ImproMed, LLC. Logo
Issue: 58 - Oct 15, 2013
Are you Part of a Secret Society of Successful People?
By: Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ
Dr. Phil Zeltzman1

Whatever your role is in the veterinary family, becoming part of a mastermind group can dramatically increase your success level. It has been said that behind every successful person, there is a mastermind group.  Very smart people have done it before us: Napoleon Hill, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and many others more recently.

What’s a mastermind group?

It is a somewhat confidential think tank made of supportive colleagues or friends. They don’t necessarily have to be in the same industry.  But they must be like-minded. They should be self-motivated, share the same values and aspire to the same heights as you do.

There are countless types of mastermind groups, dedicated to small business owners, hospital administrators, head technicians, team leaders, seekers of good health, investors, dieters, managers, moms, dads, employees, employers…

What can a mastermind group do for me?

By attending meetings with your colleagues, you will benefit from their collective experience and knowledge.  Sometimes when you get stuck with a problem, an “outsider” may suggest solutions that you have not thought of.  By leveraging your peers’ background, you can create new options to advance your career or solve your problem.

Members of your mastermind group can also become a sounding board, provide a support network (or emotional support), play devil’s advocates, give feedback and inspiration, accelerate your personal growth as well as brainstorm to create new solutions in various professional (and personal) endeavors.  The group provides coaching, support and encouragement.

How and why does it work?

The obvious answer is that your will share tips and resources and connections and experiences and knowledge.  The group will keep you focused and on track because you will have to share your progress at the next meeting. But it goes well beyond that: as you publicly share goals and aspirations, you create an accountability system, which is a very powerful motivation. 

Who should attend?

Whether you join an existing group or you start your own, your peers should have an eagerness to become successful, to solve problems, to reach new goals and to challenge themselves.

A few rules of engagement should be respected for someone to join the group:

. Attending meetings is a commitment, whether it is monthly or quarterly.

. No big egos are allowed.

. Trust and confidentiality are prerequisites, because a well-oiled group may share strategies and trade secrets.

How can we enhance trust?

Karyn Greenstreet, a small business coach in Revere, PA (, believes that “one way to enhance trust among members is to have everyone sign a non-disclosure agreement (a.k.a. confidentiality agreement).”

All members agree that “all conversations, ideas and document shared among members will remain strictly private and will not be shared with anyone else, including spouses, co-workers etc.”

She continues: “In personal mastermind groups, it means that all your thoughts and feelings will remain confidential. In business mastermind groups, it means that any documents you share with the group members, any brainstorming you do around a new business idea, and any discussions around particular problems or challenges will be kept confidential as well.”

The agreement remains in effect even (or especially) if a member leaves the group.

How do we meet?

The classic approach is the face to face meeting: you get together in a conference room or a living room or a restaurant. It doesn’t mean that all participants have to live in the same area: you could drive or fly to a central location.

In the age of social media and technological awesomeness, you also could meet virtually via email, telephone conference call, online message boards or video conference, often at no cost.

How big should the group be?

It takes two to tango.  More people will bring more brain power to the table, but keep in mind that the bigger the group, the less time can be dedicated to each attendee.  Four to six people seems to be a good number to strive for.

How does a typical meeting unfold?

The meeting, which can last from 1 to 2 hours, will be what you want it to be, but below are some basic guidelines.

It is a good idea to start each meeting with a success story from each participant.  It could be a difficult negotiation you had brainstormed about during the previous session, or a project you completed, or a tricky situation you resolved with an employee, a client or a colleague.  It should be something the group has helped you accomplish.

These happy stories set the tone for the rest of the meeting. It will also show everyone what success looks and feels like.

The bulk of the meeting is then dedicated to each participant.  Questions to be discussed include: What are you working on?  What progress have you made since the last meeting?  What goals have you accomplished?  What have you learned?  What do you need help with?  What struggles have you encountered?  This is the reason why groups cannot be too big. If four people meet for an hour, each person may only have 10 minutes to be in the spotlight.

At the end of the meeting, new assignments and goals can be agreed upon, and they will be discussed at the next session.

It should be noted that if the meeting lasts longer (say half a day), then more people could be included.

How do I reach my goals?

One of the goals of the meeting is to help you create and implement action plans.  You define the goals (hopefully they will be BHAGs, or Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals as Jim Collins calls them in his best-selling book “Good to Great”), and the team can help you design a step-by-step plan to reach them.

How do we track success?

This is a critical point the group will need to establish, although it can vary greatly.

Was a new business or a new service created? Is it a subjective goal, such as personal growth? Or is it a measurable goal, such as a dollar amount?

Can mastermind groups fail?

Yes they can, like any organization. Here are 7 reasons for failure:

  • Members are not committed
  • Participants don't show up
  • Members don't engage fully
  • Participants make excuses
  • There is no mechanism for communication between meetings
  • The group doesn't have a purpose
  • Members fail to hold each other accountable.


So this is what a mastermind group can do for you.  To paraphrase a famous quote, the better point may be: don’t ask what your mastermind group can do for you. Ask what you can do for your mastermind group.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (