GUEST POST by Lee Lee Thompson

Learn how to make collaborations better and more profitable from guest poster Lee Lee Thompson.

If you’re in the entrepreneurial world, chances are you’ve heard the word collaboration thrown around. Perhaps, though, you don’t exactly know what that means. Does collaboration mean you find someone to work for you for free? Or that you donate your time or talent? Not exactly.

Collaboration isn’t just a buzzword, and it certainly isn’t yet another way for women to be underpaid. Collaborating with others is usually done because Person A has a need and Person B has a talent, resource, or product that fills that need.

For example, I run a women’s magazine and am often looking for products to feature in various beauty, style, and home design spreads. I’ve reached out countless times to shop owners and small-batch makers to ask if they’d loan me a product in exchange for exposure to our audience. This is what we call a win-win.

Despite my extensive positive experiences with collaboration, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to reach out to someone you’ve never met. Along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons and adopted a few habits that have made my decisions to collaborate a better and more profitable experience.

Collaboration Attitude

While it can help to think, “What do I have to lose?” before hitting that send button, successful collaborations typically result between two people that have a “what can I give” mindset.

Here’s a real-life example: A photographer wants to uplevel her blog and start writing product reviews. What does she have to give? Potentially, she could provide a small-batch maker with 10-12 gorgeous product photos. On the other end, a maker might respond to this collaboration not just because she wants/needs new photos, but because she knows she can introduce the photographer’s audience to a new category of materials or a different approach to handicraft.

While these two collaborators are certainly receiving benefits, their original purpose for participating in the collaboration is what they can provide the other person. In this way, the question of whether this was a successful collaboration doesn’t rely on an increase in the maker’s sales or the photographer’s blog reads.

Collaboration Avenues

Facebook groups are sold to us as a place where we can connect with other professionals, yet because of heavy regulations and the tendency of some to oversell or take advantage of the ready connections, most moderators have heavy regulations in place about what you can say and when.

Here’s a rule of thumb I try to follow: Use groups to make connections; send emails to propose collaborations. I pay attention and participate in groups where I’m likely to meet potential collaborators, but when it comes time to make my ask, I generally PM them and ask for an email address. This provides a better way to track my interactions with the person and is an easier way to use my collaboration assets, which I’ll speak to next.

On the other hand, if you have a general need (which, according to our definition above, isn’t technically a collaboration), go ahead and post to the group where you’re likely to get feedback. After checking the rules to make sure a post of that nature is allowed, of course!

Collaboration Assets

Even though this is my last point, it’s the one I recommend you start building right away. For any successful business venture, you need resources. If you’re building your email list, you need an opt-in/freebie. If you’re selling something, you need stock. Collaboration is the same—to collaborate successfully, you need to build your resources library.

The tool I’ve found to be most helpful is an old form letter. I know, I know—we all hate getting these. Why? Because form letters are impersonal and inauthentic. A useful form letter (or form email) though, is customizable. Basically, you write your best request ever; hang on to it, and adapt it for the situation and recipient.

I’m also a huge fan of keeping a database of collaboration possibilities, from general ideas to specific people and their websites/contact info. In fact, I have an entire Evernote notebook devoted to this purpose. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist. Saving links or bookmarking various websites is sort of like putting your keys in a different place every couple of days. Create a file, a notebook, or an Excel spreadsheet instead—and don’t forget to back it up!


If you’ve been wanting to connect with other business owners, do it! If you’ve been thinking a collaboration would be a fun way to expand your business, you’re right! I can’t say enough positive things about collaborating with other business owners.

Approach the collaboration with the mindset that you have something to offer, reach out in the most effective way for that situation, and use the resources you’ve been saving up for that moment. If you do your due diligence before putting the request out into the world, I can’t guarantee the person will say yes—but I will guarantee you’ll be confident and comfortable with the result, whatever it may be … and you’ll be even more prepared the next time a collaboration idea strikes.

Lee Lee Thompson is the Creative Director & Managing Editor of The Perpetual You—a brand that exists because of beautiful and generous collaborations between women. If you have a product, service, talent, or resource that brings good to the lives of women, she’d love to give you exposure or offer you a route to sharing your voice with a new audience. Email Lee Lee at


5 Signs of a Bad Mastermind Group

5 Signs of a Bad Mastermind Group

No doubt about it—I love mastermind groups. I started one nearly 2 years ago and it’s been the biggest game changer for my business. While I’m a big advocate for masterminds, I also know they aren’t all built the same and some just plain suck.

My group is free, but many cost a small fortune to join. Whether you’re making a big financial commitment or just an investment of time, you want to be sure any mastermind group you join is worthwhile. But how do you know if a group is awesome or awful? Here are 5 surefire signs that point to the latter.

Look for these signs of a bad mastermind group before joining. Or if you’re already in a group, keep this list in mind when evaluating whether your group makes the grade.


1. Haphazard

A bad mastermind group accepts anyone and has no formal structure. It’s important to that members are chosen intentionally. That could mean everyone is at a similar stage of business, in non-competing industries, or serving similar demographics. It’s less important how people are selected than it is that there is a formal system for vetting to make sure everyone to make sure all members are of the same mindset. There should also be group guidelines in place that outline the group’s mission and structure so every member is on the same page.

2. Quiet

A bad mastermind group is filled with members who don’t show up or don’t contribute. A commitment to the group and the process is essential for a mastermind to really work. If only a few members do all of the asking and answering, the group is falling short of its full potential. Having a facilitator who monitors and encourages participation helps. Without someone in that role, it’s even more important to have rules on which everyone agrees from the start. It’s also a good idea for the group to routinely check in with itself about participation levels and address anyone who is falling short.

3. Distracted

A bad mastermind group has members who take but don’t give, who are just there to complain, or who turn the meetings into a social function. Vital to success of any mastermind is the free exchange of ideas among all its members, with everyone contributing as much as receiving. And while everyone has a bad day from time to time, the goal of a mastermind is to leave its members feeling excited and motivated, not depressed and dejected. If one or a few people are always bringing the group down, they should be asked to adjust their behaviors or leave the group. Finally, a common problem is groups that lose focus and drift into casual chats about social lives or TV shows. A mastermind should always remain focused on its members big-picture goals.

4. Stagnant

A bad mastermind group doesn’t focus on the success or trajectory of its members’ goals. Make sure your group has members set specific and actionable goals, and determine metrics for measuring outcomes. It’s also important to have frequent progress checks to see how well everyone is moving toward their expected outcomes. The goals can be small and metrics can be anything (they don’t have to be money); the point isn’t what they are but that they are established from the start and then monitored throughout the program.

5. Unaccountable

A bad mastermind group doesn’t take members to task. That’s too bad because one of the most beneficial aspects of a quality mastermind group is accountability. In addition to setting big-picture goals for their time in the mastermind, members should also commit to action steps between each meeting. When someone doesn’t do what they say or falls short of anticipated results, others should call them out (in a supportive way) and then offer to help them right their course.

Note: If you’re already in a mastermind or consider joining an existing one, read about the 5 signs of a bad mastermind to make sure it’s a great fit. Oh, and if you’ve never attended a mastermind retreat, check out the reasons I think you should consider it.

Reasons to Join a Mastermind

Reasons to Join a Mastermind

I’ve been a freelance writer for more than a decade, but in recent years my passion had dwindled and I feared I might never get it back. A couple of months ago, however, I suddenly developed a clear picture of how to recapture that energy by slightly shifting my mission and overhauling my services. The evolution wouldn’t be easy. I knew I needed help.

At the time of this epiphany, I’d been listening to a lot of business podcasts and had noticed a common thread among the successful people interviewed–each belonged to a mastermind group. I had heard the term before but didn’t really know much about it. Turns out, the concept was introduced by Napoleon Hill some 75 years ago in Think and Grow Rich. Basically, masterminding is peer-to-peer mentoring; a group of people using their collective smarts to tackle problems.

Bingo! A mastermind group was just what I needed to take my business to the next level.

Finding a mastermind group in my area proved nearly impossible because I couldn’t afford the hefty fees levied by most well-established groups. Instead, I took initiative and started my own group with four like-minded women. (Want to start your own mastermind group? Read my tips.) We are different ages and at different stages in our careers, and each of us works in a different industry and has different goals. What unites us, however, is a commitment to improving ourselves and each other.

We meet once a week for an hour, with each member getting 10 minutes to use however she wants (I typically spend a few minutes sharing a pain point in my business and \the remaining time getting feedback). At the end of a meeting, we each set goals for the next week and share our progress at the beginning of the next meeting. In between, we encourage each other via social media, including a private Facebook group. We have ground rules, including no shameless self-promotion or begging for leads, no bitching or backbiting, and no secret agendas. The goal is a collaborative, supportive group where each member gives as much as she gets.

It’s been about 18 months, and the group has helped me nearly double my business and grow as a person. I can say with confidence that any goal-oriented person can benefit from masterminding.

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4 reasons to join a mastermind group

1. Inspiration
Unless you’re completely closed minded, there’s no way to avoid learning and growing when you spend an hour a week with awesome people doing awesome things. Just hearing their stories and successes will make you dream bigger and push yourself harder. Even better, you’ll have a sounding board and support network to ask questions, offer perspectives, and suggest solutions or connections you’ve never considered.

2. Focus
If a mastermind group appeals to you, it’s probably because you’re a big thinker and your brain is always racing with ideas…to the point of overwhelm. Preparing for my 10-minute block of the meeting each week has forced me to break my big, scary goals into manageable, bite-sized strategies that are actionable on a weekly basis. Thanks to these meetings, my business plan has become clear and less formidable.

3. Accountability
Some people are great about setting goals and sticking to them without external support. I’m not one of those people. Having other people checking on my progress each week helps me get shit done (I don’t want to the only member who didn’t meet her weekly goals!). This isn’t punitive; it’s positive. We offer gentle reminders and always celebrate successes.

4. Community
If you work from home, a mastermind group is a great way to avoid feeling isolated and feel like you’re part of a team. No matter your circumstances, you’ll benefit from having a small, reliable group of supporters and advisors in your corner. Also, although the point isn’t cross-promotion (as with a BNI or similar group), there will be natural opportunities for partnership and network expansion that can help you move forward in your goals and career.

Note: If you’re already in a mastermind or consider joining an existing one, read about the 5 signs of a bad mastermind to make sure it’s a great fit. Oh, and if you’ve never attended a mastermind retreat, check out the reasons I think you should consider it.

5 Tips for Professional Networking

5 Tips for Professional Networking

GUEST POST from Kim Hsieh

5 tips for becoming better at professional networking at

Whether you work for a Fortune 500 company, own a small business, or are a blogger like me, professional networking is a key to success. Here are five ways you can become a rock star at networking (even if it scares you).

1. Adjust your point of view

Some people have a negative connotation of networking. They often think you’re talking to someone just to get something from them, but that’s the exact opposite of what professional networking should be. I never understood the power of networking until I was given an opportunity I wouldn’t have been given if it wasn’t for networking. I was interested in what they were doing at work and kept in contact with them.

It’s not about greed when it comes to professional networking, it’s about generosity. Contacting someone with the intention of getting something from them will get you nowhere because they can see right through it. Having a genuine interest in the work they do is a great first step, and remember to not keep score. Here’s a great read from The Muse about shifting your mindset about networking.

2. Understand your brand

What do you want people to remember you for? What do you want to be known for? It’s important to have a brand so people can easily remember what you’re known for. It might take a while to figure out what you want to be known for, so start thinking!

Figuring out what your niche is will help you strengthen your personal brand because it differentiates you from others. There are many fashion and lifestyle bloggers, and my blog focuses on fashion and lifestyle through the eyes of a New York City consultant. Want to learn more about creating a personal brand? Check out this complete guide from master marketer Neil Patel or this fun read from Jordan Ring.

3. Finish with suave

Once you’ve met someone, shared your brand, and had a good conversation, what’s next? Exiting a conversation, especially in person, can be difficult. If you’re at a networking event, you can introduce the person to someone they might be interested in talking to and then politely excuse yourself. This doesn’t leave the person alone, and also shows you offer value as a connector. If you’re engaged in a conversation online, you can thank the person and say you look forward to connecting with them again. Saying thank you seems basic, but many people fail to do it so it will make a great impression.

4. Find mentors and mentees

If you’re new to the business world, you should find mentors. A mentor should be someone you look up to, someone who does things you’re interested in, someone you can genuinely connect with, and someone who can help you with your goal. Get tips for finding your perfect mentor here (networking events are a great place to start).

If you’re a few years into your career and successful, it’s time to find mentees. Remember you used to have mentors too, and networking is about generosity. Whoever your mentees are might not be able to give you many connections or help you work towards your goal, but you can help them, just like how your mentors helped you.

5. Curate your stream

We live in a digital age, so don’t t forget about online networking. Whether you engage in forums or Twitter conversations, it’s all about curating your stream so it’s a learning network. When you open Twitter, Facebook, or your email, you want to have notifications for meaningful content.

Knowing what your friends are up to is a big part of social media, but another great part is you can follow/like/subscribe to blogs or websites that have information you want to learn. Remember just being part of an online forum or Facebook group is meaningless unless you are engaged in the content by actively participating. That’s how we learn from our online learning network. Check out these great tips for using social media as a networking tool.

Kimberly HsiehKimberly Hsieh graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Business Administration, and now works as a consultant at a Fortune 500 firm. As a consultant, she focuses on digitizing businesses through data analytics. She loves all things pretty, which is why she started a blog that focuses on fashion and lifestyle through the eyes of a New York City consultant. You can follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

How To Find a Mentor

How To Find a Mentor

How to find a mentor in 4 easy steps (plus a free downloadable checklist) from


Want to find a mentor? It’s a lot like falling in love—it doesn’t happen overnight and it you may have to kiss a few frogs before finding “the one.” If you’re ready to find a mentor you’ll love, approach the search like you would dating, and you’re likely to have success.

Step 1: Hunt 

When dating, you hit the bar, search a matchmaking site, or ask friends for a setup, all in an effort to explore your options. When finding a mentor, the professional world becomes your dating pool.

When you go to networking events or read industry publications, who most impresses you? Who are the people you admire? Whose brains would you most like to pick? Start a list and don’t be afraid to think big. The worst that can happen is you get shot down.

You can consider people in your own field, but you may want to stick to those who are more established than you so as to reduce the worry about them stealing ideas or clients from you. It’s also okay to look outside your field. The goal is simply to find someone who thinks strategically, asks great questions, and has had some measure of success.

Step 2: Call

After ranking your wish list of mentors, begin at the top and research your own networks to find common links for an introduction (LinkedIn is perfect for this). Just as a you’re more likely to go on a blind date arranged by a friend you trust, these folks are more likely to accept your invite if they first learn of you from someone they know.

If you don’t have a common link, you can either continue down your list until you find one, or cold call (or email) your top candidates. Get creative, or follow this great guide from The Muse for crafting this conversation. Don’t be disappointed if the attempts go unanswered, but wait to move on to your next choice until you’ve gotten a rejection or you’re sure you’ve been ghosted.

Once a potential mentor responds, ask politely for a meeting over coffee (your treat) and promise not to take more than 30 minutes.

Step 3: Woo

You’d never bring up marriage and kids when asking someone on a first date. Likewise, arranging the first meeting with a potential mentor is not the time to ask about formal structure.

Instead, tell the person you admire them and their career (make it clear you researched them) and would like to pick their brain. You don’t know them well enough yet to be certain they’re a fitting mentor, and they don’t know you well enough to commit to an ongoing relationship.

After your first “date,” analyze the meeting. Did you leave feeling inspired and motivated? Did the potential mentor ask insightful questions? Did you get actionable ideas? If so, there’s potential in the relationship. If not, move on to another candidate. Keep up this process through as many mentors and dates as needed.

Step 4: Propose

When you’ve spent enough time with someone to know they are exactly what you want in a mentor, it’s time to pop the question. After thanking them for the time they’ve already given, ask if they are willing to put structure around what is already an informal mentoring relationship. Ask for regular meetings, action steps (ie, homework), and accountability.

It’s unlikely you’ll hear ‘no’; they probably wouldn’t have continued to go on so many dates with you if there wasn’t a spark for them, too.

Word of warning: This process may help you see that mentor monogamy isn’t your style. You may realize you prefer to have several go-to advisors for different needs, or that you simply prefer being a serial dater who meets with as many smart people as possible to learn from a wide variety of sources.



Networking Using Social Media

Networking Using Social Media



For many of us, networking is as miserable as a trip to the dentist. For introverts, it seems especially painful. Luckily, technology is taking some of the sting out of meeting other professionals. Here are a few general guidelines I follow when it comes to networking using social media:

1. Use it as a supplement. Social media should never replace face-to-face networking. For the introverted, however, sending a message via LinkedIn or chatting on Twitter can be a non-threatening way to break the ice. Likewise, technology may expose extroverts to shy (but important) people they might not otherwise meet. The online world also makes it possible to expand your network nationally or even globally, something that was nearly impossible just 20 years ago. Whenever possible, however, eventually extend your conversations to email, Skype, phone, or (best of all) in person.

2. Give as much as you take. Social media gets direct credit for landing me clients, starting many of my closest friendships, unearthing some of the most unforgettable events I’ve attended, and even for netting me some awesome prizes. As great as all that is, however, I’ve given back tenfold by helping others find jobs, offering advice to professional peers, locating lost pets, spreading the word about charitable events, and much more. The best way to get help is to help others first.

3.Be patient. If you think you can sign up for Twitter tonight and have 20 new clients tomorrow, you’re going to be very disappointed. Virtual relationships take as much work as real-life ones, and probably more. People want to work with and help people they know and care about, and that extends to their online universe. It’s impossible to personally connect with and assist every person you “meet” online, so most people quickly weed out selfish and impatient types and focus their time on those who engage in a consistent, meaningful way.

4. Consider your image. Before getting started, think about why you are using a particular social media site and who will be your audience. Let this guide the image you project. I’m much more subdued on LinkedIn than I am on Twitter. One is strictly professional and the other is more conversational, and that is reflected in my photo, content, and tone. Just remember: Anything you say online never EVER goes away.

One last thing: If I’ve never met you, dear reader, reach out via social media (my links are at the top of the sidebar to the right). I’m always excited to “meet” new people!