The question of whether an entrepreneur should focus entirely on one project, or split their time over multiple interests is as old as business itself, with compelling arguments on both side of the divide.
For those choosing to put their eggs in different baskets there is persuasive hope from a 2015 study, which found that 65 per cent of US millionaires have three income streams, 45 per cent had four income streams, and a quarter had five or more.
However, let’s not pretend it’s easy to create and run one business, let alone many.
Here are some tips on how to run multiple companies across different time zones:
Get your timing right
More importantly than any other advice is getting the launches of your businesses in the right order. There’s only one of you, so don’t rush things too quickly. This means carefully choosing which company you start up first.
If there is a market reason to start one before another, then this of course takes precedence, but if not then pick the one that you can most quickly get up and running, and bring the right support in. You’ll need as much of that as you can get.
Once your first project is underway and relatively solid, only then start up project two, and so on.
Create a calendar that works for you
It’s critical to get a simple diary structure in place that can facilitate everything you need it to.
In my case, I start my day in London at 10am European time, working on my app startup, Teech. I take lunch around 2pm, and then finish my Teech day at 6pm GMT/10am PST.
I then get out of the office for a short while, before starting my Nasaseasons day, so I am on the right timezone for North America. I tend to finish up the second half of my day at 2am GMT/6pm PST.
Without a firm calendar there is no way I would be able to get all I need to do done in that time, so I keep a close control on this.
Do you need to be involved in this?
The biggest question I believe any entrepreneur should be aware of on a day to day basis is ‘are you relevant to this conversation?’ This is magnified when you are splitting your time across territories and businesses, so be unmovable on this. My rule of thumb is to only attend meetings and/or calls if they are either incontrovertibly essential for my attendance, or I am hugely passionate about the outcome of it.
Don’t wait – do it now
When you have twice as many people needing something from you, you have half as much time to get it done, so if a task can be done immediately then do it right then. With my fashion business I remember one meeting where my team and I were running through our social media strategy. Before we had even left the room the actions had been done, and sure enough within a month the results of those actions had led to Rihanna organically wearing our brand.
Don’t compromise sleep
It can be strangely appealing to de-prioritise sleep, but it is completely counterproductive. Managing multiple businesses across very long days is exhausting unless you manage your recovery properly, and you’ll just find your performance suffers if you don’t. Only you know how many hours sleep you need, but whatever happens make sure you lock it into your personalised calendar, and only let work impinge on it if it is absolutely essential.
When you’re juggling investors, clients, suppliers, and staff across businesses and timezones there is always a lot to take on board. This is where simple honesty is your best ally. A little humility goes a long way in business, and people are generally supportive and understanding if you are always clear and honest about your schedule and your multiple priorities.
Keep healthy, keep social
Delivering high performance during a daily schedule of what is essentially two working days takes its toll, and so keeping your body and mind healthy is of paramount importance. Create and keep to an exercise programme, and eat well, and you’ll have the energy to power through when others fail. Likewise, making time for friends, family, and relationships is critical, as you simply won’t perform at your peak if you lose the buy-in from those closest to you.
Note to self: use notes
It doesn’t matter who you are, if you take on twice as much work your memory cannot work as effectively as it would with half the payload. As such, make relevant bite sized notes for anything important you will need in the future. I use Apple’s simple Notes app on my phone, but also recommend EverNote and Lists. I’ve had direct feedback from our majority investor in Teech that it’s reassuring that anything important in the company is safely stored, and accessible by all the team.
Understand cultural borders
We live in a globalised world, but there are still many idiosyncratic quirks when dealing with any new territory. For example, the US startup scene is more established than the UK, so the guys there prefer a slightly different approval process – it’s a little more direct than in London. Staying humble and realising that only by listening an awful lot more than speaking ensures you will be aware of the cultural differences, and lead to a more respectful and successful outcome.
Get on task
Finding a task management solution that works is not easy. In my experience I find that you should test different methods with your team and decide upon one that you together find most effective. We use Basecamp as our international task management app, which allows us to build projects together, and keep each other updated of progress at all times.
Neil Saada, co-founder, Teech.