Running more than one business at the same time isn’t so crazy if you’re working all the time already anyway.
6 min read
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Think starting one business is tough? Try owning multiple.
As any serial entrepreneur will tell you, it’s not actually that crazy to start and manage multiple businesses. After all, it improves your odds for financial security, demands you to use all your skills and keeps your mind sharp. But how can you divide your time among all your businesses while maintaining a healthy work-life balance? Here’s how to achieve this seemingly impossible task.
Rely on a notepad.
You can use apps like Evernote to keep lists and jot down notes but nothing beats pen and paper — writing things down actually helps us remember the most important stuff. No wonder the greatest thinkers in history, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Edison carried notebooks with them. Richard Branson has said his notebook is his most prized possession. Perhaps Greek shipping magnate and billionaire Aristotle Onassis said it best in regard to this:
“Always carry a notebook. Write everything down. When you have an idea, write it down. When you meet someone new, write down everything you know about them. That way, you will know how much time they are worth. When you hear something interesting, write it down. Writing it down will make you act upon it. If you don’t write it down you will forget it. That is a million-dollar lesson they don’t teach you in business school!”
In short, writing things down in a notepad helps you stay focused and organized, both of which are greatly needed when running multiple businesses.
Use the same location.
I’m able to run my businesses from home because my team works remotely. This saves me a lot of commuting time each day — that time is spent managing three different businesses instead. Of course, not all entrepreneurs are so fortunate, but there are some other options if you can’t use the same location for all of your businesses. The headquarters for Square and Twitter are across the street from each other in San Francisco. That’s convenient for Jack Dorsey.
Simply put, locate your businesses as near each other as possible. This way, you’re reducing the time it takes to get to them, as well as avoiding splitting your time among various locations.
Schedule your life..and stick to it.
This is probably the secret to my success right here. If you want to remain organized and productive, you need to schedule everything — from blocks of undistributed work time to appointments to meetings — well in advance. Don’t forget to schedule breaks and time for your family. Personally, I use Google Calendar and color code it. Team meetings are in yellow, business calls are red and time-off periods are green. I can glance at the calendar to see what my day, week or month looks like.
Remember, if something’s not on your schedule, it’s not worth your time. And when you set your schedule, stick to it; streamlining your schedule can make it easier to prevent arguments with yourself about the value of any given entry.
Pick your projects wisely.
While attempting to get Virgin Atlantic off the ground, Richard Branson was also working on Virgin Films. The now-defunct project was consuming too much time and too many resources, putting Virgin Atlantic in jeopardy. Branson had no choice but to pull the plug.
“You need to learn when to go forward and when to say no, which can be difficult — especially if you prefer to say yes, like I do!”
Simply put, if one of your businesses is draining your resources — mainly your time and money — then re-evaluate to see whether it’s worth pursuing. If not, cut your losses and move on.
Build an all-star team.
When asked at South By Southwest how he manages his time at Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk had a simple response: “Almost all of my time is spent on engineering and design.”
Rather than try to do everything, Musk relies on his team. He lets the chief business and operating officers of Tesla and SpaceX handle the business side of each respective company. “My role is to make sure they have the environment where their talents can form,” said Musk. “I work with a great team.”
Easier said than done, but it’s possible if you’re surrounded by a great team — which will also lighten your workload.
Here’s how you can get started building your A-team: Hire the employees with the skills your businesses need. Establish clear work processes so each team member knows exactly what to do on his or her own. Foster a workplace environment that encourages learning and developing or enhancing skills. Be a strong leader by being flexible, but by also setting boundaries.
Invest in face time.
Technology has made it easier to check in with your teammates, no matter where you or they are in the world, but face-to-face communication builds stronger relationships and more collaborative environments. It also gives you a chance to recognize your team in person, address any sensitive issues and deliver clear and concise communication.
Whether it’s a biannual trip or weekly meetings, invest in face time with your various team members.
I won’t sugarcoat this. Running multiple businesses is a challenge. Even if you are organized and have a great support system, it’s incredibly easy to burn out. If you want to stay sane and productive, you need to make downtime a priority.
I stop working and turn off my phone for a couple of hours each night. This way, I can enjoy dinner with my family. During the weekends, I work only at a minimum so I can do things I enjoy, like hang out with my friends, read, hike or go to a movie or concert.
Throughout the week, I even schedule downtime into my calendar so I can catch my breath and refocus, giving me more energy for the remainder of the week and ensuring not a single day’s effort is lost. It may be tempting to cut out downtime when you have multiple businesses relying on you, but if you don’t feed yourself first, you’ll have nothing to give your companies.