Some people are born with the entrepreneurial bug. For these people, the thrill of starting and running a business is so motivating that they want to do it over and over again.
While some serial entrepreneurs will launch, build and exit the companies they start, others want to continue running their first venture while working on the second (or third or fourth, etc.). It can certainly be done, but it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to each of your businesses. We spoke with entrepreneurs who run multiple businesses about their experiences and what other business owners should know.
Managing your responsibilities
As you've probably learned from your current business experience, entrepreneurship requires wearing a lot of different hats. You need to be organized and know your priorities to stay on top of things — and that's just for one company. Your biggest priority as a multibusiness entrepreneur is prioritization itself, said Emily Miethner, CEO and founder of FindSpark and MGC Social, and owner of two Long Beach, New York, food trucks.
"Knowing how to effectively split your time to ensure both businesses thrive is definitely a skill," Miethner said. "It's important to have the systems and processes in place — and, of course, the team — to ensure you can scale and handle both."
"I go by the philosophy [of getting] the challenging things done first during the day," said Loren Ridinger, co-founder of Market America and SHOP.com, and founder of Motives Cosmetics. "Once those are done, I can then enjoy the rest of the day and be creative."
Harmonizing your brands
Whether your businesses are related to each other or in different industries, they have at least one thing in common: you. Even if the connection is not obvious, consumers and business partners can easily discover that you're at the helm of each company, so you'll want to keep your values consistent. Mathieu Massa, CEO of Mr. Hospitality, which owns and operates multiple restaurants and nightlife destinations, said to make sure that strategies in one business do not conflict with those of the other business(es).
"If you're running a business in which your sales speech focuses on protecting the environment and, on the other hand, you start a business that does completely the opposite, you immediately lose credibility," Massa said. "Find out what your core values are, and develop them in all your ventures."
Serial entrepreneur Nick Matzorkis, who co-founded Union Square Media, agreed that your businesses should complement one another, especially in practical ways.
"When I have multiple businesses, I ... mold and manage them in such a way they benefit one another in supporting and helping each other grow," Matzorkis said. "[This can be done] by reducing costs, e.g. sharing common accounting or IT departments; sharing office space; or even shaping simultaneous companies to parlay off of each other's cash flow by benefitting from complementary seasonality trends, for example."
Similarly, Nicole Bandklayder, founder of NB Talent Services and The Cookie Cups and co-founder of Bijouxx Jewels, handles some of her cash flow problems by letting her diverse businesses help one another.
"I am always looking for opportunities for my businesses, and most of them require fees," she said. "On occasion, NB Talent will fund The Cookie Cups event or festival weekend, which allows me the freedom to take on more and help all of the brands grow."
Finding the right staff
It takes a significant amount of work to run one business, let alone multiple companies. However, it doesn't have to mean more work for you if you hire the right people to help you out.
"We've worked very hard to find the right people who are exceptional leaders, and because of that focus, there is awesome synergy between our brands," said Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of O2E Brands, the parent company of home service brands Wow 1 Day Painting, 1-800-GOT-JUNK, You Move Me, and Shack Shine. "All of our managing directors work closely together, share best practices, wins and culture tips. Having four businesses led by the right people is actually a lot easier than just having one."
"I am a very hands-on person and like to be a part of all the decision making for all of my brands, [but I have] the team and support behind me to help me execute my daily tasks," Ridinger added.
But before you can think about staffing your new venture, your original employees should be on board with your decision, especially if it means they'll be working on both companies, said Dan Gordon, co-founder and head brewer of Gordon Biersch Brewing Co. and Aurum Cider Co.
"Make sure you have the support of your team when making the move, and have all of the resources you can muster so the probability of success is great," Gordon said.
Learning new things
Many of our sources said that one of the perks of owning multiple businesses is the opportunity to gain new knowledge and perspectives on how to approach certain business strategies.
"The best part of running multiple businesses ... is learning different methods of marketing, running and building teams, pricing — everything, really," Miethner said. "There are a lot of elements from each you can experiment with on the others. It creates great perspective. For instance, working in the food trucks always reminds me of how important customer service and sales are, even though doing both on a food truck is extremely different than what we do through [a professional service organization like] FindSpark."
There are even lessons to be learned when you're working in a similar industry. Gordon noted that, even though both of his companies are in the brewing business, he faced some production challenges because of the scientific fermentation differences between beer and hard cider.
Getting your timing right
You may be excited at the prospect of launching your next business, but you don't want to bite off more than you can chew. As with any venture, you'll need time to devote to this new startup to make sure it succeeds — meaning that your first business should be self-sufficient enough for you to step away from it.
"I decided to take on my second venture, Wow 1 Day Painting, after 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was well-established," Scudamore said. "1-800-GOT-JUNK? had been built into an international, $100 million business, and we had proven systems that we could leverage in our next brands — a centralized call center, booking and dispatch software we'd created in-house, marketing systems, and PR know-how."
Bandklayder agreed, noting that starting a new business is like having a child: It needs to be nurtured to grow, and you can't just leave it home alone.
"The more time you can put toward your business, the better off you will be," she said. "Don't rush it. I had wanted to start a baking business for years, [and] once the concept fell into place, I worked on the marketing and legal requirements slowly when I had the time. It really is all about timing. I wasn't able to launch as quickly as I had hoped."
Nonetheless, if you feel the overwhelming entrepreneurial urge to start something new, some of our sources advised simply going for it. For instance, Matzorkis said he never consciously set out to start a new company — he recognizes and acknowledges ideas and opportunities as they come to him, and if he has the resources and the passion for it, he moves forward.
"I've never started a business simply because I saw it as a good business opportunity alone," Matzorkis told Business News Daily. "For me, any new business must be more than just a sound business model in order for me to maintain the focus and drive needed to guide it to success. This personal guideline is of particular importance to me when choosing to launch and operate multiple companies simultaneously.
"I don't think entrepreneurs wait for a green light," Gordon added. "You get an idea and just run with it regardless of whether it fits into your readiness mode."