History demonstrates that Peer Groups are essential to being a successful business owner.

“We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.” —G.K. Chesterton

“Birds of a feather flock together.” —John Minsheu, 1599

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” —Ken Blanchard

“Surround yourself with people who can make you better.” ― Jim Kerr

“If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” —Isaac Newton

These quotes all describe the characteristics of participating in a peer group solution.  A business owner participates in a peer group because it’s lonely at the top.  If you are like most of our participants, there is a strong likelihood that no one in your office is situated similarly, and you may feel like there is nowhere to go to fight the isolation or receive objective input on your ideas.  But you don’t have to go it alone.

Rather, you should “surround yourself with good people; surround yourself with positivity and people who are going to challenge you to make you better.” —Ali Krieger.

A business leader peer group (sometimes referred to as a mastermind group) does just that.  It involves assembling 6-14 business owners, on average, who are similarly situated, to meet on a regular basis in a secure and confidential environment. 

Similarly situated means that the member businesses share the same range of revenues, number of employees, level of experience, business sophistication and other similar factors.  The purpose of meeting is to propel individual and organizational professional development by providing advice, support, sharing, accountability and collaboration. 

Groups meet at a regular interval, normally monthly or quarterly.  Some peer groups involve members from other industries and each member has exclusivity within their niche.  Other peer groups are geographically diverse and involve members from the same industrynone of whom compete directly with each other.

In the book The Power of Peer Groups by Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary, the authors describe how peer groups operate by comparing it to the 1957 classic film “12 Angry Men.”  This jury room drama tells the story of 12 jurors directed to dictate the fate of a criminal defendant.  The initial jury vote had all jurors but #8 voting not guilty.  Juror #8 argues that a passing train would have made it difficult for the witness to hear the murder threat.  His argument is successful in turning juror #5 and #11. 

Another juror deduces that one of the witnesses was not wearing prescription glasses during the identification process, converting more jurors to voting not guilty.  One juror reveals his personal prejudices toward the defendant, causing others to question their initial vote.  Eventually, all jurors are convinced, through peer collaboration, analysis and discussion, to vote not guilty.  It is a wonderful demonstration of how peer groups operate.

The concept of business leaders meeting to help each other was originally written by Napoleon Hill in his books, The Law of Success and Think and Grow Rich, dating back to 1925 and 1937, respectively.  Hill’s work was based upon a decades-long study of industry leader Andrew Carnegie’s formula for achieving success. 

Carnegie actually commissioned Hill’s works, which involved interviews of over 500 American millionaires and successful businesspersons.  Hill’s books discussed how the peer group solution was utilized by Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Theodore Roosevelt, JP Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Charles Schwab, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison.  Hill defined the solution as a “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.” 

Hill argued, “No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible, intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind.” 

Many great leaders and achievers throughout history surrounded themselves with like-minded, trusted advisors who helped them become successful through their collaboration.

There are other examples of mastermind groups throughout history:

  • The Inklings—successful writers/poets like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams
  • The Junto— twelve members including and created by Benjamin Franklin
  • Sunday Night Supper—a mastermind group credited for guiding the U.S. through the Cold War, including Robert Lovett, Averell Harriman, Chip Bohlen, Joe and Stewart Alsop, Frank Wiser and George Kennan
  • National Automobile Dealers Association—since 1917, Toyota dealership general managers attend “20 Group” for two days, three times a year, to share data and best practices, and help each other process issues they are facing

If you are interested in pursuing the peer group solution with other estate planning law firms from around the country (with geographic exclusivity), email tom@virtuslaw.com.

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