather than just a mocha frapuccino and an extra-large cookie.
In practice though, no one ever actually finds a group. Call a bunch of people and invite them to get-together for a you-boost session and you’re not likely to get many arrivals. What we all really need isn’t a mastermind support group so much as a bunch of trusted individuals who can offer help in different ways.
They’re Like Mentors but Smaller and Easier to Find
You can think of them as mini-mentors if you like but the good news is they’re much easier to find than a cohesive group of masterminds.
The first place to look is your family.
They’re likely to provide a relatively small pool of people to choose from and unless your surname is Rothschild, they’re also unlikely to offer too much in the way of powerful business knowledge.
But you won’t find better emotional support anywhere, and that’s important too.
When you’re building your own firm, there will always be moments when you wonder if it’s all worth it, whether the idea is sound and whether you’re the right person to do it. At that point, you will need someone you love to clip you round the ear and tell you to stop being such a cry-baby. It requires a special kind of knowledge – a knowledge of you and what makes you tick, and it’s something that you can only find in your closest circles.
When you have at least one person that you can turn to for those crises of confidence, you can look further afield. Unlike relatives, your friends are people you’ve chosen to spend time with. That’s usually because you think alike, have found something you admire in each other and you respect each other too.
But because we tend to choose friends with whom we have something in common, it’s also possible that at least one of your friends will have knowledge that has some bearing on what you’re trying to do.
If you were trying to create a software program for property lawyers, for example, you might not have friends who are property lawyers. But you might have friends who are software programmers, who can understand the challenge of debugging and can help you to think of ways to make the coding faster.
They might not be as good as your spouse or a sibling at bucking you up when you’re feeling down, but they can give you some pretty creative suggestions for handling a database.
Know Anyone with a Bag of Money?
It’s still unlikely though that even your best friends are going to have the sort of in-depth knowledge you’ll need to crack particular problems. You might want to know what angels really want to see in a business plan, for example, or which companies you should approach with your idea first.
Unless you know someone who has already started their own business – and swapped it for a giant sack of Google cash – then your immediate circle of friends might be little use for those special sorts of problems.
That’s when you need to work your network. Asking your friends if they know anyone who can provide that sort of specialized advice is a good start but these days, profiting from extended networks is easier than ever.
Pull open your pals’ Facebook or LinkedIn profiles and start following the lines until you come up with someone with the right knowledge. Ideally, you won’t have to go further than a couple of places removed but if you extend your definition of “friend” to include people in groups you’ve joined or networks you’re already a part of, it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone whose brains you can pick for some special advice.
The result of all this won’t be a mastermind group. It will be a collection of people you can call on to solve particular problems as you’re building your business. The frapuccinos you’ll have to buy yourself.
[tags] mentor, mentors, mentoring [/tags]