The Entrepreneur’s Journey

What’s the Difference between Support Groups, Mastermind Groups, and Accountability Groups?

There’s a misguided idea that entrepreneurial coaching or peer support only applies to beginners trying to dip their toes into the water.

That notion gets thrown out the window when you consider that pro athletes  pinnacle performers making tens of millions of dollars - have coaches. The same can be said of musicians and vocalists who’ve gone platinum. And all manner of professional heavyweight across every industry seeks some form of counseling, advice, and education to continue honing their skillsets. Being part of these facilitated advisory-based groups is often a growth tactic, eliminating blind spots and providing problem-solving techniques to entrepreneurs.

So, no matter your experience level, I suggest receiving some type of coaching or guidance as a small business owner to keep your momentum forward-moving. But this approach only generates growth when you find the right kind of group to join and coaching to receive. I totally understand finding the right place to land is intimidating. Entrepreneurial groups are available all over the place, in different shapes and sizes, and with their own methodologies. 

How are you supposed to choose?

Well, for starters, you’ll see these categories in your search: support groups, mastermind groups, accountability groups, or a mixture of the three. Below, I’ll break down the differences between each approach and explore their pros and cons:

Mastermind Groups

When multiple business owners frequently meet to help one another grow and thrive, it’s known as a mastermind group:

What Should You Look for in a Mastermind Group?

The Correct Combination of People:
  • While there should be like-minded people in your mastermind group, avoid working alongside owners who directly compete with your business. This way, all advice or support you receive won’t be muddied or tainted.

  • Look for people in and around the same experience level as you, so you can relate to them. Being a 2nd-year entrepreneur in a group of owners with two decades of experience will be too intimidating for you. On the other hand, working with a novice could stifle you if you’re a highly experienced CEO because they’ll ask questions from an inexperienced perspective.

Privacy Offers Peace of Mind:
  • Mastermind groups only help you grow if you’re vulnerable and open with the information you share. Feeling 100% comfortable with that means your group should have some kind of non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement. 
Heightened Focus on Accountability:
  • Other group members should keep you accountable for taking the necessary steps to grow your business. Mastermind groups require a method to document your commitments for your peers and coaches to keep you on the right path. 

  • Someone within the group should record everyone’s goals. The notes should be shared in a communication channel. This way, everyone has access to your responsibilities, and they won’t slip through the cracks.

Meetings Must be Structured:
  • Meetings should have a defined structure with “hot-seat” sessions that focus on your challenges. There should also be time for individual check-ins. 
Work with a Specific Coach:
  • These groups function best with a coach/facilitator to ensure everyone attends meetings.
  • Coaches establish a defined agenda and keep everyone focused on the task at hand. They’ll also provide additional support where needed, offer an objective viewpoint, and mediate to maintain a positive group dynamic. 
Look for a Fully Committed Group:
  • Everyone involved in these groups must show up for almost all sessions, or the group won’t be successful. 

  • Paying more tends to mean people are investing more in the process and are likelier to be more committed to attending. Don’t be afraid to ask what the group facilitator/provider does to ensure consistent attendance and engagement.

What Should You Avoid with Mastermind Groups?

Before going any further, everything discussed above is what we offer at OwnersUP. We aren’t only a mastermind group, but the best attributes of these environments apply to our services.

However, there are some errors made by other mastermind groups you might and will want to stay clear of.

  • Avoid strict peer-to-peer groups. Yes, the group of peers is a primary selling point of mastermind groups, but always seek out a group with a specific facilitator or coach who brings you together.
  • And don’t work with a “speaker.” That’s someone who goes on a Facebook live chat or a Webinar, does a bunch of speaking, then people ask some questions. These mastermind groups aren’t personalized to your needs because there might be hundreds of people attending, robbing you of your voice. 
  • A mastermind group shouldn’t be more than five people so that everyone is heard.
  • Another issue that arises in some - but not all - mastermind groups is accountability turning into a half-measure. It only amounts to using software like Slack and half-heartedly asking if the whole group did their work. Once again, there’s no personalized focus here, making it easy for you to hide.

Final Consensus

Mastermind groups in their most ideal form are a huge growth opportunity for any entrepreneur, offering a well-rounded approach that involves the following benefits:

  • Heightened confidence
  • Better accountability
  • Cultivating friendships and network connections
  • Increased profits
  • Being pushed outside your comfort zone

Unfortunately, many of these groups aren’t personalized enough, focusing too much on branded, templated course material. While there’s a strong chance that a mastermind group can do wonders for you, proceed with caution and ensure you’ll receive personalized attention.

Support Groups

Support groups focus more on the emotional and venting side of being an entrepreneur.

What Should You Look for in a Support Group?

A Community for You to Lean on Emotionally:

If entrepreneurship was a walk in the park, everyone would earn seven figures almost immediately. Instead, 80% of businesses fail within their first year and a half.

By its nature, entrepreneurship can be a scary, lonely endeavor. And unfortunately, it can’t be understood by a teacher, engineer, coder, writer, or another punch-in-punch-out professional.

Being an entrepreneur is something only other entrepreneurs understand. Moreover, your unique experience can only be truly grasped by those in and around your experience level.

Ideally, these like-minded, similarly experienced entrepreneurs should comprise your support group. This way, you’ll have a group of empathetic people to vent to and discuss your various challenges.

Expert Guidance:

Similar to a mastermind group, you want a coach or expert facilitating this group. Even though you’re venting, this facilitator will help you course-correct and push you out of your comfort zone. After all, venting on its own means nothing when you aren’t taking the correct actions to overcome challenges.

A Steady Place to Be:

One of the most pivotal aspects of a support group is that you can’t hide from it. Even if you aren’t in the mood, your support group should foster accountability to show up and be part of this community. 

What Should You Avoid with Support Groups?

Sometimes, networking groups and support groups are used interchangeably. They shouldn’t be. For instance, Business Networking International (BNI) claims to “support” businesses. And in some ways, it does–but only in a professional, non-vulnerable sense.

A BNI chapter isn’t a place where you’re honest and open about your vulnerabilities and concerns. You’re supposed to be in “sell mode” because you’re trying to foster business-based connections. You can’t do that when opening up about personal struggles. 

Think about it–you wouldn’t tell a customer you’re struggling to bring in enough revenue. And these relationships are similar. Undoubtedly, BNI and similar networking groups have value, but they will not support you if you’re open and vulnerable.  Also, as healthy as it can be to vent, you don’t want to get caught up in the negatives. Keep away from less formal support groups that don’t have coaches offering actionable ways to course correct. Otherwise, you’ll just unload your personal baggage without taking any steps to improve upon your circumstances.

Final Verdict:

You NEED support as an entrepreneur, and finding a group to lean on is a must.

But many of the groups presenting themselves as supportive are meant for networking, so you can’t be completely honest about your struggles. Furthermore, not all these groups offer a well-rounded approach to improving your business. They, instead, turn into a place to complain and do nothing more. So, the key to finding your ideal support group is finding one backed by a coach, culture, and system that foster and streamline accountability.

Accountability Groups

During accountability group sessions, entrepreneurs do the following:

  • Share business goals
  • Report successes
  • Share knowledge
  • Support one another
A Finely Tuned Accountability System:

A group focused solely on accountability must have a type of recording system for your responsibilities. There should be someone taking down notes (probably your coach) and a communication channel so the group can see your commitments and have them top of mind.

Small and Personalized

As the above paragraph already showed, accountability groups overlap with mastermind groups. And like I mentioned in the mastermind section, you don’t want to be in a group of over 5 people. You’ll then avoid overly generalized advice. And the group will remain more focused on your specific needs versus broader entrepreneurship issues. 

What Should You Avoid with Accountability Groups?

Large accountability groups can’t possibly track what you’re doing. Yet, far too many of these communities revolve around Webinars and Facebook chats with a speaker. Moreover, your commitments and responsibilities are entered into Slack before the “facilitator” asks everyone, “have you finished all your stuff?”  That’s a one-way ticket to hiding and your specific challenges and needs slipping through the cracks. 

Furthermore, this type of setup isn’t interactive. You don’t end up really talking to other entrepreneurs because it’s one person speaking, waiting to be asked questions.

Final Verdict

Accountability and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. But many accountability groups only use the word for branding and nothing much more. They don’t practice what they preach. Your best bet is seeking out a smaller community that values accountability and offers personalized support in smaller groups with honed note-taking systems.

Where Does OwnersUP Stand?

While I said earlier OwnersUP falls in line with mastermind groups, we really are the best version of accountability and support groups just the same:

How is OwnersUP an Ideal Mastermind Group?

Our advisory board approach combines entrepreneurs at the same stage of their careers. More importantly, our coaches and facilitators have all grown their own business into seven-figure operations. So, our practical, actionable tips during your one-hour weekly video calls come from a place of knowing, not guessing. This feature is at the essence of successful mastermind groups.

How is OwnersUP an Ideal Support Group?

There’s a reason OwnersUP is referred to as not just a business coaching service but a 24/7 sounding board. 

As a former athlete, I’ve always needed a space to vent, share statistics, and receive course-correcting advice. That’s a main reason why I started OwnersUP. Also, unlike a BNI chapter, we group you with four other people who’ll understand your struggles because they earn similar revenues. You can lean on them for support because they’ll empathize with your obstacles and relate to the emotions involved.

What do I mean by support? 

Nine minutes of every group conference with your peers and coach is dedicated to providing feedback. And that’s on top of providing you with a safe space to be vulnerable and honest.

 How is OwnersUP an Ideal Accountability Group?

OwnersUP helps you remain accountable with our proprietary software and weekly progress updates. There’s also revenue tracking. Plus, there’s a daily wrap-up; here, you enter the time spent on business activities while monitoring your accomplishments. Combine that with eleven minutes you spend on the hot seat, speaking with your coach and four peers, and there’s no hiding or slipping through the cracks. 

To the above point, our smaller group size provides a safer space to exit your comfort zone and feel more accountable. For instance, together, we decide on a consequence (you’re comfortable with) for not following up on a commitment. So, you might have to sing a song to the rest of the group if you don’t accomplish one of your tasks on a given week.

But that consequence is all in good fun. You’re not being condemned, and the intimate environment encourages your honesty. 

Entrepreneur Groups Can Take Your Business to the Next Level

Of course, as the founder, I will speak to the value of OwnersUP and point out that we offer all these critical coaching elements. It’s then worth noting the proof is in the results. Data shows our weekly facilitated advisory board helps owners grow their businesses by 33% in three months. 

Do you want that for your business? Thenapply today and see your business grow.

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