Entrepreneurship can be really lonely. I remember when I transitioned away from my 9-to-5 job. I was stuck at my desk at home, and although I was not tied down to a schedule, I didn’t have my good friends across the cubicle to talk about the news or the latest football game.
Entrepreneurship can also be scary and confusing. Sometimes when you start to become successful, you don’t even realize how much things are changing because everything is happening so fast and you’re constantly finding yourself in new territory.
That’s why it’s super important for every entrepreneur to meet and learn from other people. There are so many others out there doing similar things, people you can learn from and help out on their own journeys as well. You never know if the next person you meet might be the connection you need to make massive progress in your business.
If you’re trying to build something amazing, you can’t do it all by yourself. As the proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” What good is fast if you’re going to end up somewhere you shouldn’t or don’t want to be?
Luckily, through the years, I’ve been able to create connections with people that have been vital to my business and my own well-being. But it took deliberate effort to do that. As an entrepreneur, you may be operating at a disadvantage because of the isolating nature of running your own business. So you have to put in some extra effort to make the connections that will help you grow your business.
Thankfully, there are a few simple ways to make those helpful connections—and that’s what we’re going to talk about in this chapter. We’ll cover three areas of focus that will help you build the crucial relationships that will help you move your business forward: masterminds, mentors, and conferences.
Here's what to expect in this chapter:
- Strategy #1: Finding a Mastermind Group
- Strategy #2: Working with a Mentor
- Strategy #3: Making Connections at Conferences
Strategy #1: Finding a Mastermind Group
Back in 2008, when I’d just started my first online business, a green exam study website, I remember my very first mastermind meeting. It was in Mira Mesa, a neighborhood in San Diego. I had joined an online community called Internet Business Mastery, and one of the founders invited anybody in the area to meet at the local Panera Bread to talk and “mastermind.”
I didn’t know what that word meant at the time, but I went anyway.
When I arrived that day, I was scared as heck. I didn’t know what to expect. I was already a little late because I’d been nervous and left the house late. My heart was pounding. Most everyone else there was already successful in their own business, and I was kind of in awe of them.
We went around the circle and each talked about what we were doing and what we needed help with. When it was my turn, I said, “I have this website that helps people pass an exam in the architecture industry. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m getting some good traffic to the site.” Then somebody asked me, “How much traffic?” I said, “About five to seven thousand.” And they were like, “Wow, that’s really good for a month. You should really be able to do something with that.” And I said, “No, per day.”
At that point, everyone stopped, looked at me, and decided they needed to help me out. In the conversation that followed, they helped me realize I wasn’t monetizing my site effectively, and helped me come up with the idea for an ebook I could sell on the site.
That conversation changed the course of my life.
Since that first meeting, I’ve continued to use mastermind groups to keep my head straight and make my business stronger. Masterminds have become a crucial support system for me over the past decade. I’m currently in two different mastermind groups, one that meets Mondays and another that meets Wednesdays. I rely on those people to be brutally honest with me. We often discuss future plans and ideas I have for what’s to come, and their direct feedback is incredibly helpful.
Sometimes when I share my plans, the other members tell me that’s not what I should be doing because it doesn’t align with my goals or with who I am. I’m very thankful for that feedback. In a way, my mastermind groups are the first line of defense before the SPI community sees what I do. I love that I can connect with them and receive constructive criticism about my business and brand before I test it out in the real world.
It’s a two-way street. They provide me with feedback, and I provide it to them. We keep each other honest, and encourage each other to make the decisions that are best for all of us. It’s great.
As a result, I consider mastermind groups absolutely necessary to anyone’s success as an entrepreneur. If you want to be successful in online business, a mastermind group is mandatory—so let’s talk about how to get started with one.
Getting Started with Your Own Mastermind Group
Without my mastermind group, I wouldn't be where I am today in business. Sure, you can make progress without one, but in order to quickly get to that next level in your business, where things can really begin to accelerate, you need to join a mastermind group.
Here's what you need to know about mastermind groups and how to find one that's right for you.
What Is a Mastermind Group?
For those of you who don’t know, a mastermind group is just a fancy term for a group of people with a common goal who meet (in person, on the phone, via Skype, chatrooms, meeting software, etc.) to share and learn to improve what they do. Think of it as a show and tell (and ask) for highly motivated individuals who want to get things done.
In these meetings, members of the group share their ideas, questions, triumphs, and downfalls. Members with questions get immediate feedback from the others, while everyone learns from everyone else’s experience and wisdom.
Most mastermind group meetings are held in a formal matter (as outlined below), probably because it’s the most effective structure for the sharing and learning process:
- Beginning: Each person, one-by-one, talks briefly about their goals from the previous meeting.
- Middle: A predetermined person in the “hot seat” shares, in detail, any number of issues, complications, questions and concerns about their own situation. The rest of the members then respond and contribute to the discussion by offering suggestions or comments based on their expert knowledge and/or experience.
- End: Each person, one-by-one, talks briefly about the goals they want to accomplish by the next meeting. Also, the next “hot seat” person is determined so they can be ready with questions for the group.
Depending on the mastermind group, the structure may be a little different, but the general idea is the same.
What’s really nice about this format is that because it’s so formal, everyone gets to participate and learn from everyone else. I’ve been in informal business meetings before, and there’s always a few people who never speak up and don’t get anything out of it. (I used to be one of those people!)
The Benefits of a Mastermind Group
There are a few huge benefits to participating in a mastermind group:
- Problem Solving: You can get any questions you have about what you’re doing answered, and talk through how to solve problems you’re encountering.
- Fresh Ideas: You can get a lot of new ideas that you may have never thought of to improve what you’re doing.
- Outside Perspective: You get a second (or third or fourth or fifth) opinion about any decisions you make with your business. While doing business online, we often experience “tunnel vision,” where we think something is good because we’re so involved in it. But, we sometimes fail to step back and see how things really are, or that it should be approached in a different manner. Your mastermind group can help you step back and see what’s best for you.
Besides those three benefits, there’s one more extremely important benefit of mastermind groups, and that is accountability.
When you talk to others about what you want to do or what your goals are, you are far more likely to achieve them. Just imagine sharing your goals with a group of trusted friends each week, and how much more you would want to accomplish as a result. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to let others in the group down. Or maybe it’s because we don’t want to seem lazy in front of them. It could even be a subconscious thing. Whatever it is, talking to others about what you want to do will help you achieve success.
How to Find a Mastermind Group
So how do you go about finding a mastermind group of your own? Here are a few different ways to go about it:
- Start One Of Your Own: Surely you know others with common interests who also love to improve their businesses or blogs too. Why not get a few of them together on a weekly or monthly basis, and start your own mastermind group?
- Ask Other People: Many people are a part of, or have been a part of mastermind groups that may be looking for new members. It never hurts to ask someone in your niche if they know of any that you could participate in. You might be surprised.
- Search Meetup.com: Meetup.com is a fantastic site that connects like-minded people with a number of different interests, from scrapbooking to online business and much more. You can easily search for groups that are already meeting in your area and when they’re holding their next meeting. Some of the internet business meetup meetings I’ve been to have been a great learning experience—and great for networking, too.
All mastermind groups are different, and it may take a few trials in different groups to find the one that works for you. Good luck with your search, and I hope you find them as useful as I have.
The next strategy I want to share is all about connecting with the people who’ve been there, done that, succeeded, and can help you do the same.
Strategy #2: Working with a Mentor
Everyone I know who has become successful in some capacity has had a mentor of some kind.
That’s how I got started, too—I got help from some very smart people who had already been down a similar path: Jeremy and Jason of InternetBusinessMastery.com. Even though I wouldn’t have called them official mentors at the time—we never established an official mentor-mentee relationship—I thought of them as mentors. I looked up to them, and when I reached out for help, they often replied. I was also a member of their group, Internet Business Master Academy, which allowed me to meet a bunch of other amazing people.
As I progressed in my businesses, though, I began to recognize the value of having a one-on-one mentor, someone who’s been successful and continues to operate at a high level, and who I could turn to one-on-one to help guide me and tell me what to expect. I’ve had the chance to learn from some amazing mentors of my own, people like Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
If you have the chance to find a mentor, somebody who can guide you, check in with you, and hold you accountable along the way, then do it. A good mentor can give you a glimpse of the potential road ahead, share tips and strategies, and kick you in the butt when you need it, especially if you’re feeling down or you don’t know what to do next.
A mentor is one of the most powerful forms of guidance for any entrepreneur. So how do you find one? There are a few factors that will help you improve your chances that someone will agree to mentor you.
1. Ask! The first thing is to have the confidence to ask. There’s no chance someone will say yes if you never ask.
Ask yourself: what’s the worst thing that could happen if you were to ask? Some people worry that a potential mentor is going to read their email and think, “Oh, boy. Not another person just trying to ride my coattails and skip all the hard work by learning from my experience.” If someone were to think that way, you wouldn’t want them as your mentor anyway, would you? And if someone did respond in that way, great! Now you know not to work with them. But if they were to respectfully decline, at least you know, and you don’t have to live with any what-ifs.
2. Use their approach and share your results. An excellent strategy comes from Derek Halpern, who says that if you want someone to mentor you, do what they teach first and then share the results with them.
This does a few things. First, it gives their ego a little boost. For example, if you wanted me to feature you on the Smart Passive Income podcast, you might apply my strategies and then share your results with me. Anytime somebody says, “Pat, you’ve helped me make another $100,000 a year this year” or “You’ve helped me quit my job and be closer to my family this year,” that makes me feel great, and I want to share it with everybody. Not just because it’s a great story but—let’s be honest—it makes me look good too.
But this accomplishes something else: it shows that you’re an action taker. If I’m going to mentor somebody, I want to know that person is going to listen to my advice, use it, and go above and beyond with it.
So, if you want someone to be your mentor, do what they say first, then contact them and share the results of taking their advice. In your note, you can say something like, “I wanted to ask you to be my mentor because I highly respect you. I hope I’ve already shown you that I can be a student of yours. I’ve taken what you’ve taught everybody, put it to good use, and found awesome results with it. I’m ready to take things to the next level now. If you agree to mentor me, I’m willing to put in the extra effort to succeed.”
This shows your potential mentor that you’re serious about your business and you want their help to take things to the next level. That’s the kind of person I know I’d want to mentor.
3. Find a common link. One thing that can be super helpful is to have a common link between you and the person you’re reaching out to. That could be a shared friend, or some other detail that you have in common. When you’re trying to start any relationship, it’s always smart to find the points of connection so your potential mentor has something to grab onto right away.
4. Have a strong why. As a potential mentor, I would want to know that you’re in business for the right reasons. What is your why? If you’re trying to build a business to be a good example for your kids, to spend more time with your family, that would make me more likely to choose you over everybody else who’s asking.
5. Send a video message. In terms of how to reach out, there are different ways to do it. Email is an obvious method. I’ve also had people send me videos, and I can say that I’ll often take a little extra time to pay attention to a video because of the level of effort that goes into making it. So going that extra mile by showing your face in a video could help you stand out.
Just remember that regardless of what medium you use, whether email or video or something else, the substance of your message is still the most important thing.
6. Don’t give up. When you’re contacting people to be your mentor, a lot of them are going to say no. I’m grateful to be in the position where people often contact me asking if I can mentor them. Although I’ve mentored people in the past, I sadly have to turn down the large majority of the requests I get.
Even if the person you contact initially says no, that doesn’t mean they’re going to say no forever. That doesn’t mean you should bug a potential mentor every month—but it does mean you shouldn’t assume they’ll never be available. And you should obviously have more than one potential mentor in mind in case your top choice doesn’t work out.
Okay. We’ve talked about the importance of finding a mentor and connecting with a mastermind group. There’s another excellent way to meet and connect with like-minded entrepreneurs, and that’s by attending conferences.
Strategy #3: Making Connections at Conferences
There’s nothing like meeting people in person, and getting together with many people who have the same mindset, and who are all there for the same reason. One of my favorite ways to do that is by attending conferences. Conferences can be an amazing way to not only learn a lot of incredibly useful stuff that will take your business forward, but also to have fun and meet a lot of cool people.
Recognizing the power of conferences is a big reason I decided to put on my very own conference in 2019, called FlynnCon.
Conferences are maybe the most important way to connect with people in your space, get to know more about the industry, and stay on the cutting edge of what’s happening. But perhaps the biggest benefit of attending conferences is that first one: networking.
For a lot of people, that’s a big, scary word. But I like to think of networking as just talking. When you think of it like that, it’s so much easier, because in order to meet people, that’s really all you have to do: talk to them, start a conversation.
But what if you’re an introvert? Guess what—I’m one too! I feel comfortable in a room with people I know, but a room full of strangers—that still scares me. This isn’t exactly something they teach in school!
Still, whenever I go to conferences, I’m the first one to talk to people. I try not to even give myself three seconds to psych myself out. I want to meet and talk to as many people as possible. Because every time something cool has happened in my business, it’s always been a result of someone I’ve connected with.
If the idea of talking to strangers at a conference frightens you, listen to my conversation with Susan RoAne. Susan is a genius when it comes to working a room. She shares some tips and strategies for socializing in episode 139 of the SPI Podcast:
Attending a conference can be a fun adventure, especially if you have to travel to it. At the same time, there are lots of things to think about and ways you need to prepare yourself to have the most productive and enjoyable time at your next conference. With that in mind, I’ve got a couple more resources to help you crush every conference you attend.
In AskPat episode 173, I talk to Denny, who’s excited about attending his first conference but not sure what he needs to do to make the most of it.
And in this video, I share my favorite tips for attending in-person events. I cover the obvious stuff (plan ahead!) to the not-so-obvious (pack lip balm!).
Whatever industry you’re in, start researching conferences or gatherings related to your industry that you could attend. They’re an amazing way to expand your horizons and meet some amazing people who are just as ambitious, creative, and inspiring as you are.
Put Relationships First
We’ve talked about joining a mastermind group, finding a mentor, and learning and connecting with others at conferences. At the center of all these strategies is one key theme: relationships.
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, then relationships should be at the center of everything you do. You need to have a connector’s mindset. And when you connect with others, always focus on how you can serve them first. When you serve others and help them, they’re going to look for ways to repay you. Your effort will come back to you in multiples.
I want to end with a story from Aaron Walker from ViewFromTheTop.com, who I interview on episode 189 of the SPI Podcast. I definitely recommend listening to the entire episode with Aaron, which you can find here:
But before we end this chapter, I want to share an excerpt from our conversation. Aaron tells me about an incredibly powerful lesson he learned on the day of his dad’s funeral about the power of relationships.
Here’s what Aaron said:
My dad passed away in 2006, and my dad never was a businessman. He didn’t know anything about making money, but my dad loved people, and I watched him my entire life. I didn’t realize it until his funeral in 2006. I stood at his casket with my two brothers and my sister and my mom, and we greeted people walking in.
My dad never made over $15,000 a year in his life, ever. My dad had no money. He wanted to hunt and fish, and he loved people. It was six and a half hours, the line. It was an hour and a half wait to pay their condolences. The line was to the parking lot of the funeral home for six and a half hours.
People came through that line, 18 years old to 75 years old, and they stood at my dad’s casket and they said, “Let me tell you what your dad did for me. Let me tell you how your dad impacted my life. Let me tell you how your dad was there for me when I needed him.”
Not one person said, “Your dad had a nice boat, a nice house, a nice car,” but they said, “Your dad impacted my life.” To me, that says that relationships are paramount in everything that we do. If not one person was interested in his tangible possessions, and they were only interested in his relationships, why do we spend 95 percent of our time trying to build bigger houses, get faster cars, etc.?
Don’t hear me wrong. I’m not saying anything is wrong with gaining more possessions, period, but we don’t spend enough time building relationships that are lasting, just like in the mastermind groups, just like with your wife and with your son, the things that really matter.
If you knew today that it was your last day, I promise you the house wouldn’t be of interest. It would be the loved ones. It would be the people. It would be the relationships, your peers, your colleagues.
It would be the people.
The importance of remembering what really matters—people and relationships—connects directly with what we’re going to talk about in chapter 8, which is all about having a gratitude mindset.
But first, I want to cover another important element of an entrepreneur’s frame of mind: the desire and ability to learn from your mistakes and failures—because they’re going to happen!