Many people find the prospect of starting a study group daunting, but it really doesn’t have to be. If you’re at a meeting, take time to chat with your fellow members during the breaks and share ideas. These don’t have to be earth-shattering insights. Simply share what works well in your business, and before you know it, you will have a study group up and running.
My study group is made up of four members who meet twice per year, always following some iteration of the same agenda. It has been wonderfully successful. The agendas we developed for these meetings are simple and just consist of a few items. Here’s a sample:
1. Positive focus. We start by having everyone share one thing that’s going really well in their personal or professional lives.
2. Goal tracking. Members share one personal and one professional goal they are working on that the group can hold them accountable for. These can be any goals, big or small.
3. One sales and one practice management idea. One of which would be a quick hit (two to four minutes) and the other more detailed (five to 10 minutes).
4. Homework challenge. This is a challenge we keep each other accountable for, such as getting published in an industry magazine or performing a random act of kindness anonymously.
5. Open conversation. We always leave the last hour of the meeting for open conversation. We talk about whatever we want, and it is often this area that yields some of the best ideas.
Starting a study group
If you want to either start or become a member of a study group, here are some things to consider:
1. Identify a common thread to find potential members. It takes time to identify the special mix of personalities and traits that create an environment in which you can feel vulnerable. It’s important to get to know each other on a personal and professional level to build trust. This enables members to have confidence in the nurturing environment of the group so they can feel comfortable sharing their struggles, concerns and challenges, or when they are providing guidance or empathy to another group member.
2. Determine how geography will impact your group. Are you comfortable using technology to overcome distance between members? With my study group, we live in four different states, but we thought the mix of people was more important than being able to always meet in person. We committed to holding monthly 90-minute calls and meeting in person twice a year.
3. Develop a group objective and a working time frame. To be successful, your group needs to have a structure and a plan. Of course, over time, objectives will need to be adjusted to remain aligned with each member’s needs. We started by writing business plans, but last year we chose to incorporate a new theme of self-improvement. We incorporate a new initiative each month to expand our experiences and create some new health habits.
4. Determine your group structure and select a common starting point. Since we all were beginning in different environments, we felt it important to start at the same place and talk the same language. Initially, we decided to go through the process of creating a business plan using Jim Horan’s book, “The One Page Business Plan.” Several of our group members had never formalized a business plan. Using his guide allowed us to share the experience together and speak the same language when developing components of the plan.
— Kathleen R. Benjamin, CPA, CFP, Timonium, Maryland, 15-year MDRT member