You are the average of the five people you
spend the most time with.
Three years ago I was a man on an island without a boat. I was running my company, but I had no one to talk to (other than my dog), no one who could give me advice about which of my 100s of ideas were worth pursuing. I felt alone, frustrated, and didn’t know how things would be better. I was also about to get married so things were about to get real. I needed a consistent source of income. The feast or famine business model was no longer going to work.
At the same time, I landed my largest client, a well-known country music star. Looking back on it, I wasn’t prepared to handle a client of that size, and as a result the project suffered. As entrepreneurs, we all jump into projects that are over our head,which is a part of what got us started in this business and it’s also how we continue to grow. That being said, it sure would have been nice to have someone I could talk to, someone who knew what I was going through, someone who could talk to me straight. I was partnering with another firm whose owner told me about the EO Acceleratorprogram at the Entrepreneur Center in Nashville. Part of the Accelerator program was business classes taught by Michael Burcham, a Vanderbilt professor and well respected business owner and investor. Having both my Bachelor and Masters in education with no business training, I jumped at the opportunity to learn from one of the best.
For the first time in my life I was learning fundamental business concepts that would allow my company to grow. Important things like profit and loss reports, projections, taxes, employee retention, and positioning. You know, the things that you feel like you should know, but don’t have the time to go back to school and learn. Most importantly, I was learning the importance of working ON my business and not IN my business. After class each month, my classmates and I would go out for drinks and talk shop. For the first time I can remember, I had a group of people (one person would have been just fine, but I had an entire group!) who could relate to my struggles, people who even had advice on how to make it through those struggles.
After a year building a solid business toolkit in class, we started another portion of the program called forum. Forum is a dedicated time and space where members of my group share business and life goals with each other and then ask for advice on problems they were struggling with in their business. I loved this. However, no one in my forum group was in my industry. I had a group that would hold me accountable and would try to help me problem solve, but I felt like I needed a more focused group. I needed a group of people who understood the unique challenges of building a “web” business.
At WordCamp Atlanta, I met a guy named Adam Walker. We had similar businesses and similar goals, so we decided to start talking once a week to bounce ideas off one another and problem solve. Around this time, I launched Exodus, a WordPress development platform. Adam is a lot better marketer than I am so I had a free listening ear. Several months later at a marketing conference, I met Chris and Adam met Sam; our dynamic duo became an accountability group. More importantly, we had created a focus group with people that were uniquely qualified to offer industry specific advice to each other. Around six months in, after talking on a weekly basis, something changed. We moved from the honeymoon phase to reality. We started sharing both the good and bad stuff of life and business. It was a tough personal time for me. Exodus wasn’t doing as well as I had hoped. I wasn’t sleeping at night. Sales were down. But, I had others who I could talk to. I wasn’t alone anymore.
About this time, I joined the Post Status group mainly to support Brian Krogsgard. I had heard him speak at WordCamp Birmingham years ago when I was just starting WordPress and he was stepping out on his own with a new product, Post Status. I loved the idea of the industry related Slack channel where I could go and learn the industry news/ideas of the day. I don’t contribute a lot, only trolled around, but I found it a lot more focused than Twitter (my previous go to source for industry news and advice. For example, I needed help writing a contract last year and put the question out to the group and Jonathan Wold, a man who writes more contracts in a week than I do in a year, reached out to me and walked me through his process. I learned more in an hour than I would have in a week of trying to write the contract on my own.
At Pressnomics this year, every session felt like I was drinking from a fire hose of powerful business advice. I networked with some of the leaders in the industry who made me feel welcomed and treated me like their peer. Most of the people I talked to had a WordPress product. Since I was more of an agency owner, I couldn’t speak to some of the difficulties in the product space outside of my experience launching Exodus. Instead of talking through the specifics of products, I spent my time talking about how they hold themselves accountable. Were they in a mastermind or accountability group? If they were, how was it working out for them? I shared my story of working through the EO Accelerator program and developing an industry specific mastermind group. I also shared how relieved I felt to have a group of people I could run ideas by and receive positive (and sometimes negative) feedback.
I noticed a gap between the Post Status Slack channel and Pressnomics: they are both great tools to help your business succeed and give you ideas, but it’s clearly defining your goals, thinking through your plan, and executing that leads to success. You can do those things on your own, but the results are much better (and typically less painful) when you have a structured group of people holding you accountable and advising you, a Mastermind group. As Jim Rohn says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
I want others to feel the freedom of structured accountability with their peers. For this reason, I have made the forms I use available for download for free. Take them, change them, use them, find friends/colleagues/mentors and build community. Get better! And when you do find your freedom and your business improves, please take a moment and write in to tell me about it.