How I Got Burned by a High End Mentor
So let me tell you a story.
About four years ago I was in an incredible High Level Mastermind program that included business owners and digital creators that were all making high 6 figure and 7 figures in their business. This mastermind program was specifically for Digital Creators that were offering digital courses and memberships. (Remember, the way you probably know me is by a membership platform that I created and then sold a few years later.) That Mastermind program served people we all are familiar with in the digital course world. The program was perfect for what I was doing at the time and I LOVED the people in it and the leader. (So much so that I have gone back to this program recently and couldn't be happier.)
I joined that program specifically because I had basically stopped shooting and was running my membership program full time. The information discussed in that program was what I needed to move that business forward.
When I sold my interest in that former business, I dropped out of that Mastermind Program because I know I wouldn't be needing it for the time being. Spending over 25k a year is a lot to pay for something that you aren't going to use. (Am I Right?)
So a year later after I decided what direction I wanted my business to move toward I started looking for another Mastermind program. I believe in that idea and wanted to be a part of one again. After some careful, I mean very careful, research I settled on someone that was not only running a successful online coaching business but also had a retail business that was very successful. I thought to myself, "self, they can help you with your coaching AND you photographer studio, this looks like a perfect match!"
So I applied, went through the interview process and was accepted. I was so excited to be a part of something that I thought (at the time) would really help me grow my business in a different way.
The first three months were great and then they made a dramatic shift in not only what they wanted to teach but also in some of the features that we were promised.
So backing up a second, when I look for these programs, these are NOT photography based OR lead by photographers. So to be clear, it is NO ONE in our industry.
So back to my story.
Like I said, after three months they dramatically shifted their focus to teach one area of business that I really wasn't going to benefit from. When I questioned the shift I was told that I was still going to get information in my area of interest so things would be ok.
See, here is the issue. When you shift your focus from teaching, let's say dog grooming, to another focus, let's say dog obedience. Everything shifts in a program.
- The instructor only teaches about obedience
- The pupils that are brought want to learn obedience
- The guests brought in to speak only speak about obedience
- All the questions brought to coaching calls are about obedience
- The list goes on.
This means that any information and trends about dog grooming get filtered until there really isn't anything being addressed in the program about grooming and the focus is all about obedience.
Now does this mean that you can't take some ideas about obedience and apply then to your grooming practice? Of course not, but the main reason why you joined the program is not the main thing being taught anymore.
That is exactly what happened to me. I joined to learn about one thing then all of a sudden they shifted to something else without warning.
When this happened I did raise concerns, in fact I raised concerns several times but each time I was told that I should trust the process and that it was still a great program that I would benefit from. That wasn't a lie but how I was benefitting was not how I needed and wanted to benefit.
Add to the issue there were several live events that we were asked to attend. If you are unfamiliar with these live events they usually consist of some key note presentations, group coaching, and small group collaborative sessions. You should walk away with enough ideas to keep your head swimming for days on how to make more impact in your business. Think of it as any convention like WPPI or Imaging USA on steroids.
The first event of the year was great. The 2nd was almost embarrassingly cringe-y and the third event was a waste of my time.
The first event was filled with great teaching moments, group coaching time, good food, activities, and all the things you go to one of these Mastermind events for.
The 2nd event that was billed as a "Leadership Conference" was filled with "speakers" from the Mastermind group that shared how great they thought the mastermind group was. Very few of them offered anything of substance and they weren't great presenters. (because they aren't public speakers and that is ok, they shouldn't have been put on stage in the first place) Imagine traveling from out of town, getting a hotel room, missing your family, to go to "Dorie's Great Event" and then all you heard for two days how great Dorie was. It was strange and unneeded. We left with very few tangible ideas for our business.
The 3rd event was last week and it was filled almost entirely of Group Coaching content. No big strategy sessions or well thought out presentations. Most of us left feeling like it was a waste of our time and effort. Add to that the venue was 45 minutes from the nearest airport, the hotel was 15 minutes away from the venue, and the food that was served to us was literally deli trays from the local Publix. That isn't a high end event. AND add to that after it was said and done there was only 9.5 hours of actual learning time (which wasn't used for learning or teaching really)
We were in a more remote location meaning that Ubers and taxi's were a bit slim. So those of us who didn't rent cars were left with no transportation options except to be at the mercy of someone who did rent a car.
This meant on the day that I needed to catch my plane home, I had to wake up at 3:30 AM in order to catch a ride from someone back to the airport for a 9:00 AM flight because I was worried I wouldn't be able to secure a ride to the airport in rush hour traffic. I ended up being at the airport FIVE hours before I needed to be there for domestic flight.
It is strange to come away from an event like that and have NO ideas or strategies that you want to try in your business. But that was how many of us felt after this last event. There was nothing that was offered that really was going to help me move the needle in my business.
I believe that in every single experience that I can either ignore the lessons or learn from them. So what have I learned in this case?
1. When asking people to spend thousands of dollars of their hard earned money, experience matters. Think of their needs first. I should never act in a way that is convenient for me, but inconvenient for them. Their comfort and convenience ALWAYS comes first. Choosing a location so far away from the airport, feeding us food that wasn't up to the level of the event, and choosing a hotel that was 15 minutes away from the venue was not convenient for the participants but it was convenient for the host and they made it very clear how convenient it was for them because their lodging was within walking distance of the venue.
2. When looking to shift programs or topics you owe it to the people who are in one program to finish out that program and satisfy the obligation you entered into with them BEFORE you switch over to something new. OR you need to refund them their money without question.
3. If you do switch focuses don't assume that everyone that has paid you wants that new thing you are offering. Even if you believe in your heart of hearts that it will "be good for them".
4. Don't assume that your clients are not talking about you negatively behind your back. Just because people aren't raising complaints or concerns doesn't mean they don't have them. Trust me, no news is not necessarily good news. And in this case, the talk behind the scenes was constant and ALL negative.
5. It seems trivial but feed people well. If they are going to be with you from 9-5 learning and working at your invitation, then you need to make sure the food and drinks you feed them are good quality and presented well. Sandwich wraps from the local grocery store, served on plastic trays and plastic cutlery, served two days in a row, did not represent the price point we paid to get into the room. Kind of like charging someone thousands of dollars for a session but getting their products from Shutterfly.
The thing that really gets me in my situation is that I did my research, I even asked friends who had been in this program, I reflected and thought about it for a long time, I watched the socials, I read the marketing, I did all the things and thought I was entering into something great. BUT they changed the program. They moved the target. They failed to follow through on their promise to me. I couldn't see that coming. But they knew it was coming and so did their team. They had a responsibility to me that they failed.
Am I bitter, yup. Am I disappointed? Absolutely. Do I feel like I was taken advantage of? For sure! But you can be rest assured that going through this process has given me an added empathy and consideration for the people who hire me to help them in their business. Educators have a responsibility to the people that pay them to deliver on their promises. Choose who you learn from carefully.
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