Every other Thursday my operating partners and I used to meet to share challenges and experiences across our businesses. It was an incredible peer brain trust that helped us over businesses’ hurdles. We celebrated and discussed the good things we’ve accomplished. We offloaded emotional burdens and reminded each other that we are human. We helped each other with best practices. We shared experiences of how we overcame similar challenges. It was a pressure release valve, gas tank filler, and route map all-in-one.
In Ed Catmull’s book, Creativity Inc., he says that Pixar’s internal peer brain trust has helped the company turn crap movies into great movies. As he describes it, a small, curated group of their movie directors and creative talent meet every couple of months to preview films in progress. They provide candid feedback to each other as peers that help the director see blind spots in their plots and scenes. They don’t prescribe how to fix anything. They just share their observations so the director can find their own way to improve the films.
I first read about the idea of brain trusts in Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill which I read just out of college. As a result, I assembled an advisory team of folks much more experienced and successful than I was. It was great, but was missing the peer component. I then discovered YEO (now EO) and was assigned to a peer group, made up of other young entrepreneurs who were running their heads through walls just like me.
Throughout my life, I’ve been involved with a handful of brain trusts. I’ve participated in groups that included business peers, general mens groups, and leadership teams within my businesses. Each experience has provided me with an opportunity to learn more about myself and the world, help others, and continue to grow.
Creating my first braintrust seemed like a hard task. But it was actually easy once I identified the folks I wanted around the table with me. Inviting them seemed awkward. But they said yes so quickly, it was easy. Creating a format seemed hard, but the conversation and wisdom flowed smoothly with basic conversation starters. The key to a meaningful brain trust and what made it easier than I thought, was curating members that share a similar vision. With that criteria satisfied, everything else came easily.
The powerful experience I’ve had participating in brain trusts has brought me to a point where I’m passionate about creating opportunities for other entrepreneurs who share a vision of independence, to connect with their peers. To do this, I’ve launched Sovereignty, a community of self-funded, independent business founders. The purpose of Sovereignty is to bring those who share a passion for building self-funded businesses together and provide them a space to help one another find their way to improve and grow their businesses.