I started my insurance agency from scratch in 2008.  Just me and more ideas than money.  Shortly after, an agent-friend of mine that became a mentor told me about a “Mastermind Group” that he was a member of.  They were a group of about 12 successful insurance agents from across the country.  They’d have monthly phone calls sharing ideas on everything related to our industry and running a business in general.  Beyond their conference calls, they’d also meet in person three to four times each year, in different cities – hosted by one of their members.  

This sounded pretty exciting at the time, but it was well above my “paygrade” and something that I didn’t honestly consider joining (or seeking out a better fit).  The longer I was a business owner, the more questions I had (can you relate?)… and really wasn’t sure where to go for answers.  Sure, you could search the internet for answers, but most of the time it seemed like the answers just created more questions. 

So, I’d just go back to work and try to help as many new clients as I could.  And, so, we grew.  And added staff.  And carriers.  And technology.  And marketing. And more questions.  With fewer places to get honest answers.  

There are so many “referral networks”, professional development programs, and social media groups available today for successful insurance agents “just like you” that you can join and learn from.  All of those come at a cost – time, money, or both.  How do you know who you can trust and believe?  Everyone seems like an expert and does everything perfectly well – if you believe what you hear.

A few years ago, a couple of agency-owner friends invited me to check out their mastermind group and see what I thought.  I was open-minded, but still cautious about the “what’s in it for them” like so many of the things I mentioned already.  I respected the agents that invited me and knew many of the names from the grapevine as some of the best around.  Here’s what I found out…

The strength of a Mastermind Group comes from the relationships that are formed and grown.  Everyone tells you that business is all about trustworthy relationships.  That’s our group.  Our Mastermind Group is made up of 18 or so agency-owners from around the Mid-Atlantic states.  Some of the members have offices very near others, while many of us are 6+ hours apart.  Each month we have a conference call (now a Zoom Meeting) that our members all make a priority to join.  We discuss a wide range of topics such as: technology, marketing tools and tactics, HR issues (hiring, firing, compensation), growth strategies, acquisitions, perpetuation, etc.  Oh, there’s no cost either – just the time on the calls and travel expenses for any in-person meetings.

Each of us knows that once you are a member of our group, you can be trusted to share sensitive and confidential information that STAYS in the group.  Our group consists of agents that are solo, to others that have more than a dozen locations.  Some are new to the industry while others are planning their retirement strategy.  Some are tech-focused while others are more “old-school”.  

With a group of friends like this, you can always get open and honest feedback on your questions, ideas, and concerns.  You’ve got a group of friends that want to help you succeed – simply to help you succeed.  They’re not in the mastermind group to make money off you.  Rather, only to help you win.  And, also to learn from you to help themselves win.  In mid-March, we started meeting every other week since we all were navigating the COVID-19 crisis.  Our group was calm throughout the storm – and continues to be as we prepare for whatever the future holds.  Can you put a value on that?  Don’t be on an island.

If you aren’t in a mastermind group… find one.  Ask others that are in a group questions about the group.  Be sure to find a healthy group.  Don’t invest your time in one that isn’t.  Don’t worry, just trust yourself – you’ll know the right fit.

If you look and look, but can’t find the right one… create one.  Start with a small group of 4-6 friends in the industry that you have either met in person or even some from online. 

It’s certainly possible to be in a mastermind group of business owners from different industries, but I’d recommend a peer set of owners from our industry.  We have a unique business and it’s easier to not have to explain everything, every time.  It seems to be easier when someone already understands your pain or challenge – because they’ve been there.  If time allows, it’s probably a great idea to one day join a similar group of business owners from other industries as well – but I’m not there yet (my family is large and the focus of my time).  

While I’m not sure if any of the owners in my mastermind group will ever read this, I hope they do.  And hope they know how much I appreciate each of them.  I’m a better agent for it.  I’m a better leader for it.  I’m a better owner for it. I’m a better dad and husband for it.

I’d love to hear your comments.  Are you a part of a mastermind group?  If so, what’s your favorite thing about it?

Have a great finish to 2020!

– Tom 

Tom Davenport
President
Blue Marsh Insurance
Honey Brook, Pennsylvania