Intro by Skip Cohen

This post by Robert Nowell, co-founder of Sprout Studio, is out of their archives and really hit home for me. It’s all about how you can bring 5-6 individual business owners from your community together to create a Mastermind group.

For years I’ve been writing about networking luncheons, bringing together a photographer with several businesses that share a common goal. For example, a wedding photographer might organize a lunch meeting with a florist, tux shop, bridal salon, wedding planner, limo service, caterer, venue manager etc.

But Robert’s taken a far more effective approach – first, making the group smaller and second, this is meant to be a working team of people, helping each other. Plus, each member doesn’t need to have the same target audience – this is about sharing ideas and creating an environment that helps each member of the group.

There’s that old line about “it takes a village.” So, here’s an idea to help you build a better village and sharing ideas with people outside your specialty adds to the variety of solutions you uncover for dealing with the daily challenges as a business owner.


I know many photographers are looking for ways to “up their game”, or become more productive. Many want to bring in more business while some just want to learn how to run their business more effectively.

One suggestion I have for you this year is to consider joining or creating a Mastermind group.

If you’re not familiar with that term let me briefly explain what it is:

The term Mastermind was first coined by Napoleon Hill who wrote the book “Think and Grow Rich”.  He defined a Mastermind group as “The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.” He continues, “No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind.”

Put simply, a Mastermind group’s purpose is to be a group of committed business owners who agree to meet regularly and help each other grow in both their business and personal lives. Everything shared in a group is agreed to be kept confidential and commitment to attend the meetings is a fundamental requirement.

Being in a Mastermind is a bit like having your own board of directors. The other members are committed to helping you by holding you accountable to the goals you share, brainstorm with you, advise you and support you through tough decisions and difficult circumstances.

Each Mastermind group can decide how often to meet, how long the meetings are, how many members they want, and what the meeting agenda will be.

Most Mastermind groups do follow a few simple rules.

  1. Hold regular meetings at least monthly (some meet more frequently).
  2. Everyone takes a turn sharing their triumphs and challenges.
  3. No one speaks while a member is sharing unless to provide an answer to a question such as (I’m looking for a new accountant, any ideas?). Then after the member has shared, any advice can then be given.
  4. Equal time should be given to each member so you won’t want a lot of people in the group in order to give each member enough time to adequately share.
  5. Some groups will elect a facilitator who is responsible to keep the meeting on track, make sure no one monopolizes feedback time and generally keep the meetings running smoothly.

You have no doubt heard the phrase “you only get back from something what you’re willing to put into it”, and that is true of Mastermind groups. If you only expect to benefit and won’t put any effort into supporting the other members, then you should not join. When each member fully participates in the discussions, takes notes, follows up on those notes at future meetings then the group will grow as a whole.

I joined a Mastermind group three years ago and we have a very strong bond. I believe that I have made better decisions for both my business and personal life because of my group.

There have been times when I have been at a crossroads and struggled with taking a direction and the insight and advice from my group proved to be invaluable.

I remember specifically a time when I was juggling my teaching schedule, my studio work, and my new venture with Sprouting Photographer and looking at an overly packed schedule that was stressing me out. My team helped me identify what my priorities really were and how I needed to realize that I can’t keep up a full commitment to all three and expect to excel at all of them. My group became for me a business councillor, therapist and friend, and they gently showed me that I was burning the candle at both ends. Sooner or later something was going to give and I need to take action.

I took their advice to heart and started to implement changes to my schedule that allowed for more margin in my life. The best thing of all was how they followed up with me at the next meeting to see how I was doing with my current challenges.

I’ve also been able to reciprocate in ways that have been helpful to other members of my group. Some of the younger members of the group have been able to tap into my years of experience in business and tell me they are grateful for my advice.

Masterminds can be more than just a place for advice too. We have also challenged ourselves by suggesting a book to read and having discussions on the key concepts delivered in the book.

More than a book club, our motivation in looking at books collectively is to find ideas and techniques that we can actually use to improve our businesses. We want to research, discuss and implement anything that we find that can make each of us better at customer service, time management, branding, marketing, etc.

Most photographers I talk to are a one person operation. This can be a lonely business existence. Of course we have our clients, but it’s great to be able to meet regularly with a group that we can talk openly with, as though they are our virtual business partners. Belonging to professional associations is a great idea too, but what is lacking there is the mentoring and one on one accountability that members of masterminds enjoy.

If you are interested in being in a Mastermind group, I have a few tips for you:

Keep the group to about five or six members. 

Each member should have a legitimate business already started. (Preferably a couple of years in at least.) 

Don’t be afraid to “fire” anyone from the group who doesn’t follow the guidelines – i.e attendance or confidentiality.

Don’t allow anyone to use the group to just “dump” their negativity. Screening potential members is crucial to getting a good group that’ll be mutually beneficial to everyone. 

It is not necessary that the businesses be similar, but they should be at least relatable. Try to invite people that challenge and motivate you. 

My time invested in my Mastermind group has been time well spent and the rewards have been tangible. I would recommend Mastermind to anyone who is able to keep the commitment that it takes to belong.

Some reading this might immediately assume that they don’t have time for a Mastermind group. I ‘d say that if you truly want to take things to the next level, you might want to reconsider that thought and take a serious look at your calendar. I believe that if you prioritize growth and change you will find a few hours each month that can truly help you become the person and business you’ve always dreamed you could be.