If you’ve been in business for more than a minute you know it’s hard work. There are so many surprises, and there are fires to put out every day as an entrepreneur. The phone rings and a client puts you in a tailspin. Your email system serves up an endless stream of messages. Oh, and there’s that social media thing that draws you down the rabbit hole. My personal favorite is discovering a YouTube video for the latest Photoshop trick. Do I need to keep going?
Many times early in my career I’d reach the end of the day and realize the one thing I planned to achieve didn’t get accomplished. The feeling of spinning my wheels and failing to move the ball down the field became routine. It was tempting to think this could be solved with a planner or better time management. But I had a larger problem: A lack of focus or direction.
Fortunately for our business and our future, my wife, Lesa, and I discovered Napoleon Hill’s books “The Law of Success” and “Think and Grow Rich.” We found so many takeaways from Hill’s writings. Hill believed when two or more people gather they create a third mind, which he called the mastermind. Individuals with varied experiences coming together to help each other attain their goals is a powerful thing.
In my early days of entrepreneurship, I’d attend a PPA state affiliate convention and school each year as my main source of education to develop my photography skills. During one convention several students would meet at the end of the day to share our thoughts about business-related topics. Our markets didn’t overlap, and most of us were from different states. There was so much energy and excitement generated in these discussions. By the end of the week we all had notebooks full of ideas to implement. My brain was spinning with excitement. We all agreed there was something special taking place, and we didn’t want to let it die.
Our first project as a group was to visit each photographer’s studio collectively. The host planned the meeting, and the main item on the agenda was what we called a host studio make-over. This could potentially be painful for the host if they didn’t totally trust their fellow members. What an eye-opening and powerful learning experience it was to see each other’s operations and all the improvements that were accomplished during each visit. Helping one studio recognize their weak points provided the rest of us with much to think about and implement in our businesses. There were five studios in our core group, and we visited one each year. Over five years, we all grew to love each experience and the connection we had with each other.
Once we’d visited each studio, we realized the makeover format wasn’t sustainable. A few of us were reading business books, and we thought perhaps a book review retreat was in order. Our cabin in the north Georgia mountains was the perfect place for an off-the-grid gathering for that purpose. Lesa ran across another powerful book: “Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?” by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg. I reviewed that book for the group, and the title became the inspiration for our group name: Barking Cats.
Now when we gather the two days look something like this: Day one, each member presents a marketing idea they used that worked. They share the concept, implementation, and results. Day two revolves around any issues or new tactics each studio might be experiencing. There’s a good chance one of us has faced the same issue and can provide valuable knowledge on how to address it. When that’s not the case, the power of brainstorming yields fresh perspectives.
Some other elements of our group:
Entrepreneurship does not mandate you do everything on your own. Build your own Barking Cats group using some of these ideas as a guideline. The key is to find like-minded colleagues and grow toward finding the path to your success.
Gregory Daniel is the owner of Gregory Daniel Portrait Artist in Titusville, Florida.