Finding the Courage to Move Business Forward

by Erica Clark

Vulnerable.

That’s the way I felt when I first arrived to my monthly Mastermind group. It was the same awkward vulnerability you feel when you’re sitting in the doctor’s exam room with your back-end visible. Ha. You know the feeling. You’re covered in the super “chic” thin hospital gown, awaiting what you expect will be bad health news. That’s how exposed I felt as I, along with 7 other female entrepreneurs, gathered in a conference room in a local library to discuss our business challenges. Gulp. What did I get myself into?

I was just finishing up my first year in business. As a baker, I had spent several months participating in farmers markets, felt burned out and didn’t have a path to move forward on advancing my business. Here I was about to be called on to share my struggles.

The rules of the group were simple. First and foremost, what’s said in Mastermind stays in Mastermind. Friends, spouses and colleagues weren’t allowed to be privy to what was discussed in our intimate group. The knowledge that my worries, concerns, and insecurities wouldn’t be shared with anyone outside of the room helped me to get over my initial anxiety.  After pleasantries were exchanged over breakfast pastries and coffee, we got down to business.

The second rule of Mastermind? Electronics are forbidden except during scheduled break time. This allows everyone to stay in the moment.  You want your Mastermind members to be there for you, to hear you, and you should want to reciprocate by giving them the same attention. I was really grateful for this boundary.

The approach to our monthly meetings was always the same. We started by presenting to the group, in 10 minutes or less, an update for the previous month’s problem. Then we explained the current problem. The monthly updates being structured this way made  an easy accountability between us. We stayed up-to-date on our goals throughout the year.

The Mastermind group was a great way to have someone “hold your feet to the fire”. It can be a wonderful accountability method -- someone can say, “hold on a sec -- didn’t you say 6 months ago that you would have liked to_____________?” For me, I had 7 other women that were holding me accountable -- both in the celebrations and in the struggles.

After the presentation, we participated in a round robin Q & A with the presenter -- whoever was sharing. Following the question segment, we would then go around the room again, “round robin” style to offer tips and solutions.  Sometimes, the tips and solutions would piggy-back off of another person’s suggestion, or someone might suggest a brand new solution.

A Fresh Perspective

One of the best things about this Mastermind was the different experiences we all have had. We have different perspectives, and different minds. And it’s not always awkward, or issue-filled. Sometimes, we shared celebrations! Celebrations are encouraged because ultimately, that’s why Masterminds exist -- to collaborate and discover new ways to overcome obstacles in life!

I was invited to join my Mastermind group in the Fall of 2014 by a colleague that I met at previous networking events.  She knew that I was just starting out as an entrepreneur, that I liked my baking products. She felt I’d be a good fit for her group. She was so right.

A Way Forward

When I joined the group, the women were a group of strangers.  A few years later, they became my friends that I knew I could call on if I needed help. I think this principle is applicable no matter your field or industry. We can receive massive support by leaning on others! Building intentional community is important.  

The motivation and growth I’ve experienced from my Mastermind group has been tremendous.  I’m glad I had the courage to be vulnerable, and that I opened myself up with the group. By sharing my struggles, I was provided with tips and strategies on a path to move forward.  Most importantly, I took a few hours of out my schedule to focus solely on improving my business. I was worried my business was in a bad state, at the beginning. It turns out, because of my Mastermind, I know it’s not as bad as I had thought. Also, I now have a plan to move forward with accountability and support along the way.

Have you ever joined or wanted to join a Mastermind group? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

Erica Clark is the owner of Chez Bonser Patisserie, (CBP) a bakery that makes delicious, homemade baked goods and ships cookie packages throughout the country.   Erica was inspired to launch her business 4 years ago at the urging of family members and colleagues that frequently commented that she needed to share her baking skills with a larger audience! You can view her menu, and follow her on Instagram to see the latest treat she’s baking up like heart-shaped sugar cookies, festively decorated cake pops, triple chocolate brownies and more!