When you have ideas for multiple businesses that you think may have real potential, you probably don't want to let go of any one of them. But successfully running a business can have a lot of challenges. Adding another one to the mix can make it harder to figure out how to juggle building two or more ideas into full-fledged companies. (That's what I've recently experienced, as I'm deep into developing an online invoicing company and a chatbot tool.)
Now that I have worked on multiple businesses at once, I've developed some tips that have helped me make both ventures a success.
1. Use the same physical space to run both places.
I've found that having a central location for both businesses saves on resources since they're shared between the companies. It also allows me to be easily involved in both ventures, including any meetings or on-site needs.
Having this central location has helped me get more done, plus staff members like to interact with each other and even assist on projects with both. (I'll share how I make those cross-business collaborations possible later.) This helps further maximize the assets I have at my disposal.
2. Bring the two businesses together as much as possible across processes.
Obviously, they are separate and unique ideas that are not even in the same niche, but I've improved so many aspects of building a business by having two to deal with at one time. Creating a business plan, including marketing and sales initiatives, and determining online tools and platforms can all be done together. This can help speed up the completion of each because the format and process are already in place and proven for one. And, since it can be benchmarked for the other business, this can save considerable time and effort.
For example, a colleague of mine runs an online invoicing and payments company and has just acquired a similar company, which enables him to meld marketing efforts and strategies. Even if you run more than two companies that are in separate industries, you can still look for similarities and provide your outsourced team with additional projects rather than hiring separate teams.
3. Prioritize what needs your attention.
Many naysayers will tell you that if you are struggling to find time for one business, two are impossible.
I say it's more about what you do with that passion in terms of actually rolling up your sleeves and putting numerous tools to work to get the job done. It's a matter of getting organized, delegating and prioritizing what needs attention rather than just talking about it—or having another meeting to debate if there's enough time.
4. Try not to sweat the small stuff.
I've been in businesses where we all worried about things that I have realized don't matter all that much in the long run. I believe you have to get on with it, stay positive and continually have backup plans in place to address things that come up.
Worrying about issues that crop up can waste time—you could be taking care of those things on the list that you know you can solve, tick those boxes and go to the next item instead. Sometimes an issue in one company has cropped up in the other, and I immediately know how to address it, so worry doesn't even become a factor.
5. Make lots of lists and follow them.
I used to use a tablet list-maker, but now I've digitized the process so my lists can follow me across any device. I use Any.do, a cloud-based to-do list app that offers intuitive, gesture-based functionality that offers ways to make separate personal and work lists as well as allows me to integrate them if I wish. There's no escaping my lists or losing track of what I have left to do.
With so much going on across multiple businesses, it's important that I create tasks and items to address. I color code them by business and aspect of each business so I can instantly identify what company needs my attention at that moment.
6. Use a time-tracker tool for your multiple businesses.
I track my time on each business to determine if I'm balancing both effectively rather than spending more time unknowingly on one over the other. This also helps me understand if there are any places where I can improve my productivity across both businesses.
I also have the team use time tracking to help everyone understand where improvements can be made or where we might automate more of the process.
7. Keep reports on each business to gauge results and maintain accountability.
Data can mean a lot in any business—and with the plethora of information we can now compile, it can be a game-changer in how a business is built and managed.
By continually analyzing the data on how we are spending money in relation to our budget, we can make changes on the fly that keep both businesses on the right path toward growth. Consider keeping records related to customer satisfaction, social media growth, reputation management, leads, conversions and anything else that illustrates how your marketing and customer experience strategies are received.
8. Work with your co-founders and team to help balance the workload of running multiple businesses.
Since I can't be everywhere doing everything, I work with my co-founders at both companies who are intimately involved in the build outs and daily operations. Before adding partners or anyone else that has this much ownership of the business, check to see if you are on the same page in terms of philosophy, what you want to accomplish and overall vision. Knowing I have someone who thinks and feels similarly can help make having multiple businesses that much easier.
The same can go for the team you have in place at each company. I have some talent on board that works with just one organization, while others bridge both. Through regular communication, including one-on-one sessions, you can provide an open and flexible environment that lets the team flourish and get involved with projects where they can lend their expertise and knowledge. Most of my team members have told me they like the idea of working for both companies because it is more stimulating and challenges them daily.
9. Bring in experts to handle certain aspects of the company.
And by bringing in, I mean outsource those items to multiple people so that you can focus on the core issues of each business, rather than try to multitask across both on areas where you aren't an expert. I'd rather send that work out to the developers and talent I can find using various freelance platforms. While I do hire many others to help both companies keep moving, they are not replacements for my co-founders or myself.
While running multiple businesses is not for everyone, it can be done. Just be sure to think through the above recommendations before tackling this challenge. Consider how you work as part of the dynamic before you take on two companies (or more) at once. It's certainly never boring!
Murray Newlands is CEO of Sighted, an online invoicing company, and founder of ChattyPeople.com, a chatbot builder. He is also a media influencer, author, speaker, mentor, investor and a member of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).
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