As any entrepreneur will know, setting up and managing one company is stressful enough, but the more companies you manage, the thinner your time and focus is spread. Elon Musk, the chief executive for Tesla and SpaceX, has been upfront about the lack of freedom and how he’s taken just two weeks off in 12 years. Richard Branson has overseen nearly 400 ventures during his entrepreneurial career. Whilst I might not be a serial entrepreneur to quite that scale, I started building my professional empire at the age of 21 and still own or part own four successful companies. Over the course of my twenty career, I’ve had adapt the way I run my businesses to allow myself space to grow over multiple platforms whilst still finding time for some kind of social life. Here are four tips to managing multiple businesses:
Hire the best team
Every one of your businesses has to have a solid, reliable and passionate team so that you can trust them to get on with the job when you’re preoccupied. It’s different when you’re running one small company because you can constantly monitor progress, but when you’re managing multiple enterprises you won’t have the time to keep checking in. Essentially you need to know that they can do the job without you there. So that means putting time and thought into the recruitment process. Whilst skills and expertise are important, I’d argue that it’s even more important to hire genuinely passionate people who believe in what you’re doing and who will invest energy into their work.
Once your team’s in place and everyone knows what they’re working towards, let them get on with it. It’s impossible to micromanage multiple companies especially if they’re based in different countries. Find good leaders who can make decisions locally, whilst you focus your time on larger strategic considerations.
2 Don’t underestimate the importance of your passion
Six years into running GVI, I moved to Costa Rica, leaving my team behind in the UK. I had lost enthusiasm for what I was doing, which was detrimental to my work, but more importantly to my health and happiness. It forced me to prioritise my physical and mental health, which is important for my clarity and passion.
Whilst running the business remotely was challenging, the business doubled in the time that I lived there. However, such a dramatic move would have never worked without great employees. GVI had and still does have an incredibly strong culture which meant that everyone continued to work to the best of their ability. That said, it wasn’t an ideal situation. Businesses need their leaders to be present to motivate and inspire, but the move did teach me to respect my work life balance. It’s the reason I now live in Cape Town where I can still enjoy the beach lifestyle whilst being surrounded by my central management teams.
Ask for help
It’s only in recent years that I’ve fully understood the benefits of asking for help. You’re never going to have the time to do everything and you’re never going to be able to do everything really well so rather than struggling through, tearing your hair out, it makes sense to bring in assistance. Whether that’s a mentor, business partner, freelancer or personal assistant, find someone who can save you time by taking on some of your responsibilities or areas which you struggle with. I use priority lists to help me focus my attention when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I number the tasks that need to be completed according to their importance (1 being highest priority and 3 the lowest), and anything that’s not a number one, I delegate to my PA or another member of my team. It’s the easiest way to boost your productivity and reduce your stress.
Take time off
Whilst Elon Musk’s work ethic is admirable, time off is extremely valuable for an entrepreneur. Not just because it will help you to maintain your sanity, but because distance from your work is essential for perspective and creativity. I make a point of scheduling in breaks so that I actually take them, I meditate every day, and when I go holiday, I swap my smart phone for an old nokia so that I’m not tempted to keep checking my emails. After a real break (that means no computers, phone calls or messages), however short it is, you emerge feeling refreshed and energised. You’ll be a better boss for it.
Richard Walton is the Founder of AVirtual a company that provides virtual PAs (link behind this to https://avirtual.co.uk ) to small business, entrepreneurs and start-ups. He is regularly featured in the press talking about topics such as work life balance and productivity
Maria Fonseca is the Editor and Infographic Artist for IntelligentHQ. She is also a thought leader writing about social innovation, sharing economy, social business, and the commons. Aside her work for IntelligentHQ, Maria Fonseca is a visual artist and filmmaker that has exhibited widely in international events such as Manifesta 5, Sao Paulo Biennial, Photo Espana, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Joshibi University and many others. She concluded her PhD on essayistic filmmaking , taken at University of Westminster in London and is preparing her post doc that will explore the links between creativity and the sharing economy.