There are two types of entrepreneurs: those who start one company and those who start lots of companies. Those who start lots of companies like to describe themselves as “serial entrepreneurs’’ and this is evident in companies like Amazon, UBA Group, Tesla and Twitter which are very different companies, but with one common denominator: their chief executives also run other companies.
Key questions before deciding if you should be a serial entrepreneur
- Time: Can you dedicate enough time and attention to each business? How long will these ventures take?
- Money: Do you have enough cash to support the growth of your interests in the short and long run? Some businesses can be high-maintenance, while others are low-maintenance.
- Location: Does one require you to be in Lagos, while the other demands you be in Australia the next day?
- People: Do you have partners supporting your businesses? Do you have the right people to handle the workload and supply talent?
- Sequence: Is one development already underway, or are you jumping into bed with both from day one? Don’t start Business #2 before you can live off Business #1.
- Experience: What experience do you have as an entrepreneur? What kind of knowledge do you have in the field you’re adding.
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Across industries, it is quite common to find small-business owners juggling two or even more companies, sometimes in very different arenas. The concept is called “parallel entrepreneurship,” or running multiple companies at once, and although no studies track exactly how many people are doing this, business culture is full of examples – Tony Elumelu (UBA, Transcorp and others), Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, and others), Jack
Dorsey (Twitter, Square), and Richard Branson (all things Virgin).
On the other hand, not every entrepreneur excels at running more than one business. Take Steve Jobs, who famously struggled when trying to simultaneously run Apple and Pixar.
Parallel entrepreneurship makes intuitive sense
For people with large ambitions and a strong work ethic, it’s a way to get even more done. But for some entrepreneurs, doubling the companies can mean doubling the risks.
Ultimately, people who have been through it say that parallel entrepreneurs need to answer an important question: Why am I doing this, and can I sustain it? Ryan Buckley, the author of a book on the subject called The Parallel Entrepreneur, says running multiple
businesses is like betting on multiple horses at the track. You’re simply increasing your chances of success.
There is another kind of risk that parallel entrepreneurs, in particular, open themselves up to—the potential for burnout. You certainly will have your plate absolutely overflowing. But getting early-stage businesses off the ground to see which one gets traction? That makes sense.
Multiple businesses are exciting
If you’ve started one company, you can do it again. And you probably should. Let’s face it. Entrepreneurship is a rush. Whereas most people get into business to make a living, a life worth living includes starting businesses and making way for others. Running a business is exciting in its own right, with a set of unique challenges and thrills.
Multiple businesses can provide financial security
If excitement isn’t your thing, then maybe financial security is more palatable.
Not every business turns out like Apple ($590 billion valuation) or Facebook ($200 billion valuation). Those companies are the rare exceptions, not the general rule. If you want to sit on a future mountain of cash, you may have to start more than one company.
Starting multiple businesses allows you to stay fresh
Every time you start a new company, you learn something new. Learning is half the fun of doing and keeps your mind sharp and your skills fresh.
Not starting another business is a waste of your personal experience
One of the worst things that you can do with your experience is to let it waste away. Experience is meant to be used, shared and acted upon, not stifled. When you have the experience of starting a successful company (or an unsuccessful company, for that matter), you can turn around and use that experience to do it again. Or, you can use that experience to teach others how to do it. Experience is one of the most valuable takeaways from founding a company.
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Starting a business creates a valuable network that makes it easier to start another company
Another valuable entrepreneurial asset is your personal network. When you start a company, you meet investors, advisors, other entrepreneurs, vendors, service providers and other people who help to grow a business. These relationships are highly valuable. They enrich you personally and allow you to create the platform upon which to build more companies.
Starting more businesses gives you exponentially more influence
Revenue isn’t the only thing that grows bigger with more businesses. Your influence grows, too. Serial entrepreneurs don’t remain out of the limelight long. Because of their experience, they are called upon to share their experience, speak at conferences, participate in panels, give interviews, and write blogs. Such influence can be exhausting, but it’s also rewarding. Influence is part of your personal brand, which you can leverage to earn even more.
The more businesses you start, the better you become
The first time you do anything, you’re barely hanging on. The second time you do it, you get a bit better. By the third time, you’re starting to develop confidence. The fourth and fifth time, you feel like you’re getting the hang of it. This is true for starting businesses, too. With every new business, you’re building on knowledge, brand visibility, marketing experience, and other resources, creating a business that is even better than the one before. Why would you do it only once when you can get better with each successive
You can build every successive business faster than the one before
Everything about building a business takes time —funding, marketing, development, research, strategizing, etc. These time-consuming activities become easier and quicker every time you do it. You can spend less time finding VCs, writing proposals, searching for vendors, hiring developers, developing a marketing plan or researching your target market.