For many entrepreneurs, it can be a real struggle to get honest and direct feedback on your business ideas and strategies. The business people surrounding you in your day-to-day usually have biases and conflicts of interests which make it difficult for them to speak truth to power. And friends and family will rarely say something that might be difficult to say or even more difficult to hear.
Unfortunately, getting direct feedback and insights at the right time, even if it's critical or scathing, can save a business leader from going down a fruitless path or getting themselves into trouble. While you always want to push the limits and challenge assumptions, you also need some guardrails
One of the best ways to get this feedback is through a mastermind group of your peers. These groups allow people who truly care about you and your business to give you unvarnished insight on what you're doing. And because they don't have a stake in the business and aren't family, they are more likely to tell you what you need to hear. Here are some places you can find a mastermind group.
1. Entrepreneurial membership organizations.
Groups such as The Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) and Young Presidents Organization (YPO) offer mastermind groups called forums where six to 10 members are placed in a group. Each group meets monthly for three to four hours, and the group also holds multi-day retreats once or twice a year.
Placement happens in a number of ways based on each chapter's policies. Some groups stay together for many years and form deep connections. Membership requirements include company revenue size and ownership/equity percentages along with annual dues.
2. Industry and professional organizations.
Groups such as Vistage and TAB provide mastermind-like experiences in a slightly larger format with groups ranging from 10 to 20 people. The main difference is these groups are typically run by a paid facilitator who manages the group and runs the meetings. The benefit is that someone is doing the organizing, bringing in experts and speakers, and keeping the meeting on agenda and schedule.
3. Professional advisory groups.
Many professional and industry groups offer mastermind type offerings that bring together small groups around specific topics or challenges. While many of these lack the vulnerability and deep sharing of true masterminds, they offer a more intimate space for sharing challenges and getting ideas for solutions. With time and focus, these groups can offer ongoing relationships that evolve and get to deeper sharing and problem solving.
4. Regional and local business advisors and coaches.
Many business advisory and coaching groups offer different types and styles of mastermind programs. Some are ongoing and some last for a set period. Many of these groups have structured agenda and curriculum geared towards specific topics and goals. Often they are part of larger learning and coaching programs. They also often involve retreats that include travel and multi-day meetings with other activities and experiences designed by the program creator.
5. Online mastermind platforms.
Over the last few years, several online platforms for virtual mastermind groups have appeared. Some of these focus on specific types of groups and industries, and others are open platforms that combine people from varied backgrounds.
The benefit of these is their access to large numbers of potential members. Meeting times are still an issue as people in different time zones are at different points of their day. While video calls aren't the same as in-person meetings, most people find they can still develop a tight-knit group where they feel comfortable to share deeply.
Bonus: Roll your own mastermind.
If you can't find a suitable mastermind group from the above sources, then consider forming your own mastermind. While it can be a little more work, you can hand pick the people you want to surround yourself with and tailor the agenda to your needs and goals. There are several books on masterminds along with several online resources to help you get started and teach you how to run a successful meeting.
Finding the best option will be based on your situation and personal style. Over time, you may find the need to change strategies and groups. The important thing is to find a scenario where you are able to share your most pressing challenges honestly and be truly open to hearing feedback.