Aaron Walker has founded more than a dozen companies over the past 41 years. He attributes much of his success to having surrounded himself with his mastermind counterparts. Aaron spent a decade meeting weekly with Dave Ramsey, Dan Miller, Ken Abraham, and 5 other amazing entrepreneurs. Aaron is the founder of Iron Sharpens Iron Mastermind that now hosts 15 groups with National and International members. Aaron is the author of View From The Top, a must-read to fully understand how to live a life of success and significance. Also, the founder of The Mastermind Playbook an incredible resource for starting, running and scaling masterminds. Aaron lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife Robin of 40 years, and he has 2 incredible daughters and 5 beautiful grandchildren.
In Iron Sharpens Iron Mastermind, we are fortunate to have members from eight different countries participating in 15 mastermind groups that meet weekly on a video platform. I have received so many personal requests from entrepreneurs to teach them how to build their own successful mastermind groups. Because of that, I created “The Mastermind Playbook” which is honestly a business in a box. The 30 videos and 100 plus tools, systems and processes included will walk you step by step on how to start, run and scale mastermind groups. This is not a concept; we are social proof that this system works incredibly well. I have been personally involved in a mastermind weekly for two decades now, and it has radically changed my life.
“Isolation is the enemy to excellence”
“Can’t couldn’t do it. And could did it all”
“Fear missing an opportunity more than you fear failure”
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AaronWalkerVFTT
Chris Ippolito 00:31
Aaron Walker 00:32
Hey, Chris. Good to see you, buddy. You doing well?
Chris Ippolito 00:35
I’m doing great. Thanks for joining. I’m really excited for our conversation today. When we did our pre-interview call, you ended up sharing a little bit about your experience with masterminds and mastermind groups. I was hoping we could dig into that.
Aaron Walker 00:54
That would be great.
Chris Ippolito 00:55
And my first question is, by your definition, what is a mastermind group?
Aaron Walker 01:02
Yeah, we overcomplicate that mastermind groups are simply where two or more people gather together for the general consensus of the mastermind. It forms a different thought and opinion when you have more than one person. 8 to 10 people is historically what I have found to be the perfect size mastermind.
Chris Ippolito 01:24
Okay. And then typically there’s somebody who’s taken the lead as far as organizing that mastermind.
Aaron Walker 01:30
Chris Ippolito 01:32
Right. And I know that’s something that you do, and as well as a longtime friend of yours who some people may or may not know, Dave Ramsey. And your guys’ group is Iron Sharpens Iron, right?
Aaron Walker 01:45
Well, no, no. Actually, the company I own is called View from the Top, you can see behind me. And within that we have an organization called Iron Sharpens Iron, and we have 15 mastermind groups that we facilitate. The group that I’m involved in with Dave Ramsey and Dan Miller and Ken Abraham, Jeff Mosley, some of those guys you may or may not be familiar with, we were called the Eagles. And we met in Dave’s office here locally, we all live here in Nashville. Because I’m a native Nashivillian, I’ve been here 60 years in Nashville. And we met in Dave’s office for 10 or 12 years every Wednesday morning for about an hour and a half, and we really did life together. And that is where I took the concept of the mastermind, once I retired eight years ago, and formulated it into the business that we now own called Iron Sharpens Iron.
Chris Ippolito 02:39
Right, right. Because you also have, I believe it’s called, The Mastermind Playbook.
Aaron Walker 02:46
We do. And what we did, and we can get into that in a little while, but people were calling me saying, “How in the world are you scaling all these mastermind groups?” They said, “There’s no way you’re leading all those groups.” And people started paying me an insane amount of money to train them and coach them to do what I’ve been doing very successfully. And our COO walked in my office one day and said, “Why don’t we create a playbook to teach people how to do exactly what we’ve done?” It took us a year, took our entire team, and we created 30 professional videos and 90 worksheets and tools, templates, white label products, and then we’ve created what’s called The Mastermind Playbook, and it walks you step by step how to start, grow, and scale your own masterminds.
Here’s the thing, Chris. People are really unaware of a couple of things, if I could just dive into it a little bit.
Chris Ippolito 03:43
Yeah, go for it.
Aaron Walker 03:44
First of all, they believe that they have to have the answer to everyone’s question to host a mastermind. And that’s a myth, there’s nothing further from the truth. It would be like you inviting me over for dinner, and with 8 or 10 other guests, and everybody asked questions and you answered everything. Well, first of all, it wouldn’t really do anybody any good. Right? Because, Chris, as smart as you are, you don’t have all the answers. You’ve had one life experience, you’ve had one path that you’ve lived your life, you’ve got one perspective that you’ve seen things through.
The value of the mastermind is the perspective. What we need is a competent individual that has solid core values that is willing to lay out the framework and host the mastermind group to where you invite other people to come together on a designated time, we do it once a week at the very same time, Monday at 2:00, these 10 people meet together on a video conference. We get to know each other, we become very vulnerable and transparent and authentic with one another.
Chris, the truth is me and you both, we’re knuckleheads, we don’t have it all figured out. We don’t have the answer, right? We pretend like we do sometimes, but the truth is neither one of us have all the answers. But when you’ve got a group of trusted advisors that are non-biased, they don’t have a dog in the hunt. Whether they tell you the truth or not, they don’t have anything to gain or lose. They have no reason not to tell you the truth.
What you do is you get together, they learn how you think, your objectives, your goals, and then they help you, hold you accountable, give you the resources, give you the introductions, they challenge your thinking. That’s why it’s called Iron Sharpens Iron. “One man thinketh that he could sharpen one another,” Proverbs 27:17 is where that comes from. And we really help take your life to that next level by sharpening one another.
Chris Ippolito 05:42
Yeah, I love the idea because it plays to the concept of you are the average of the five that you spend the most time with. Being very selective about that in either forming or joining a mastermind, your odds are you’re surrounding yourself with some pretty high-caliber people. Right? And for the audience, if they’re somebody who is thinking about joining a mastermind, what would be some of your recommendations as far as how they would want to select either an existing mastermind that’s been created and they want to join that one or they’re looking the other way, which is perhaps taking on a little bit more of that workload and facilitating it and forming it? But then how do you vet, basically, in one way or the other? How do you vet the group you want to join or how do you vet the people that are potentially going to join yours?
Aaron Walker 06:41
Chris, when we first started out, we made a horrific mistake. What we did was we said, “We’re going to have a group that’s going to meet on Mondays at 2:00. And if you’re interested, please contact me.” People started pouring out of the woodwork saying, “Hey, I’d love to be in the group.” We said, “Okay, send us your money. Here’s where we’re at.” Well, that was a terrible mistake. Because what we found out through that process is that they didn’t align on their core values. And that is fundamentally one of the things that you have to do, you have to have the same core values. Because if you don’t, you don’t have anything to measure by which is good or which is bad, which is right or wrong. The same core values are paramount.
The other thing is that you want people with similar work ethic as you. You want people that are going to contribute, you want givers, you don’t want takers. Recently I had a gentleman call me, and you would probably know who it was if I told you. He knew he was a slam dunk to get in the group, he filled out the application. I called him up and we talked and I listened to him for 30 minutes give a dissertation on who he was and all of his accomplishments and the millions of dollars that he had made. And we get to the end and he said, “Well, what do you think?” And I said, “I’m going to decline you.”
And he didn’t know what to say, he couldn’t believe it. He said, “What do you mean?” And I said, “You’re a taker, you’re not a giver. All you’ve done is you want to know the average income of every person that’s in the group, what are they going to introduce to you, who are they going to introduce to you, what are they going to give you.” I said, “What we’re looking for are givers.” Because if you give and you serve and you help and you bring a full cup and you bring ideas and you bring resources and you introduce people, can you imagine the natural reciprocity that happens as a result of you giving? And I just told him that this is not a short-term thing.
I want to tell you a story. When I first started my first business, I was 18 years old. And I sold out, I was very fortunate, I feel very blessed. I sold out at 27 years old, I was able to retire at 27, sold out to a Fortune 500. And then I thought, “This is the American dream.” I was broker than a convict when I started at 18, and then at 27 I was able to retire. Well, I became very bored and depressed, I gained 50 pounds in about 18 months, I was getting into bed in the middle of the day. My wife woke me up, she goes, “This is not what I signed up for. What are you doing?” And I said, “I don’t have any reason to get up, I don’t have any reason to go forward.” She said, “You’ve got to go back, you’ve got to do something.”
I went back and bought the company that I’d started with when I was a child. And I’d worked there until I was a teenager, and then went out on my own. Well, what I discovered through all this process was that it was just another $100,000, it was just another business, it was just another bigger house and a nicer car and a vacation home. And I was on this treadmill. There’s nothing wrong with stuff, I like stuff, I like to go on nice trips. I don’t want to make money sound bad, it’s not. I love to make money, and I want to make more money. But I don’t want it to be my god, I don’t want it to be the only reason that I get up and work each and every day.
August 1st, 2001, 19 years ago now, I ran over and killed a pedestrian on my way to the office and it radically transformed my life, the paradigm shift of my life then changed. And what I said was, “If I could get another chance to do this right, I want to focus outward and help other people understand their goals, their dreams, I want to help them accomplish what they’re wanting to do.” And that’s what the mastermind has been able to do for me. See, isolation is the enemy to excellence. And if you want to really go far in life, you’ve got to surround yourself with competent people that will hold you accountable, that will let that veil down. And they’ll be authentic and transparent and vulnerable, and they can help you understand how to get what you want and not lose your soul in the process.
And that’s what these masterminds have allowed us to do and that’s why I’m such an advocate of being in these groups. What you’ve got to do is find people with similar thought paths as you, you’ve got to find people that have the same aspirations. Because if you have one guy that’s going to forsake his family and he’s going to put them at the altar of money rather than being a great dad, great husband, and a great community member and a great friend and a colleague, when you have people that are striving towards the same thing, you’re going to reach your goal a lot faster.
We do an evaluation process, we have an application now, very extensive application. Whether you’re joining one or whether you’re going to start one, you need to have an application so you know what you’re getting. Chris, if you were going to join our group, you would fill this application out, I would know everything about you and your family and your children, I would know everything about your past, I would know where you were at financially. I would know everything of your goals and dreams and aspirations. And then I would ask you questions about what you can give to the group, what are your strengths. Right? Not just your blind spots or your kryptonite, but what are your superpowers, how can you help the other members of the group.
Here’s the thing that’s so good about our groups, is that we’re in single-digit churn rate. We’ve had people meeting six years in the same group every single week because they’re getting value, their lives are getting better, personally, professionally, and spiritually, every dynamic of their life is getting better.
You have to go slow. If you’re going to join a group, you want to get references, you want to get a dozen or so people that have been involved in those masterminds, and you want to talk to them at length. I’m a salesman, I can sell you anything. But when you talk to our members, they don’t have any reason to tell you anything other than the truth. And you really poll them. If you’re a person of faith, you pray about it. If you need a consensus of your peers and colleagues, get that. Talk about it with your spouse, because it’s a big commitment. And your life transforms as a result of it. When we make these snap decisions, we get in these groups, we meet these people, we get out, we go to the next group, you’re just bouncing around, you’re not building those long-term relationships. It’s a very extensive process if you’re going to be in one of my groups.
Chris Ippolito 13:12
Right. And that makes sense. I think anything worthwhile is worth taking your time and vetting it and researching it and getting a solid understanding of what it is that you’re getting into. Because then it becomes a case of investment, right? It’s no longer just a financial investment if you’re going to invest that much time and energy. And for entrepreneurs and for everybody, really, that’s the most valuable resource that we all have. Then I feel like you would end up putting more weight on that decision and just taking it more seriously, that makes sense.
Aaron Walker 13:52
We don’t want people that are not serious. Because it costs me so much effort and energy and money to replace a member, I’d rather take my time and get a solid individual that’s going to be around for years. The reason I want them around for years is I get to know them, it’s good for me, as well. But the other members get to know them, they know they’re serious, they know they’re a confidant, they can count on them to show up. And see, we go through life and we have acquaintances, but to have these real solid foundational relationships, it just takes time.
Chris Ippolito 14:26
Right. A question for my myself is if somebody, if an entrepreneur, is at a crossroads and they’re not really sure which direction to go as far as they know they need support, but now they’re considering two paths, they’re going, “Should I get a coach and get that one-on-one coaching or should I maybe join a mastermind?” I think the real answer would be if you could do both, you would do both. But what would you say would be the one that would make the most sense for the average entrepreneur who’s never experienced one or the other?
Aaron Walker 15:05
I can say this with all honesty because I’m both, I have people that pay me a lot of money to coach them individually, and then we lead these mastermind groups. A lot of it determines your ability. First of all, the mastermind groups historically are less expensive than a one-on-one relationship with a coach. But honestly the truth in my soul being, I believe that the masterminds can add as much value, if not more value, than a coach.
And I’m talking myself out of business when I say that, but the truth is that you’re getting the consensus of a dozen people, 10 people, 8 people, then you are one. And the specific one-on-one interaction with a coach for a short period of time can get you over a hurdle a little bit faster and it’s very good for you. And I’ve coached hundreds of people that have paid me tens of thousands of dollars to coach them and they’ve reaped great benefits and rewards as a result of it. But for the long haul, I’ve been in a mastermind group every week now for two decades.
Now I wouldn’t do that, because I’m a busy person, I wouldn’t do that if there weren’t value there. Right? Even before I started Iron Sharpens Iron I spent 12 years, I would leave Nashville, I would drive to Franklin, I would meet with Dave and all those guys, I would drive back. It would take four hours out of my day every Wednesday for a dozen years. Now I wouldn’t do that if it hadn’t added an inordinate amount of value.
Now some of your listeners right now are going, “Well, yeah, who wouldn’t be in a group with Dave Ramsey and those guys?” But let me point out something. They weren’t then who they are now.
Chris Ippolito 16:45
That’s right, yeah.
Aaron Walker 16:46
See, Dave and I started together when Dave was on one radio station in Nashville and he gave me advertising to try him. Okay? He had three employees and him. I was his second sponsor. I sponsored his show 21 consecutive years, we became friends. And as a result of the mastermind, as a result of these people forging their thoughts and encouragement, all of us grew our businesses very well. And just bear in mind they weren’t then who they are today. Dave now is on 700 or 800 radio stations, but he wasn’t decades ago.
And all I’m saying is that you can get around a group of people, you can do the same thing, if you’ll be consistent as we’ve been over the course of our life. I’ve owned 14 businesses now over the course of 41 years. And we didn’t do that by happenstance, I mean we really poured the effort and the energy, we built the resources, the relationships, and then your success comes over time. Be patient, think through it, there is no shortcuts. Right? We’ve got to put in the reps, we’ve got to do the work. And you have these relationships that hold you accountable.
There’s not a person listening to me that can’t have the same level of success that we’ve had. I mean I did it on a high school education, okay? I don’t have a college education. I didn’t have any money, zero, when I first started my company, I had two partners. And I had to give away two-thirds of the business for nine years in order to make enough money to go out on my own and do the things that I’ve done. You’ve got to put in the hard work. I’ve worked all night at my companies, washed up in the sink, changed clothes and stayed there and worked the next day, and at night go out and put fliers on windshields and in mailboxes. And you do that grind over and over and over, and then you can look up one day and go, “Man, I built something amazing.” But it takes the camaraderie of these people around you to spur you onto that level of success.
Chris Ippolito 18:49
Right, right. Yeah, that’s great. I had shared that I tried forming a mastermind. But, oh, maybe here’s a good question. What’s one of the most common mistakes that people make when they themselves are going out and trying to form a mastermind group?
Aaron Walker 19:11
Well, when the COO, I told you, that came in my office and said, “Why don’t we build the framework?,” that’s where I found out that people really get tripped up, is they don’t know what to do. Let’s just hypothetically say they know some people, but they don’t know what to do. Well, through trial and error we have figured out exactly what to do. And we made some boneheaded decisions early on with how we formed our masterminds, but we have the social proof now, the single-digit churn rates in 15 groups and we’re growing very rapidly, just launched a women’s division, also. The 15 groups are men, we just launched a women’s. The minute we announced it we had enough people to fill up two groups immediately because they know the value that we offer.
The mistake that happens is you get in there and you say, “Okay, I’ve got these people, what do I do with them?” Well, see, we’ve laid the framework out, we have the accountability tools, we have step by step what you do. We offer 30 months’ worth of themes, questions, and topics that you discuss in the group. We’ve already got the structure laid out for man in the middle, it’s the hot seat. We’ve got the structure laid out for the rotation, we’ve got the structure laid out for the leaders of the group. We’ve got a course within this playbook that teaches you how to train facilitators.
See, when you do one-on-one coaching or you have one or two mastermind groups and you leave and go on vacation, the money stops, right? But when you grow these groups and you have facilitators running it, I’m not even in eight of the groups and I still make a lot of money every single month because I’ve got the framework laid out, I’ve got the playbook. I know exactly what they’re going to do, I teach them exactly how to run the groups. I go on vacation, I come home, I’ve got more money than when I left, right? Because I’ve got a business. See, when it’s one-on-one coaching, what you have is a job. You don’t have anything that’s salable. But when you have a scalable mastermind group with other facilitators that don’t rely and depend on you as the facilitator personally, now you’ve got a business, you’ve got somebody that is interested in buying that. Plus it’s a one to many, the coaching is one to one. The one to many is just exponentially better as far as the financial model.
Here’s the thing that people ask me about the amount to charge and things like that. Let’s just use for this conversation, this example, $500. $500 is not a very expensive mastermind group, quite honestly. Ours are $575 to be in our groups, but $500. Two groups is a six-figure business and we’re only talking about 20 people. Right? You can take your Rolodex and come up with 20 people like that that would join your mastermind group. And when you have the framework, the questions, the themes, the titles, the accountability tools, the lead magnets, you have everything in place, you have great confidence in inviting people to come and be in your mastermind.
Chris Ippolito 22:12
Right. Well, I’m inspired. I’m thinking there probably should be a “Get Coached” mastermind eventually.
Aaron Walker 22:20
There you go, there you go.
Chris Ippolito 22:21
Yeah. That’s awesome. I think that’s a good place to wrap up because, like I said, I’m inspired. I think anybody listening to this would be inspired themselves as far as whether they wanted to join a mastermind to be able to take the value of the collective group. And really, like you said, having that mindset of giving before trying to take, that’s really the key. Something I learned a while ago from a good book called The Go-Giver, which I’m sure you’re familiar with.
Aaron Walker 22:52
Yeah, Bob Burg.
Chris Ippolito 22:54
Yeah, that’s one of my favorite books around that subject.
Aaron Walker 22:58
He’s a good friend of mine, Bob Burg.
Chris Ippolito 23:00
Aaron Walker 23:00
Yeah, I’ve interviewed him a number of times and we talk pretty frequently, Bob’s a great guy.
Chris Ippolito 23:05
That book literally changed the path in which I was going.
Aaron Walker 23:10
I’ll tell him, I’ll tell him next time I talk to him.
Chris Ippolito 23:13
And I think other people are going to be inspired to maybe add a mastermind component to their business. Maybe they’re already doing coaching or some other type of one-to-one type service and now a mastermind is just a method to be able to go one too many. Which is, again, the whole idea behind this podcast, is I wanted to help as many people as possible, versus trying to just sit down one on one and help. But yeah, I think that’s great.
Aaron, I like to wrap up every episode with something that we can assign to the audience as far as an actual next step that they can do to maybe elevate their life, their business.
Aaron Walker 24:01
That’s a great thing to do because knowledge is useless without execution. And if we don’t execute, then we’re not going to grow. A couple other points I wanted to mention, also. This is a location-independent industry. And when it’s virtual, I can be in Hawaii leading a group or I can be on a cruise ship or I can be in my office and it doesn’t go away. And here’s the beauty part about it, is it only takes you a couple hours to lead two groups a week, and there are not many businesses that can return six figures to you a couple hours a week. And there’s other behind-the-scenes work that goes into it, obviously, I don’t want to paint a picture that everything’s roses, there’s a lot of hard work initially in getting this started. But once it is up and going, it self-perpetuates. And then the members invite other members, you start other groups.
And listen, if I can go from 60 months ago to no groups to 15 groups and growing with what we’ve got in place, that is social proof that it works. The actionable step would be to go to themastermindplaybook.com/aaron, A-A-R-O-N. And that’s a place that you can go and you can learn more about what we do. The other thing is the investment. And I don’t mind telling you, I mean it’s no secret, it’s $7,500 to buy the playbook, but one group in 45 days returns 100% of your investment. And there’s no other business opportunity out there that you can get 100% of your investment back in 45 days. And that only requires 10 people.
It doesn’t take long at all before you can really maximize your profits in this. A lot of coaches, influencers, independent thinkers, podcast hosts, they’re doing this because they’ve already got an audience and they’ve already got people that want to learn. The only thing you need is the platform, and that’s what we provide. We provide the platform and the framework.
Chris Ippolito 26:01
Yeah, that’s fantastic. I think that’s a great place to wrap up. I think I would urge everybody to go take advantage of that and download the resources available. And yeah, Aaron, where are the other places that people can find you if they want to reach out?
Aaron Walker 26:20
Yeah, great. Yeah, we’re on all social media platforms, but the easiest place to find this is viewfromthetop.com, all of our contact information is there. I’m pretty easy to find, you type in “Aaron Walker” on Google and we’ve made ourselves very easy to find.
The thing I want to leave you with today is this, and it doesn’t have anything to do with mastermind groups. When I was a child, my mom instilled in me this little saying, she would say, “‘Can’t’ couldn’t do it and ‘could’ did it all.” And I’ve developed a mindset of I can do things. And, Chris, I know that we’re all afraid of things, primarily failure. And I simply want to leave you with fear missing an opportunity more than you fear failure and develop a mindset of you can do something and you can easily surpass the level of success and significance that we’ve had over the course of four decades. Thank you so much, Chris, for having me as your guest, I’ve really enjoyed being with you today.
Chris Ippolito 27:18
Awesome. Thanks, Aaron, I really appreciate the words of wisdom. And yeah, I’m going to be re-listening to my own episode here a couple times, I think.
Aaron Walker 27:27
All right, buddy. Thanks a lot, I enjoyed it, we’ll see you.
Chris Ippolito 27:30
Aaron Walker 27:31