How Can a Mastermind Group Accelerate Your Agency Growth?

‘Mastermind Group’ is a phrase being bandied around so loosely that it risks losing all sense of its original meaning.


What is a Mastermind Group?

The phrase alludes to an alliance of some kind that meets for a specific purpose – expressly for its members’ benefit.

It usually focuses on sharing or exchanging business knowledge, experience and ideas to improve business performance.

It uses the power of partnerships to create massive productivity gains and prosperity for its members.

To my mind, a Mastermind Group will involve a combination of:

  • Hot seats – processing one person’s specific issues
  • Round table discussions – everyone sharing how they do something (eg, current profit, proposals, hiring staff)
  • Gold Seats – one person sharing their ‘secret sauce’ for all to use
  • Coaching support
  • Accountability
  • Access to tools, techniques, masterclasses, etc

The point is that there is no single teacher. This is not a class. There is no prepared lesson. The agenda is the group’s agenda. End of.

To put it another way, a Mastermind Group is a safe harbour: a place where it is safe to share your anxieties and your ambitions and get the support you need. It is a meeting of minds. A place where you can be honest and truthful about your situation: and you can expect to get honest and truthful feedback in return.

What sort of groups are out there?

You can go to free DIY groups, corporate/franchised models, or exclusive guru-led versions. But at its simplest, you get what you pay for.

There is no shortage of players in the ‘corporate’ and franchised models where you get a speaker in the morning and some form of coaching or board room ‘hot seat’ scenario in the afternoon hosted by your resident facilitator.

A couple of questions for you about the facilitator/leader/chair (different groups call them different things):

  1. Does the facilitator have the relevant experience and has ‘been-there-and-done-it in a relevant way?
  2. Are they expert facilitators? Have they had training and experience in running groups?
  3. Will they be able to get you to go and do the things you need to do?

And a couple of questions for you about the other people in the room with you, your peers:

  1. Is there a healthy diversity and mix of agency size and specialisation (people ahead of you to learn from and people who can learn from you)?
  2. Are there people in the group that you can relate to (socially, emotionally, business or family life, ambition)
  3. Is there a healthy yet challenging culture (a sense of radical candour and honesty but not bullying)
  4. Is there evidence of success and people helping each other get even further?

Results: in the long run

I’ll be brief, as stats can be misleading and deceptive.

Taking a Mastermind Group of 10:

Average revenue at the start of the programme: £1.3m

Ten years later: all are still in business (in some form), and the average turnover is now £15m. Most significantly, profit grew a staggering thirtyfold in the time.

Quoting statistics is always dangerous, but those who wanted fast growth got it, and those who wanted a new lifestyle choice got it (selling their shares for over £10m).

On average, the long-term performance of these businesses has more than outperformed the market.

However, the stats do not tell the whole story. In the interests of honesty, we are not doing what the scientists call a fair test.

In reality, the businesses may have blossomed with or without the programme.

Maybe the programme just attracts high-performers. We need to be a little careful when bandying around these statistics.

What we can say is that those who choose to attend such programmes achieve above-average performance. Do you want to be part of that crowd? Are you an above-average performer?

Results: in the short run

In the short run, attendees often see dramatic results very quickly. Just this year, client agencies have been sold for life-changing sums, hit what seemed like over-ambitious goals, spent the summer in their new holiday home, been seen on BBC TV…

What Works?

I have worked for most of the recognised mastermind franchise/market leaders (Vistage, Academy of Chief Executives), business schools, and business growth programs (Warwick, Cranfield Toulouse Business Schools, and Google Premier Partners) and action-centred learning groups in various capacities. I have also run my own Mastermind Groups.

What I have observed is the following:-

  • The dynamics of the group, the peer-to-peer support is almost always under-estimated
  • The success of the role of the group leader is in the title: they are not just a facilitator (i.e. helping delegates), but they should be a leader (quietly inspiring action)
  • The focus on action and delivering results is crucial; this is not a talking shop
  • Results and progress need to be measurable: delegates need ways to measure their progress and development
  • Delegate commitment is vital. Often a more significant financial obligation heightens the sense and the passion and determination to make the project a success
  • The selection of delegates requires careful consideration. This is not a place for the faint-hearted; the last thing you want in the room is energy-sapping negative people: they are toxic
  • The role of honesty and politeness: most people want and need frank and honest feedback. We call this radical candour. This is not the same as bullying and it is not the same as being nice and polite
  • Agency leaders need to be accountable: it is the role of the Mastermind Group to hold the individual’s ‘feet to the fire’. The delegate must become accountable to the group for delivering on promises and commitments.

It is this last piece, being accountable, that creates the power of the Mastermind Group to get people to deliver stunning results. You can see a formula for excellent performance emerging:


The right group of individual agency leaders


The right leader with the right knowledge/skills/attitude


An action orientation


Honesty, not politeness


Respect and the right chemistry


Accountability to deliver


Massive results for all the individuals concerned


And the BUT…

The Government Health Warning

The Mastermind Group carries a massive Government Health Warning.

It is not for everyone.


In fact, it is right for very few people (despite what scurrilous marketing blurbs might tell you). It is not a universal antidote.

Typically, people join such groups because they want to: “achieve their goals faster”; “be part of a club that understands them”; where they can “share their dreams and their fears”; where they can “learn from the expert”; where they are “working with other people facing similar challenges”.

Every person’s reason for signing up is different.

Emotionally, the group provides tough love, safety, security, and confidence from a solid, inspiring sounding board.

Functionally, it fast-tracks results by working with people who have ‘been there and done it’, by using unique ‘insider secrets’ and top tips to grow your business.

Specifically, powerful contacts, referrals, recommendations and joint ventures are made.

Do not under-estimate the power of the intense personal relationships that develop from the honest discussions that take place as each member of the group grapples to find their own elusive magic success formula.

It is not for everyone. But it is for the highly motivated who are truly committed to making things happen.

Before the article descends into some kind of self-help manifesto, it is worth asking: “Do you feel frustrated by your progress? Do you feel you could be doing (even) better?”

If so, a Mastermind Group could be for you. Click here to read more about them.