Iron Sharpens Iron: The Benefits of 'Mastermind' Groups

There is strength in numbers, especially when you're working with like-minded individuals. Behold, the power of "mastermind" groups.

Freedom. Happiness. Adventure. Mmm. Three of my favorite words. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say, “Yeah, you know what, Chris?  I’d like less of those in my life. Tell me: How can I make that happen?” 

And yet, at times, it can seem like that’s exactly what we signed up for in our lives as we accomplish more and more and more. Ahhh, yes. It’s that good, ol’ “Paradox of Progress”:  The more “success” we capture, the more complexity we often face. 

We know that each business stage—and each life stage—introduces new challenges and opportunities for growth. If we’re somewhat truthful with ourselves, we can probably admit that we default to our typical, go-to, “This has always worked for me and I always operate this way,” strategy when we first encounter a new hurdle.  And if we’re brutally honest, we can probably acknowledge that we devote far too many resources—our time, our energy, and our money—as we confront these new hurdles. 

We know that appearances never tell the whole story and while an outsider might conclude that everything’s marvelous because our businesses are successful, we may think differently. (After all, we’re the only ones who can truly define success for ourselves.)  Maybe we’re bogged down with employee problems and missing our kids’ soccer games because we’re “tied up at work.” Or maybe we’re taking a phone call in the car instead of singing along with the Boss on “Thunder Road” or joining Demi as she hits that high A on “Sorry Not Sorry.”  (Oh, come on. Don’t act like you haven’t been there.) 

Maybe we’re checking our email too often while we’re on vacation. Or maybe we’re suppressing all those thoughts of discontent, justifying our situations as “the price of business,” not realizing that the ultimate outcome of this pattern isn’t satisfaction, but regret.

I don’t think anyone who runs a business wants to earn more restriction, more stress, and more sacrifice.  I just don’t. We’re creators and we’re artists. We want to build our lives with more of the good and less of the bad.  We want to iron out wrinkles.

The benefits of a mastermind group

I can’t envision a tool better suited to smooth away the creases in our lives than a “mastermind” group. For those of us who are unfamiliar with the concept, simply put, a mastermind is a bunch of individuals united for one, overarching, common purpose: to help one another grow as “iron sharpens iron.” (Yes, I just used a different type of “iron” analogy.) The notion certainly isn’t new or novel and I’m convinced that joining a mastermind, or building our own, is, hands-down, the best way for anyone to win more clients and customers, serve them better, boost our income, and liberate our time. Masterminds mean more freedom, happiness, and adventure for everyone. 

Think about it: Although we might have friends and family members who love and support us in a variety of ways, how many of them can truly provide us with an unbiased, objective “push” toward that next level? Imagine being in a group where people are open and honest about their personal and professional struggles and can receive input from other creators who bring unique perspectives and diverse experiences to the metaphorical table.  Picture nine or ten people who are “all in” on our success. 

Good mastermind groups help clarify our definitions of success. They help us accelerate. They help us execute. They force us to share in one another’s lives and struggles. They keep us accountable. They motivate us.  They move us. 

I mentioned that, if we’re honest with ourselves, we can probably admit to spending too many resources as we employ our typical “go-to” tactics to overcome new obstacles. Well, a mastermind group can be a new approach to success. It can counterbalance that “Paradox of Progress,” and it can eliminate stress and constraints. A mastermind can help drive us towards more freedom, happiness, and adventure—and those are outcomes we can all embrace.

Christopher Leo is the owner of Flash Three Consultants and co-owner of Breakthrough to Billions. A former English teacher, newspaper editor, and football coach, Chris is committed to helping creators get what they truly want from their personal and professional lives through the power of masterminds. Visit,, or email him ( to continue the conversation.

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  • Next up: Knowledge Is Power: Begin Tackling The LTL Over Dimensional (OD) Rules Puzzle!

    Knowledge Is Power: Begin Tackling The LTL Over Dimensional (OD) Rules Puzzle!

    Here are questions you should ask yourself as you begin to solve the puzzle of LTL Over Dimensional rules.

    As the capacity crunch continues, freight capacity levels are at an all-time high. LTL carriers are now charging an Over Dimensional fee when a shipment contains an article that is eight or more feet in length. With some carriers, this charge will also be applied if an article is both six or more feet in length and six or more feet in width.

    How Can I Begin Solving The LTL Over Dimensional Rules Puzzle?

    Click Here To Solve The Puzzle

    Some of the things shippers can do to help prevent these charges are:

    • Know the carrier Over Dimensional restrictions / rules
    • Measure each skid or piece for accurate dimensions

    By partnering with a 3PL such as Ascent Global Logistics, you can rely on a knowledgeable freight partner to assist you in avoiding potential costly rebills.

    Contact our team of logistics professionals today to learn how we can help you reach peak logistics performance. Call us at 800.689.6255 Ext. 280 or visit us at

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  • Next up: Learning the Secrets of 'The Sales Doctor'

    Learning the Secrets of 'The Sales Doctor'

    As part of an ongoing series, Mind Your Business will be sitting down with COSE Investor Level Members to get to know more about their business and the guiding principles they use to build their business. Today’s Q-and-A is with nationally known sales trainer Marvin Montgomery.

    For nearly the past three decades, Marvin Montgomery has made it his mission since he launched his sales training business on Jan. 1, 1990, to improve the techniques of sales professionals in Northeast Ohio and beyond.

    A fixture at COSE events (and chairman of the annual BizConCLE convention for small- and medium-sized businesses), the “Sales Doctor” says he stands out from other sales trainers through his ability to provide not only substance in the training he provides, but plenty of motivation as well.

    “Some have the motivation, but leave the session feeling empty. Or, you have the substance but can’t stay awake long enough to get it because the sessions are boring,” he says. “I have been blessed to have both.”

    Mind Your Business recently had the opportunity to sit down with Montgomery to find out a little more about what he thinks sales professionals need to do to maximize their sales potential. Here’s what he had to say.

    MYB: How can a salesperson be viewed more as a trusted advisor than a salesperson?

    Montgomery: They need to begin every contact by asking questions. And then actively listening to the client’s answers and thinking about how your product or service can meet their needs. Don’t just jump into the sales meeting by dumping a lot of information.

    MYB: What’s the best way to overcome objections a client might have?

    Montgomery: Start out by identifying any surface-level resistance when you sit down with the client during your needs analysis evaluation. Asking the right questions will eliminate objections. You also need to be prepared for common objections in advance by having your answers ready and clarify the objection before responding by either repeating it back, asking a clarifying question, or just not saying anything at all.

    MYB: After the initial meeting, what’s the best way to go about following up?

    Montgomery: Agree with the client about what the next step should be moving forward before you end your meeting.

    MYB: What’s the best way to approach cold calling?

    Montgomery: Identify your target market. Determine your approach. Develop what I call your, “Formula for Success.” And then practice and schedule time to make the calls. Cold calling is not dead, but it has to be done in a professional manner and not like the annoying robo calls and emails that we all get.

    MYB: And now for some shameless self-promotion: As chairman of BizConCLE, what do you think are the biggest benefits to businesses of attending the event?

    Montgomery: I have been attending every year since I started my business in 1990. he said. You can network with other business professionals and share best practices. You can hear from relevant keynote speakers and attend workshops that will provide educational value to you and your business and you have a prime opportunity for business development in a non-threatening environment.

    Want to be featured in an upcoming business profile? Become a COSE Investor Member today and secure your spot in our special profile series. Learn more about the benefits of being a COSE Member by clicking here. Or, contact our Membership Team directly via email at or by phone at 216-592-2355.

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  • Next up: Lesson Learned: Make the Business Stand on Its Own

    Lesson Learned: Make the Business Stand on Its Own

    The latest piece of our “Lesson Learned” series has to do with the actions a small business owner should take to ensure her or his business is able to stand on its own.

    The COSE Strategic Planning Course offers small business owners invaluable advice on a range of subjects to help them grow their business. We asked some recent graduates of the program what their takeaways from the course were and during the next several weeks, we’ll be relating to you their insights. Today’s “lesson learned” comes from Tony Skerski of Transaction Realty, who talked about what entrepreneurs need to do to ensure their business can stand on its own.

    Q: Looking back at all the lessons you learned during the COSE Strategic Planning Course, can you pinpoint some things you have or plan to implement in your business?

    Tony Skerski of Transaction Realty

    Well one of the most important things I found from the class is I have to take myself out of the biz to make it an actual viable business to make it stand on its own.

    I can put procedures in place so that everyone throughout the company can do any of the jobs, and that will make the company be more sellable. And speaking of staffing, I also need to make sure I hire the right people and not train the wrong people.

    Some advice I would give other people who work in small businesses is that the old way of marketing your business is not the way of the future. You have to be giving content and that will give you the most marketing punch for your money.

    More COSE Strategic Planning Course takeaways

    Looking for more insight into the valuable lessons business owners learn while enrolled in the COSE Strategic Planning Course? Check out the other pieces of our “Lesson Learned” series

    Lesson Learned: Have an Exit Strategy

    Lesson Learned: Don’t Do It All Yourself

    Learn more about the COSE Strategic Planning Course

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  • Next up: Lessons for Small Businesses from the Cavaliers

    Lessons for Small Businesses from the Cavaliers

    Your small business can learn several lessons from this year’s Cavs team and the experiences they’ve gone through this season. So read on, and let’s go Cavs!

    This year’s Cleveland Cavaliers look very familiar. Just like the last three years, they’ve made the NBA Finals. They have the same head coach in Ty Lue and the same leader in LeBron James. They are also playing the same team—the Golden State Warriors.   

    Yes, these are all a constant to every Cavs fans. But this isn’t the familiarity I am talking about.   What I’m talking about is how this year’s team resembles many small businesses, including my own. As I watched the season unfold, I kept thinking to myself how I can relate to the ups and downs the team experienced and how they persevered to make it to where they are today.  

    This year’s Cavs provide a number of lessons on team dynamics, competition and leadership that are relevant to today’s small business. Here are the top three lessons we’ve learned from this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Lesson No. 1: Building team chemistry is critical to optimal performance.

    This year’s team has eight new players when compared to last year’s NBA Finals team (this doesn’t include four more players that came and went this year: Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder).

    With so many new faces at the beginning of the year and a set of trades in the middle of the year, the Cavs had trouble winning, at one point losing 14 of 20 games—something you rarely see from a LeBron-led team. Even though the Cavs made the finals, it is clear to see how team turnover has created challenges in performance and culture.

    Just like in basketball, our businesses thrive when we have a consistent team that gets along and cares about “winning.” Sometimes change is good. However, losing highly-skilled people (Kyrie Irving) or good character people can really have an impact on team performance.   

    Small business owners really have to be creative and intentional in creating an environment that reduces turnover. This could include building in team engagement activities or taking an active role in employee development.   

    Lesson No. 2: Continuous innovation and improvement are the best ways to beat the competition.

    Over the last eight years, the Eastern Conference has tried to stop LeBron James—with little luck. However, as we saw this year, teams such as the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics got very close to knocking off the Cavs. Other teams such as Philadelphia and Milwaukee are considered up-and-coming young and talented teams. The Cavs struggled in the middle part of the year and decided to make some drastic trades to revamp and reenergize the team. While the results are mixed so far, it should not be lost that the Cavs are committed to doing what it takes to compete now and in the future.  

    In business, the competition is not going away. Just like you, they are looking to “win” new business. The competition is increasing their investment in sales and marketing, developing new ways of doing business and hiring talented people. It is important to keep an eye on trends in your industry as well as what your competition is doing. Take action to make sure your business is relevant for your customers and innovative in its products and/or services.

    Lesson No. 3: Strong leadership can overcome.  

    For the Cavs, the unquestioned leader is LeBron James. He is not only the best player on the planet, but also the MVP every single year (or should be). There is a reason that, through changing teammates and management, LeBron’s teams have managed to make it to eight straight NBA Finals. LeBron’s core values center around leading by example, putting his teammates in a position to be successful and winning.  

    For many small businesses, the buck stops with the owner. A small business owner may be responsible for sales, financials, human resources, operations and strategy. But above all, an owner is responsible for leading his or her team.  

    As a small business leader, it is important to make sure that through the ups and downs of your business, you are able to exude confidence, provide leadership and mentorship to your team, and stay focused on achieving the goals you’ve set for your business.

    Nevin Bansal is the president and CEO of Outreach Promotional Solutions.

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  • Next up: Life Hacks: 12 Easy Ways to Master Your To-Do List, Find Time and Simplify Your Life

    Life Hacks: 12 Easy Ways to Master Your To-Do List, Find Time and Simplify Your Life

    From simplifying your inbox to making your nightly routine as efficient as possible, here are a dozen life hacks that will add time back to your day.

    I am sitting on a flight home right now, writing this article, and I can’t help but wonder what my fellow passengers are doing. Some are sleeping, others are watching TV and a few are typing away on their computers like me. I just noticed the guy working on his laptop across the aisle from me has about 32,000 emails in his inbox. At least he’s working on the flight, I’ll give him credit for that, but I could really help him get control of his overflowing inbox. 

    In this article, I’ll talk about ways to keep yourself organized, so you can find more hours in the day and leave more time in your life for what truly matters most to you. I’ll show you how I use Outlook to master my to-do list, how I have created daily routines that open up more “found time” in my busy days, and finally ways I keep things simple in a complicated world.    

    I consider travel time to be found time and airplanes are the last bastion of peace on our planet. On flights, my phone doesn’t work, so I’m not constantly getting pinged. I like to put on my headphones and do my “thinking work.” It’s a few uninterrupted hours where I can really focus. During the week, I’m hopelessly trying to multi-task, return phone calls, and running between meetings. Planes are my only time for writing articles and crafting thoughtful responses to complex emails. 

    Travel time allows me to complete tasks so I can enjoy other times in my week. I’m busy just like everyone else. I own two businesses, travel at least twice a month, my wife is a full-time professional, and we have two young girls (Caroline and Anne Penney, six and four years old). If I get my work done while I’m flying then when I get home I can be present for my kids. If you ever happen to see me on a flight, you’ll know exactly what I’m doing because I’m about to tell you. 

    Let’s talk about my to-do list first.


    Become one with your email

    I use Outlook as my to-do list and I have spent years perfecting my systems. Some people use handwritten lists, or day-planners, or other email programs, but Outlook works well for me. I am self-diagnosed as having a condition known as E.A.D. (email anxiety disorder). This disease is marked by the relentless pursuit of “inbox zero”; the highly sought after condition where one’s email inbox is completely clear. 

    Let’s turn our attention to some real world apps that I use to amplify Outlook’s natural abilities:

    1. is a Web-based service (works with any email program) and it filters your email before it arrives in your inbox. It uses artificial intelligence to move your receipts and newsletters into a separate folder called “SaneLater” which gathers all your unimportant emails so you can focus on the most important emails. Once a week, you can open up your SaneLater folder and review the emails, which almost never need follow-up. Sanebox prevents me from being pinged constantly by unimportant emails and thusly returns sanity to my inbox. 

    2. is a great email plug-in because with one click in Outlook, I can defer an email until a later date. ClearContext removes deferred email from my inbox and then returns them on the chosen date.  There are several reasons this is helpful:

    • Remembering important stuff. If I need to remember to get something done this weekend, I defer the email to Saturday. I know I could use reminders and to do’s but nothing gets my attention more than a fresh email at the top of my inbox.
    • Holding people accountable. If you email me and promise you’ll get something done by Aug. 22, I simply take your email and defer it until Aug. 22 and it automatically reminds me to check in on the project.  People I work with always wonder how I seem to remember everything. Hopefully none of those people ever read this article and learn my secret!

    3.  MailMyself is an app that I keep on the home screen of my phone. When I touch it, it opens up a blank text field, and whatever I type becomes the subject line of an email to me. Whenever I have a thought or an item to get done that I don’t want to forget, it makes it very easy for me to quickly create a “to-do.”

    4.  YouMail is another app that I love because it listens to all of my voicemails, transcribes the audio (humans do the transcribing, which is why I prefer YouMail to using the iPhone’s built in voicemail transcriber; it’s more accurate), and the text is emailed to me. I no longer have to waste time listening to voicemails and I never forget to call people back because there is an email reminder in my inbox.     

    As long as I run through my inbox at the beginning and end of each day, I know all of the really important to-do’s in my life will get done. I have one place that I store all of my tasks, calls, and notes, which means nothing falls thru the cracks.

    Play hide and seek with time and win

    Now, let’s discuss practical tips I’ve implemented to simplify my life and find more time every day. These ideas might not work for you, but I am hoping you can try to adapt some of them to your own life.

    1.  Create routines. When I get home each day, I have a routine. There is a specific place for my keys and wallet (hook and bowl by the door). Then, I always open up the mail and packages, take the papers out of my bag (notes I’ve reviewed, bills I’ve paid) and I file them away. 

    2.  Go Paperless. I mercilessly throw away any paper I don’t need.  The goal is to keep as little paper as possible. Often, I will scan it (buy a Fujitsu Scansnap and it will change your scanning life. I know it’s $400 for something that your multifunction printer probably does, but it does it so much better it’s worth the investment). 

    3.  Get Organized at Night. Each evening, I spend a few minutes making sure my bag has everything in it I need for the next day so I can “shut it down” for the night, enjoy my family, and wake up the next morning ready to work without spending time in the morning getting organized. For more on creating your own routine and getting organized, I highly recommend reading: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. 

    4.  Get up an Hour Earlier. I wake up at 5 a.m. as often as I can during the week and get my day started early. I use that precious extra hour in the morning for thinking work because research shows the peak time for our brains is shortly after we wake up.

    5.  Shopping Ninjas. The only stores my wife and I enjoy going to in person are home improvement stores (Home Depot just smells so good), clothing stores (it’s too hard to buy clothes that fit well online), and toy stores (it’s worth it to see the looks on our kid’s faces when they get a new toy in person).  For everything else, we use Amazon to automate our purchasing. Amazon makes it possible to set up all the recurring items we need (i.e., paper towels and coffee) for automatic monthly delivery.

    6.  Grocery Shopping. Growing up, we went to the grocery store once (sometimes twice) a day. I’ve now gotten it down to once every two weeks! I know this shopping behavior is unusual because we always get comments at the register about the large size of our orders.  (Note: I tried stretching it to one grocery visit a month, but we ran out of fresh fruits, vegetables and milk by mid-month and got tired of eating dry cereal and frozen vegetables!)

    7.  Simplify Your Wardrobe. In the mornings, I used to spend a lot of time picking out my clothes for the day. Then I discovered pants by Bonobos called “Weekday Warriors.” With the days of the week stitched into the waistband, I no longer have to spend time deciding which pants to put on in the mornings! 

    Plan Your Life or Life Will Be Planned For You

    My wife and I decided a long time ago it’s important to enjoy our downtime, so we’ve worked hard to craft our lives accordingly. The decisions we’ve made in planning our life together are really enough to fill another entire article (foreshadowing?), but I want to share one of the most impactful ideas in our life plan with you while we’re on the subject of creating more hours every day. 

    Live Smaller. We’re not sold on the tiny house movement, but my wife and I have chosen to live in a moderately sized house (2,500 square feet) so we can afford luxuries such as a housekeeper and a lawn service once a week. We used to spend at least two to four hours a week cutting the grass and cleaning the house (neither are favorite chores of ours) and now we spend those hours exercising (can’t hire somebody to do workout for you), getting to know our kids better, and drinking good wine.

    Hopefully, you’ve picked up an idea that will allow you to enjoy more time with your family or to spend more time perfecting your preferred hobby. Send me an email with your best life hacks and maybe I can share them in a future article or speaking engagement. I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills and find more time in my days. After all, the more efficient that I can be with work by leveraging technology and better organizational habits, the more time I can spend enjoying the fruits of my labor and isn’t that what this article is really all about!

    Jonathan Slain works with business owners and their executive teams to get control of their lives. For a FREE meeting to discuss your business, he can be reached at or 216-870-4219.

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