We are T-minus 2 weeks into 2021. Are you having fun yet? Have the New Year’s resolutions taken root or been abandoned?
People are still trying to make sense of the new normal we call COVID. I’m no different.
But today I want to drill down on a topic that has been recurring more and more often in my circle of business owners and corporate execs I talk to. That topic is business ‘networking’.
What Is Networking?
There are a lot of different meanings when you say networking. Most often in the business sense, it has to do with sales and lead generation; go to some event, meet people, and get new prospecting contacts.
However, the one I want to talk about is the mastermind, the roundtable, or peer-to-peer advisory type. Call it what you will. It’s the situation where a few people sharing the same general profile gather. There is a common thread reaching across the group. The meeting is usually facilitated by someone. The events can be paid for or free.
On one hand, the concept here is a good one. “Iron sharpens iron” is a Biblical principle taught for 2000 years. Napolean Hill in “Think and Grow Rich” preaches the idea of the power in a Mastermind Group. That was 1920. It’s been around ever since.
So gathering with peers to share experiences and offer solutions makes sense, right?
Over my career I’ve participated in dozens of these group formats, logging hundreds of hours of participation. And yes, I’ve gotten great value. Hopefully, I’ve shared some value too.
Even today, I belong to or facilitate several.
The concern I’m hearing from clients and prospects though is that in today’s business VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous), the measurable value in these meetings is in doubt.
I can honestly say, I have more clients exiting their groups than I do joining groups. Why is that?
Here are five BIG reasons I see today.
First, with the pivot to everything being virtual, you get a mixed reaction. While you’re saving time commuting to the breakfast, lunch or dinner meeting, you’re just tired of Zoom/Teams calls.
Having one more virtual gathering is painful. Plus the connection with the group may suffer by doing it virtually. Yes, we’re all getting better at communicating this way, but the deeper, more meaningful connection (like these should be) gets compromised.
Next, the group dynamic may be skewed. In almost every group, there will be one or two ‘know-it-alls’; people who have something to say about everything. You know in your gut they don’t really know it all, but these geniuses will convince you it’s true.
Having to spend a portion of your time with the group either debating or ignoring the know-it-all personality is unproductive.
Thirdly, the focus is unclear. If the organizer/facilitator is not skilled at bringing value to the group, then there may not be any sense of purpose. Who needs to spend an hour or more each month without focus? It just becomes a social event.
Likely you have other circles of friends and colleagues you’d rather spend your social time with, not a peer business group. And certainly not one you may be paying to attend.
Next, a sense of trust is missing. In any small group, especially one committed to sharing thoughts and ideas, there has to be a ‘cone of silence’ or TRUST. The group needs to be expressly committed to protecting trust with each other.
If you do not feel the trust in the group, the depth of the issues you open up will suffer. You’ll be more likely to skim along, never reaching deep into concerns and questions.
Lastly, do you struggle to fit in? Not all groups are created equally. Depending on the sponsor organization building the groups there may be little to no filter on the way groups are set. You can waste several months exploring the fit, only to find it’s not going to be good.
Issues like conflicts of interest, competing business markets, and company size can be alignment factors that impact the effectiveness of the mastermind.
These five reasons are the main objections I hear now. I am sure there are others.
But id this to say STOP all your group attendance? No, of course not. If you are finding value, then by all means stay with it. Just be certain you are receiving a meaningful return on invested time or money.
If you are still hungry for advice and counsel, what can you do?
The other choice apart from those networking groups is to engage a single advisor. This is someone who can be your personal, trusted guide. Just like a personal trainer at the gym or a yoga or golf instructor, having a business advisor makes sense.
With a single advisor or a small group of advisors, you get the exact attention your business needs. There are no distractions from others creeping in and consuming the time. It is YOUR time.
Selection of your advisor takes a little work though.
The market has been flooded with new, young professionals offering to be business coaches and consultants. Beware. The canned programs that many of these agents subscribe to are ‘business in a box’ solutions. One size does NOT fit all.
You need someone who has been there before, accomplished the greater things you want to achieve, and someone who knows the realities of running bigger businesses.
Why not align with someone who has proven success at the higher level you want to go to? What could anyone possibly tell you about growing from $1,000,000 annual revenue to $5,000,000 or from $10MM to $25MM, if they haven’t already done it themselves?
If these thoughts resonate with you, perhaps we should talk. Click the button below to arrange a call. I look forward to hearing from you.