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Join a Mastermind Group. Or Start One!

Join a Mastermind Group. Or Start One!

What does it take to launch and grow a winning company? Everyone wants the secret sauce (including me). That’s why I interviewed 45 champions who created $41 billion (now up to $63 billion) in value from scratch and then presented their insights in How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America.

There is in fact at least one thing that I have 100% certainty will help you if you are committed and serious about your goals, integrity and desire to succeed. I truly believe that if you form or join a mastermind group, you significantly increase your chances for success. No matter what industry or profession, a mastermind group can be a vital element in your life and work.

Is a mastermind group the same thing as the now ubiquitous networking group, found in abundance all over the planet? No. A mastermind group consists of two or more individuals who come together in a positive and constructive spirit with the goal of assisting in each other’s development. It is not about making referrals. The greatest personal improvement writer of the modern age, Napoleon Hill, rediscovered this truth in his seminal work, Think and Grow Rich. He determined that the presence of a mastermind group was of vital importance for the business titans he interviewed, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie and 500 other global leaders in the early 1900s.

A mastermind group comes together in a spirit of harmony, and in that spirit forms something called a mastermind consciousness. And I’ll bet that if you’ve had any degree of success in any endeavor thus far, you will find that you already are a part of a mastermind group. Are you happily married or in a committed relationship? You have a mastermind group. When people come together for mutual benefit, something larger emerges for the good of the relationship, not just for the specific benefit of either partner. Do you have a true buddy who always looks out for your best interest, and you for theirs? You have a mastermind group.

In a business context, a mastermind group consists of no more than 6 or 8 professionals, who meet regularly to present their goals and report on their progress. Each member is held accountable by the group. Accountability is key!

I joined my mastermind group when it was already up and running, thanks to a remarkable person named Dean Klassman. That was 11 years ago, and we’ve been meeting in person or on a conference call once a week ever since. I asked Dean and my other mastermind partners permission and conducted short, mini video interviews so you could get a feel for what I’m talking about. See what you think, and if you have your own mastermind group I’d love to hear about it! And if you send us a short video of your group, I will send each member of your group an autographed copy of How They Did It! Email bob at RedFlash.com with your story and/or video and we’ll send something guaranteed to thrill your group and make you a hero.

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In Memory of Ken Olsen, a Phenomenal Entrepreneur

Ken Olsen, the father of what has been called the second generation of computing and “America’s most successful entrepreneur” (Fortune magazine, 1986), recently passed away. Ken’s company, Digital Equipment Corporation was at one time the world’s second-largest computer company with more than 120,000 people at operations in more than 95 countries – surpassed in size only by IBM.

Ken Olsen was a phenomenal entrepreneur. His one wrong call was the personal computer. He believed the PC would “fall flat on its face in business” – a stance that moved Digital’s board to force him to resign in 1992.

This is an exercise in balance for all of us entrepreneurs: you have to be passionately committed to your vision – and yet still flexible enough to read the marketplace and take advice. Maybe this is like learning how to ride a bicycle. You can’t study it in a book. You have to try it and get in action to learn and feel what works and what doesn’t.

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Acting with Integrity

As I interviewed the founders for How They Did It, one of the things that stood out for me about this group of people was that time and time again they chose to do the right thing. There were moments when they could have cut corners, but instead I found examples of acting with integrity. Phil Soran, co-founder of Compellent, talked about recalibrating his earliest investors’ equity interest when it became clear they would not get as good a deal as later investors. Phil didn’t have to give early investors anything else, but he knew it was the right thing to do.

In January, The New York Times ran a story on Major League Baseball pitcher Gil Meche and his recent decision to walk away from millions of dollars.

Meche’s contract with the Kansas City Royals guaranteed him a $12 million salary this year, regardless of whether he played or not. With a shoulder injury derailing his career, Meche made the decision to retire and forgo his entire $12 million pay day. “When I signed my contract, my main goal was to earn it…I was making a crazy amount of money for not even pitching. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I deserved it.”

In a world where sports figures are grossly overpaid and guaranteed contracts are the norm, Gil’s decision to do the right thing is inspiring, and well, just plain unreasonable. In a way it reminds me of the kind of mindset a successful entrepreneur needs to have to succeed – not in a small way – but to succeed big time.

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Guts and Glory

I wrote about a comment I saw on ExecuNet from a gentleman who didn’t have much good to say about the current generation of executives. He specifically commented on lack of guts and courage in the corporate world, and I thought he had a point.

I had to stop and think about guts in the modern world. There are examples that come to mind – Lee Iaccoca taking charge at Chrysler – his leadership was heroic.

But nearer to hand I thought about a company I had the privilege to take part in. PV Powered in Bend, Oregon, was an early stage company losing tons of cash throughout the recession. The company had great technology but was not yet far enough along to have landed enough customers to reach breakeven or even close to it. In desperation the company sought to sell itself.  At the time, Bear Stearns had gone under. Lehman went under and it looked like the US banking system was at risk. Definitely not a time when investors put money into high risk, illiquid assets.

Like so many tech companies, PVP needed cash, and looked to its large investor group.  But everyone said no – except for a father and son investing team that owned a construction company in Washington.

You might think, well, no big deal, someone wrote a check for millions despite the recession. But that wasn’t the full story. The company had already attempted to sell itself, but each time a buyer appeared, they eventually left. And the last potential buyer had not only backed away, but specifically labeled all the deficiencies at the company, all the reasons it just wasn’t worth buying at all.

With that less-than-glowing endorsement, the father and son, Dan and Mason Evans of JH Kelly, decided to keep writing checks throughout the recession and to retain the management team. Luckily, things improved dramatically over the ensuing four quarters and a new offer came in, culminating in a $90 million sale of the company earlier this year.

The decision by Dan and Mason Evans and their EVP Mark Fleischauer is the exact definition of guts, of moving forward despite uncertainty and fear in the marketplace.

Now let’s talk about you. How do you keep moving forward when everyone else is running in the opposite direction?

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How to get Ready Now to Win in 2011: Podcast with Coach Jim Rohrbach

Jim Rohrbach

Take a listen to this podcast with Jim Rohrbach, coach to successful company owners (www.SuccessSkills.com), as he talks about the key thing you need to do right now to be ready with your plan in place for 2011. This all has to do with the biggest lesson coming out of Napoleon Hill’s classic Think & Grow Rich, putting your chief aim and mission in place right now.

Jim also talks about the importance of finding a mastermind partner or developing a mastermind group to help keep you on track, and to share your wisdom and energy with others.

Jim also posted a great article here Why You Need to Read Think and Grow Rich and there’s a free tool for writing your mission statement on the website.

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Founders Share Advice at Entrepreneur Bash

Seven founders featured in How They Did It gave great advice at the Great Lakes Entrepreneur Bash on November 16th in Chicago. Take a look at these videos from the panel that included:

Bill DeVille, Health Personnel Options, Ohio
Jim Dolan, The Dolan Company, Minnesota
Tim Krauskopf, Spyglass, Illinois
Vince Pettinelli, PeopleServe, Ohio
Chris Moffitt, Rubicon Technology, Illinois
Michael Polsky, SkyGen, Illinois
Mark Tebbe, Lante Corporation, Illinois

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Affirmations Count! And Now There’s Proof

I am a big believer that you first declare your intention and then you live into it. I am of course not the first person to say this, and for some folks it’s a given and for others its an eye-rolling experience (include my children in that category).

I can picture – even though I wasn’t alive at the time – seeing Babe Ruth step up to the plate, loosen up and point his bat at the stands, at the exact spot where he would hit the ball out of the park for a home run. That’s an affirmation too.

And now there’s proof about affirmations. Sasha Issenberg, writing in the The New York Times Magazine, reported on voter appeal direct mail results that show the old message “More Americans should exercise their right to vote” didn’t work. The results of that rousing statement? Lower voter turnout.

The new message? “Turnout is going to be high today.” This statement resulted in higher voter turnout. And there’s proof from direct mail before and after campaigns to back it up.

This may sound abstract, but it’s not. Our own internal dialogue, or the dialogue we have with customers, employees, friends and family – when put in the form of the desired outcome –  helps to produce exactly that desired outcome.  Pretty cool.

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What’s Your Number?

The Great Lakes Entrepreneur Bash on November 16 had a great turnout. Photos of the event are now posted on Facebook and the HTDI website. Feel free to tag yourself and your friends/colleagues.

The panel provided us with great insights — Mark Tebbe, founder/chairman of Answers.com, spoke eloquently, advising everyone to “know your number,” while Jim Dolan, founder/CEO of The Dolan Company, said “I don’t have a number.” Do you have a number? What would be a successful exit for you? Share your thoughts and be a part of the ongoing conversation.

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Sales Coaching – the Advanced Lesson: Podcast

Philippe Lavie, President of KeyRoad Enterprises, is not only an outstanding sales team coach – he’s also the sales coach’s coach. Much thanks to Philippe for sharing advice and insights earned from years of growing sales teams, sales professionals and sales management. Listen to the coach here for three great insights:

  • The game changes through company stages, from startup to young growing company to large company. Very different sales challenges.
  • Beware: if you don’t understand the processes that you need to automate sales tasks, the only thing you do is automate non-existing processes and get to chaos much faster
  • There are seven specific elements that go into evaluating whether someone is a leader

Listen here.

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Entrepreneur Mentoring

Talking with Kristine Kerr at Inc. magazine reminded me of attending the Inc. 500 conference in 2008 and hearing a great presentation on mentoring featuring Jay Goltz of Artist Frame Service, who acted as mentor to Rich Dennis and his company Nubian Heritage.

Inc. magazine and the Clinton Foundation’s Economic Opportunity Initiative (CEO) have joined forces in support of the Entrepreneur Mentoring Program (EMP). EMP facilitates “structured, high-impact mentoring relationships between some of the nation’s most successful business leaders and entrepreneurs running emerging growth companies in America’s inner cities.”

Over a nine month period, mentors work with entrepreneurs to help them develop a better understanding of their business and industry, become better leaders and make better decisions about the critical issues that face their company.

If there were 10,000 Jay Goltzes fueling the next generation of 10,000 entrepreneurs – I wonder what the results would be?

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