The Coaching-Mastermind Conundrum and Tight Budgets

articles leadership people and culture strategy and planning Nov 24, 2022

Which is right for you? Coaching, consulting, mentoring or Mastermind?

We all ask this question as we try to get the support we need to get through difficult times.

“We’re tightening our belts: all budgets are frozen”

I get this position, but it deserves to be challenged.

“We’ll get some help when times get better”
This position is bizarre when viewed in the cold light of day. 

Surely the time we need help is when we are walking through the dark, smelly stuff. The time when most of us need support and direction is when we are stuck in the weeds. Getting support, advice and direction when everything is fine makes sense. But indeed it makes more sense to get some help when you can’t see the wood for the trees.


“We just need to put our heads down and work our way through this”
I’d like to challenge this position. 

Working harder is different from working smarter. It reminds me of the Stephen Covey story of the Woodcutter, who doesn’t have the time to step back and sharpen the saw. We need to get our perspective sorted and take stock - a few minutes to make sure you put your underwear on the right way saves a lot of discomforts later in the day.


“I am so busy working on adrenalin; I just don’t have time”
I have been there. It wasn’t pretty.

To navigate the future, we need to make sensible, rational decisions based on facts. It feels exciting working on a cocktail of adrenaline and dopamine, but it isn’t very effective. It is one thing getting to the top of the ladder, but you need to make sure you are climbing up the right ladder!


“How could talking help when I simply need to take action?”
Some agency leaders need to stop thinking they look cool wearing their Batman cloak and pants outside their tights. 

I get that the role of rescuer makes sense, but there comes a time when you need to be a bit vulnerable and not just talk about the solution. (I suspect you may be part of the problem.) You do not know all the answers. You do not have every angle covered. Maybe it is time to hear what others have to say and how they are dealing with similar issues.


“How can I afford the time?”
How can you not afford the time?

A little bit of prep and design saves a lot of heartache and pain. Most agency leaders spend too much time on the urgent stuff (“clients want it yesterday…”). You need to put time aside for important things. You employ an architect to design and plan the house before building. You need to work ON, not just IN, the agency.


“No one understands the finer nuances of my agency, so I’d be wasting my time.”

Everyone thinks their business is unique. I get that it might have some peculiarities and differences but the basic building blocks are the same: we have a service we are providing to a particular set of clients. We deliver the service, and they pay us more than it costs us to deliver the service. The fundamentals are the same.


“Right now, I need some support but I don’t know what.”
That is what I have been saying. You do need some support. 


“What’s available to support and grow my agency?”
If we divide up support between one-to-one, one-to-many, and one-to-few, then we can see a way forward.


  • One-to-one
    Relatively expensive
    Mentoring, coaching and consultancy are wonderful because they are all about you and your agency issues, but they come at a price. There are times when you really need the 1-2-1 attention and the individual attention that comes with it.


  • One-to-many
    Relatively inexpensive
    Conferences, workshops, training and webinars (and I will include books) are great for inspiration but offer zero hand-holding or effective support. You are left to figure out whether the solution is appropriate (the blind leading the blind?) and how to DIY the issue.

  • One-to-few
    Pricewise, the best of both worlds
    Mastermind sits in the middle of a Venn Diagram of one-to-one and one-to-many. You get the opportunity to step away from the business, but also receive loads of input that you can use to improve your business.


Health Warning

There are lots of meetings that are referred to as masterminds, forums or masterclasses. We are specifically talking about peer-to-peer masterminds (not guru-led and not basic talking shops) where the agenda is driven by the delegates with specific attention given to:

  • Issue-solving
  • Accountability
  • Actions
  • Accountability.


“I love mastermind.” To be clear, I love Masterminds (but only when they are run well).


What does a Peer-to-Peer Mastermind look like (to me)?

  • 10-18 agency leaders of similar-sized agencies
  • A quarterly cycle of
    • Full-day together live and in-person (and drink/meal the night before)
    • Half-day traction session online
    • Coaching session with the Mastermind leader
  • Slack community for your group
  • Access to the whole community of mastermind delegates, including
    • Monthly Round Tables (live online)
    • Monthly Masterclasses with industry experts (live online)
    • Knowledge Centre of tools, techniques and processes to grow your agency.


Why do I love them?

  1. They create a safe harbour, a place where you can share all your concerns among like-minded agency leaders (and often lifelong friends)
  2. They remind you that you are not alone and that you are not mad
  3. They give you the nudge to make the tough decisions
  4. They give you formal and informal accountability and support to deliver on your commitments.


So what’s right for me?
The consultant’s typical answer is, “It depends… horses for courses etc.”

Sometimes the intimacy and immediacy of a one-to-one relationship can turbocharge your agency. The ROI is tremendous. But so is the investment!

One-to-many events are useful and stimulating, but usually talk about what to do rather than how to do it. They offer cookie-cutter solutions that may not fit your precise issue.

And this is where the Mastermind comes in.

Sure, you don’t get undivided attention but the spotlight shines on you and you get to share your issues and get the input of the rest of the team’s issues. You learn to become more critical and more business-savvy. You get the opportunity to learn how to grow an agency as you help your fellow leaders navigate the tricky waters. You see all manner of models, mindsets and challenges. You commit to actions publicly. You get what is sometimes referred to as the board and directors you could never afford. How good is that?

Mastermind is awesome. What is awesome is the sheer volume of ideas and inspiration you get from your fellow masterminders. More important is their support and understanding of you and your journey.