FocusClusters & ThinkStorms: Creative new ways to engage with other entrepreneurs..
If you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur working on your own, you probably wish it was easier to bounce ideas around with others and get feedback. While being a solo-preneur has many advantages, one of the drawbacks is that you often don’t have peers for the cross-pollination of ideas and the mutual sharing of knowledge and experience.
Working on my own, this is something I’ve experienced over the years, and so I devised a few novel ways to engage with others for mutual benefit. Today I will share these with you.
You’ve probably heard of masterminds, which are quite beneficial and highly recommended for entrepreneurs. But you’d be happy to know that there are other ways in which you can engage with others — with more flexibility and less commitment. I’ve listed these towards the bottom of the article. But first , by way of contrast, you will find the more common engagement and collaboration avenues. So the different ways below are arranged from the highest level of engagement and commitment to the least.
When you enter into a business partnership, it’s usually for the long haul, ‘though thick and thin’, and is the business equivalent of “till death do us part!” It has its place and its benefits but requires a high level of commitment, and is thus not for everybody.
Another way to collaborate with others is through joint ventures. This is a partnership between you and other entrepreneurs or companies where you exchange value around a common goal, working together on certain projects like events or creating information products. Joint ventures, unlike full-on partnerships, often run for a limited time. (Here are a few ways to grow your business with joint ventures)
A mastermind is a group of people who come together on a regular basis to help each other towards success. These groups require a willingness to openly give and receive advice, and to support each other with total honesty. Members challenge each other and hold each other accountable to their goals. Masterminds also run long-term and people generally belong to the same mastermind for many years. (If this sounds like it’s for you, here’s an excellent article on how to create a successful mastermind.)
Masterminds offer great value for solo-preneurs, but members can be diverse, sometimes coming from different industries, or going through different stages of their business growth. Sometimes you want to speak with people who are engaged in the same business or at the same stage - eg: creating an information product and getting ready to launch.
There is immense value to be shared when you can ‘compare notes’ with others in the same situation. So I’m proposing “Focus Cluster” where people come together maybe for just a few weeks or months while they are working on the same stages of their projects. This can be in the real world or digitally, and you can ‘meet’ however often you decide. You could even set up a Facebook group or Whatsapp group for participants to reach out or share whenever necessary. (If you’d like to start such a group, you can direct people to this page to explain the concept. )
Sometimes you want the benefit of engaging with others, but not even over the span of weeks ot months. In certain situations a single meeting will do. Sure you can set this up with your business coach or mentor, but they unlikely will have the on-the-ground experience which can benefit you. And there’s the issue of the cost. Sometimes you just want to compare notes with someone on a similar path.
This is when you can consider what I call a “Thinkstorm” (sort of a combination of a thinktank and brainstorm!) A thinkstorm is when people can come together even for a single meeting to compare notes as they are working on similar projects or faced with the same challenges. You can invite a few people to your thinkstorm, or it can be just you and another. The idea is to exchange value, get answers to the questions you have and genuinely aim to help the other to their next step too.
Next time you need to bounce ideas around, or get some feedback, you can reach out to fellow entrepreneurs with these concepts in mind. You might need to explain the concept first, in which case you can refer them to this article.
I‘m in the process of creating a few templates to use when inviting others to a Focus Cluster or Thinkstorm. If you would like a copy just let me know in the comments below.
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