Innovation through Collaboration


Mastermind or peer advisory groups bring like-minded noncompetitive businesses together to leverage their collective minds.

By Mike Horsfield, PT, OCS, MBA

Most great world and business leaders have a trusted group of advisors that they count on when making important decisions. King Arthur, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Benjamin Franklin, and Andrew Carnegie all believed that collaborating with their peers was instrumental in their success. The concept of bringing minds together to create a powerful force was formalized in the early 1900s by Napoleon Hill in his two books The Law of Success and later expanded in his bestselling classic Think and Grow Rich.

The Mastermind principle is the coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony. It is a unique concept that leverages the collective power of the group, creating a Third Mind. —Napoleon Hill

Today both formal and informal mastermind (or peer advisory) groups can be found within almost every industry. These peer advisory groups are individuals from similar businesses who come together on a regular basis to brainstorm and work on helping each other flourish. Keys to a successful peer advisory group include a high level of trust among participants, focused leadership, active participation, and disciplined regular meetings. It is imperative that members are noncompetitors to ensure high trust and complete transparency in each group. Effective leadership allows the group to stay focused and energy to remain positive. Equitable participation from members is also essential. It is important that all contribute and no one person dominates the discussion. Lastly, it is crucial that meetings are scheduled regularly and are well attended so there is accountability and follow-through on initiatives.

Meeting topics discussed vary depending on the industry but often include operational benchmarking, financial review, problem solving, brainstorming, and sharing of best practices. In addition to the formal meetings, group members regularly communicate throughout the year. Group participants view the other members as their advisory board. They call upon each other in times of need and solicit input on important decisions. Members become invested not only in each other’s businesses but also in their personal lives as well. This often results in great enduring friendships.

The Private Practice Section’s annual conference is a great incubator of concepts and relationships. Some of these ideas come from the programming, but many come from networking outside of course offerings. Each year our team has many thought-provoking conversations with trusted and respected friends that we have met through the years. We leave the annual conference every year with our minds full of great ideas and a promise to each other to go back and transform our practice. Much like leaving a stimulating clinical education conference, we then return to reality and find it difficult to integrate all those great concepts into our daily practice. As a result, when we return home we often revert to business as usual.

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Last year things changed. Our friends Roman Taffe, Paul Treinen, and Wade VanDover at Big Stone Therapy decided to not let the good ideas discussed at the annual conference die on the vine. Instead they engaged three other practices of similar size and created a formal peer advisory group. The first meeting was held at their Abbey of the Hills Inn and Retreat Center in South Dakota. This former home of the Benedictine monks was the perfect setting to step back from the chaotic pace of running a private practice and have a true spiritual experience with new friends. The two-day agenda was full of topics relevant to all the attendees. Each practice identified the needs and strengths of their respective organizations. The agenda was created by matching the strengths of one organization with the needs of another. Every practice shared at least one of their best practices. Rich discussion followed each presentation and further vetting of the concept. Topics during the summit included: staffing and recruiting, compensation and incentive models, dashboards and key metric reporting, business model diversification, critical access and long-term care, contracting, reimbursement or bundled payments, and open brainstorming sessions. In addition to the thought-provoking discussion there was plenty of time for fellowship and fun.

The Private Practice Section is filled with many bright, inventive, and generous individuals. Much of our practice’s growth can be directly attributed to the many individuals who have graciously shared their recipe for success with us through the years. The peer advisory group framework established last year will help accelerate the learning curve of our peer group members and help all of us reach new heights faster than we could on our own. History shows us that innovation comes in many ways, places, and times. Innovate like it is 1900.

Mike Horsfield, PT, OCS, MBA, is chief executive officer of Rock Valley Physical Therapy in Moline, Illinois. He can be reached at

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