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The most common question I have been asked about my entrepreneurial life is this: “What is the key to building a multi-million dollar company?” The answer is quite simple. There is no single key.

There are critical elements, of course. For example, you need to leverage your passion, understand customer demand, build systems, differentiate from the competition and a million more things.

As painful as it is to say because I am an author, no book can address each and every one of those “million more things.” Luckily there is one thing that can do a remarkable job at at giving you the knowledge and support you need. It’s a mastermind group.

When you put eight to 10 intelligent and motivated brains in the same room, all focused on fixing a specific problem, amazing things happen. But for it to work, you need to pick motivated people who follow these six steps:

1. Establish a clear leader. Just like any organization, there needs to be one person who gets the ball rolling. This leader must be the most motivated of all, and able to “herd cats.” Just like any group, it will take time to get into a rhythm and it depends on a sole leader to make it happen.

2. Meet face-to-face. I am in two mastermind groups. One of my groups meets in person once a month; the other meets weekly by telephone, and then face-to-face twice a year. Masterminds are about building something much deeper than friendships, and you can only do that with face time.

3. Meet at the same day, same time. Make it a habit, like brushing your teeth or changing the oil on your car. This will ensure that the dates for the meetings are reserved in people’s calendars for months or even years in advance, avoiding potential meeting conflicts.

4. Adhere to a specific format that fosters connection and creativity. I suggest a four-hour meeting with the following format:

  • First 10 minutes is a one-minute check-in for each person, stating how they are feeling emotionally and physically. Then, each person recites an affirmation: “I’m here, and I’m ready. My sole focus is this meeting. I’m disconnecting from everything else.”
  • Next, spend about 50 minutes doing personal and business “best/worst” update (“This is the best thing going on with my family; this is the worst thing going on with my family,” and so on).
  • Then spend two hours doing presentations. A section of the meeting where two people (pre-selected in the best/worst update from the prior month), one at a time, spend ten minutes explaining the details of the challenge or opportunity in front of them. After the first person goes, the group shares experiences around the subject for the next fifty minutes. Then the process is repeated for the second person.
  • Wrap up the final hour by conducting housekeeping (discussing how to improve meetings, planning a retreat or activity, addressing group finances, etc.) and then doing an amplification: Each person shares something positive and affirming about everyone in the group. For example, I might say, “Jim, I just want you to know that I love you, love what you’re doing, and you’re going to be huge. And Sue, I know you’re struggling with the family, but every time I meet with you I’m struck by your warmth.” The goal here is to provide genuine compliments, never a correction: to amplify who they really are and mirror it back to them.

5. Have a big vision for the group. My mastermind group has a vision of creating a billion points of impact on the world. My contribution to that vision is to affect one billion minds through my books, programs and speeches. Our shared vision is about shifting society, not just making money, or achieving status or recognition.

6. If the mastermind group fails, do not give up. Realign it—change the memberships and reset the vision. Some masterminds get off to a rough start. Don’t let those bumps and bruises dissuade you. Just keep at it until you have the perfect members and the perfect agenda.

There is no question, that my own mastermind group has been the guiding force behind the success of all my businesses and now behind my career as an author. There is no question, the greatest benefit has been during my darkest days and most challenging times. Because when everything is working, you know the answers. It’s when nothing is working, that your fellow masterminds will show you which one of the “million more things” you should do.

Mike Michalowicz is the author of The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. He is a nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurial topics and is the CEO of Provendus Group, a consultancy that helps companies whose growth has plateaued to move forward again.

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