One of my favorite role models in business has always been the British billionaire, Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group. I love the way he embodies the Virgin brand – fun, fresh and daring. But one of the best things about him to me is that he is a serial entrepreneur – his Virgin Group is made up of more than 400 companies, including the famous ones, namely Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Megastores, Virgin Mobile, etc.
I have always dreamed of becoming like Richard Branson – starting companies, entering new industries and disrupting them, and having fun all the way. But I know that it is far from being as easy as it sounds.
However, I have observed that a great number of entrepreneurs I meet are unconsciously making attempts at being Richard Branson – and being very poor at it. They are concurrently starting and running multiple businesses, without any of the businesses having grown enough to the point where it is raking in cash and is turning a profit. It is the very act of serial entrepreneurship.
There is nothing wrong with running many businesses concurrently, obviously. But starting and growing a company is very much like raising a child – you need to devote it all your time and attention. There will be unconventional working hours, weekends and long nights spent slaving away, many pleasures sacrificed, and take my word for it, it adds to the process of aging mentally, and sometimes physically.
If all this is involved in starting and growing one business, how much more will starting and growing multiple businesses be?
It is made worse by the fact that these businesses are mostly started by just one person, not by a team of partners where the workload is shared. There is still a lot of aversion to business partnerships, a lot of it bordering on mistrust and a ‘100% of zero’ mentality. We will save this bit for an entire blog post of its own.
There is also what I will term, ‘the lack of an organizational mindset’, where the proprietor of the business does not work on putting in place structures in the business that will enable it scale and grow. Not much emphasis is placed on planning in the medium to long-term, or on employing the best minds he can afford. Rather, it is about the here and now, and employing hands rather than minds.
But at the bottom of all this is an abject lack of focus, of staying the course on one path until one is successful or the business fails, at which point, one should change course, or try a different business entirely.
I remember about seven years ago when my business partner and I were pursuing the idea of an online music portal which never took off due to our inability to raise the required start-up capital. It was in the course of pursuing it that we hit upon the idea for MINDcapital, which we started in 2009 with little to no experience, loads of passion and a crazy desire to learn and work hard on it than we have ever worked on anything else in life.
Of course, it has been far from easy, as there are those times where there is no cash flow, and plenty of fear and doubt. Also, in that period, we have had to resist the temptations of doing other businesses which might have made us some quick money, but would have definitely distracted us from our company, and possibly irreversibly.
In the end, we have decided that the best way for us to take advantage of other business opportunities will be to create partnerships with people we can work with, and who are as passionate about the opportunities as ourselves, merging our skills and resources together while the partners run the businesses and we remain focused on ours.
It is far more profitable to build one successful business than to start many mediocre ones.
Like one of my mentors told me, “Piss in one place so that it can foam.”
Image credits: http://www.risenetworks.org