The foundation of almost any project I take on with my clients is collaboration. No matter what we’re creating, we’re doing it together. The most valuable part of collaboration is pulling from the collective experiences of the team working on the project, sharing insights and feedback, pushing to make the end result the best possible.
Until a couple weeks ago, I didn’t realize that was something that I was missing in my business. When you are your own boss you hear a lot of comments about how lucky you are to “make your own schedule” or “chose your own projects” or whatever else you get to decide about your day-to-day that people have seemingly less control over in an office setting. As an extreme extrovert, sometimes I would jokingly reply things like “yeah, and you’re so lucky to get to talk to other people during the day,” and I guess deep down, I meant that.
Back in May of 2018 I signed up for The Mastermind Retreat. I had just come off a series of coaching calls as I was preparing to make some shifts in my business and, based on my timelines, the September 2018 retreat would fall just as I was wrapping up all my post-coaching action items. Crossing all those items off my list by September meant I could spend the retreat diving into my next steps. Perfect, because I am a planner and a list maker and task-checker-offer.
I wasn’t entirely sure what I was searching for in signing up for the retreat but I knew I would be making some changes, and this seemed like the type of thing you do when you’re making changes. I had read about Masterminds online. All the cool kids were doing it, but I didn’t really know what it was.
As the September retreat got closer, my business task list, including my retreat prep items, got pushed off to the side for client projects, life, and a variety of other things. I spent no time preparing for the retreat and hadn’t spent much time thinking about what I really wanted to get out of my time there.
About 7 or 8 days before our retreat was scheduled to happen, the weather world started tracking Hurricane Florence. As the storm progressed it seemed more and more likely that it would be hitting Hilton Head, the location of our retreat, during the time frame we were scheduled to be there.
There was lots of talk back and forth about what might happen and the retreat ended up being postponed once they declared a state of emergency and evacuated costal SC. I had a lot of mixed feelings, but mostly I was kind of relieved. I knew I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t know what I was looking to get out of the experience, I had no goal or purpose (which I later learned, thanks to Laura Foote and her Strengths Quest knowledge, is a terrible place to be for someone with a strong “focus” strength to find themselves). That left me feeling frazzled and frustrated, and eventually relieved when things were postponed. The retreat ended up being scheduled for February 2019 and so I kept my head down and kept plugging along in my business; I figured I’d revamp and refocus once the new date got closer.
It’s no secret that the new year leaves you feeling focused on goals and fresh starts, which marked a turning point for me in prepping for the retreat. I had finally settled on a clear vision for what I wanted my business to look like in the coming years, and what areas had the most potential for improvement over the course of the retreat.
I set aside time to re-read notes from my past coaching with one of the retreat leaders, Lauren Carnes, and it was amazing to see some of the shifts and changes I had already made in my business. I answered any prompts they sent, made notes about questions I had, and tuned into some of the pre-retreat live chats which allowed me a chance to meet some of the attendees and learn more about their businesses and goals.
When I say there were some HEAVY HITTERS at this retreat I’m serious! We had women there with businesses of almost 20 years, super talented photographers and videographers, bloggers, make-up artists, designers, and even a Pinterest guru! All of these women had well-established businesses with clients to show for it, and we were all hungry for more. More in our businesses, more from our communities, more of all the things that make business worth doing.
This time around, I knew exactly what I wanted out of the retreat. I had some big things I needed to move forward on in my business; some great opportunities coming down the pipeline, and I need a sounding board. I needed people who I could collaborate with to find ways to push my business forward; people who had been there and understood what it would take to get where I wanted to go, and I was hoping this group of women could be that.
Day 1 looked a lot like your standard retreat, some intros, diving into some goals and having some “get to know you” time.
Day 2, our first full day, had us uncovering our strengths, learning how to use them in our businesses and talking about finances and budgets.
Some of the most fruitful conversations came during our “love seats.” These smaller groups gave us an opportunity to dive deep into conversations on our individual businesses- where we’re struggling, how we want to grow and what our goals are. We received pointed feedback from people in our group on how to grow and improve, and even ways they might be able to help us. To say it was impactful would be an understatement.
Day 3 was all strategies. We covered communications, scaling and growth, and the importance of diversity and inclusion in our industries. We wrapped up the evening with some lessons on self-care and an AMAZING group dinner, planned and organized by our fearless leaders with all the décor and details by Brooke Olsen. It was totally dreamy and such an amazing way to spend our last night together.
Day 4 was our last morning together so we chatted over breakfast and spent time speaking our goals and action steps out loud, so we could hold each other accountable going forward. We talked about what the next few months looked like for our businesses and chatted about ways to keep each other in the loop going forward, and, of course dreamed of a reunion ASAP!
Throughout our stay, most nights looked like late-night chats with laptops open, tons of notes and ideas floating around and lots of BIG ideas and dreams being spoken out loud. It was pretty amazing.
Despite the multitude of texts and Instagram story responses asking this, NO, The Mastermind Retreat wasn’t a fancy slumber party wrapped up like a business expense, or a bunch of girls sitting around painting nails, doing face masks and playing business at the beach.
The Mastermind Retreat WAS an opportunity for a group of fiercely determined, established business women from various industries, and all across the country (plus one from Germany!!) to come together in one place and dive deep into what it means to build strong and sustainable businesses, for ourselves, our clients, and our families.
We spent 3 days connecting, diving deep and pushing each other. We were collaborating, you know the kind of collaboration I mentioned above, pulling from our collective experiences, sharing insights and feedback, pushing each other to make the best version of our businesses possible.
I don’t know if it was the shared experience of some super vulnerable conversations and hard looks in the mirror, or just the opportunity to be surrounded by a group of people who get it; but I left there feeling like I could literally DO ANYTHING.
And I know that whenever I’m ready to do that next big, scary, crazy thing in my business, every single one of the women that were in that house will be cheering me to the finish line; and if I’m struggling to get there, I know that they will be standing there with cups of water and snacks ((do they do that in races?? I don’t run. But I imagine heroes with water and snacks…)) to refuel me and make sure I cross that finish line in stride, and I know that because I will be doing the same for them.
Look, I’m not going to break it all down for you, but I have a lot of BIG goals for this business of mine. This group of women poured so much knowledge, confidence and encouragement into me and I am pretty jazzed up for the next season of growth in my business.
As for our Mastermind group, I am pretty sure that most of these women are stuck with me forever, some in real life… and all of them in their Instagram feeds and DMs, or in our Facebook group. We’ve been in contact almost every day since leaving the retreat we’re invested in seeing each other succeed.
If you’re wondering what it’s like to be in a Mastermind or you want to know what to expect from an experience like this, I will leave you with this visual.
If this is something you feel like you need more of in your business, find people – make a community – invest in them – help each other – hold each other accountable…and then make them be your business friends forever, because that’s basically what we did at the Mastermind Retreat.
And I’m so glad we did because I know that no matter what we’re creating in our businesses, we’ll be doing it together.