Discussion of the Week: Juggling Multiple Startup Goals
@WSJSTARTUP: Is it possible for a startup founder to work on two or three products (or startups) at once?
January 11, 2013, 4:02 PM
Ask Yourself These Questions First
GUEST MENTOR, Richard Mumby, founding Partner at RPM & Co.: Working on two or three startups or products at once isn’t impossible — but it’s a decision not to be taken lightly. Certain people continuously dream up new viable businesses, and their strengths may lie more in starting companies than running them. Working concurrently on multiple startups may be a better fit for some serial entrepreneurs.
Is this you?
To help you think about whether multitasking is the right approach for you, ask yourself a few questions:
Are you equally passionate about each of your projects?
Solidifying a business model and bringing it to market is all-consuming. Many founders I know struggle with prioritization. The day-to-day of starting a business is taxing, detailed, and often discouraging work: rapidly growing to-do lists, ballooning inboxes, constantly emerging competitors, financing challenges, unending employee recruiting and retention, and continual questioning of the original business strategy.Starting a new venture should be a reflection of a complete commitment to an idea. For most founders, this requires 100% dedication to a single business.
If you have started one company, and you are tempted to start something new, think about your motives. Have you lost faith in your current prospects? Are you distracting yourself from work at hand?
Diversifying your time may lead to increased creativity, greater focus on existing businesses’ core capabilities, and heightened self-awareness as a leader. But it also can be a reflection of a shift in your priorities. Ask yourself whether you and your company will be best served by your adding another project to your plate — or whether you need to re-commit to your current role, or transition out of your current role to move onto a new project.
Are you willing to cede control to another leader?
Starting and launching a new business can be an incredibly personal exercise. Founders pour heart and soul into these endeavors, and trusting someone else with the management of a business can be a rough transition.
When running multiple businesses at once, founders will need to transition more responsibility to additional executives. Some founders can’t effectively delegate, wanting to hold decisions close to the chest.
Employees need clear direction and want passionate leadership. This typically requires hands-on, day-to-day involvement, especially as businesses models, strategies and responsibilities evolve rapidly.
A critical question for founders of multiple businesses: Are you willing to let someone else take the reins of day-to-day management? Also, can you recruit and hire high-performance management teams?
Can your companies endure divergent attention?
Successfully launching a startup is challenging enough when the founder commits 100%. To succeed when a founder is splitting time between multiple businesses requires clear internal direction and accountability.
First, do the organizations understand the businesses’ path forward? Before adding another business to your responsibilities, you need to have confidence that your current house is in order. You owe this to your employees, customers and investors.
Second, performance — from individual to enterprise — needs to be measured. Goals need to be established and performance evaluated accordingly. Team members need to have transparency on these benchmarks. Without this, founders with fragmented responsibilities may create chaos, confusion and frustration among teams.
Acknowledging a passion for multiple businesses may allow some founders to release control to better managers. But these select founders must to put in place management tools to provide structure for their ongoing engagement. The businesses will be better off, and the founders will be able to focus their time more efficiently.
Follow Richard on Twitter @RPMUMBY.