The Insider’s Guide to Managing Multiple Businesses

By Aaron Agius | Small Business

When it comes to managing multiple businesses, Richard Branson is king.

Not only does he seem to start a new business every day, he’s also worked across pretty much every vertical including trains, planes, music and mobile phones. Now Mr Branson is sending people to the moon.

And all with a smile on his face and a spring in his step.

The Insiders Guide to Managing Multiple Businesses image richard branson thumbs shankbone 2010 nyc 300x2392The Insiders Guide to Managing Multiple Businesses

Richard Branson doing The Fonz

How does he do it? How does he manage so many businesses simultaneously without having a nervous breakdown?

In this article we’ll be giving you our tips on how you can effectively manage more than one business without working yourself into an early grave. These are the very tactics we’ve used to build our own businesses over the years, so we know they work.

Running one business can be tough. Running several can feel totally overwhelming. But we’ve discovered some very simple, practical tactics we think could make your life easier:

 Learn to let go and love outsourcing

We know what you’re thinking: ‘I can’t afford to hire help’. But you need to turn your thinking around. By outsourcing some core business tasks, you could end up making more money.

Your hired help may only charge $20 an hour. In that time you can write a quick business proposal that wins your company thousands of dollars in new business.

You can probably outsource small business tasks such as:

Bookkeeping and accounting: If you don’t have a head for figures you can get in a terrible mess trying to manage your own books. By doing it yourself you may end up costing your businesses money by making costly mistakes or putting off your tax returns

- Copywriting: Everybody thinks they can write. But there’s a big difference between putting one word after another and creating compelling, engaging content that really sells your brand.

- Proofreading: If you do decide to write your own copy, hiring a proofreader can save you from embarrassing typos and grammar errors that make your business look unprofessional.

- Web development: These days simple Content Management Systems (such as WordPress) make setting up a website look easy. But can you take it to the next level by ensuring it’s well-designed, functional, responsive and SEO-friendly? If you had to think about your answer then you should probably outsource your website build.

The reality is you can’t be an expert at everything. We know you don’t want to admit it, but it’s true.

Would you rather spend hours reading how-to articles and watching tutorial videos, or hire an expert? Not only will hiring help save you precious time, it will also let you focus on what you do best.

Embrace the power of ‘no’

We’d like you to do something.

Find a piece of paper and write the following in large red letters:

 “I’m running a business, not a charity.” 

A lot of business owners struggle to make ends meet because they spend far too much time helping others, doing favours or working for free.

If you want to run a successful business (or two, or three) then you need to learn to embrace  the power of the ‘NO!’

The friend who just wants to ‘pick your brain’. The potential client who calls three times a day but hasn’t actually booked any work. The time wasted travelling to meetings you know won’t turn into real jobs. They all take up your valuable time. So learn to spot the time suckers and kick them to the curb.

*If you are in fact running a charity, remember to focus on who you’re actually supposed to be helping.

Practice prioritising

If you want to manage your time effectively, a To-Do list is your friend. Whether it’s a scrap of paper with a quickly-scribbled list of priorities or some sexy online software, To-Do lists are an essential part of running multiple businesses well. And excellent time management can make all the difference to your success.

Here’s how we manage our To-Do list:

-          We create a fresh To-Do list at the end of each day.

-          At the start of each working day, after reviewing emails and messages, we re-prioritise.

-          We revisit the To-Do list throughout the day.

-          We work ourselves hard to stick to the priorities we’ve set.

TOP TIP: Try to make the first thing you do each day something that makes you money. That way you’ll start the day feeling good.

When creating To-Do lists, we’ve found the following ideas work really well:

-          Prioritise client work over admin and marketing.

-          Tackle the tough stuff early in the day to get it out of the way.

-          Use the fun stuff (like social media) as a reward for completing a difficult task.

-          Have set times of the day when you check your email or take calls.

-          Review your list and see if there are any tasks you can outsource or hand off to a more junior staff member.

-          Don’t let a ‘client emergency’ wreck your whole day. Take a step back and evaluate how urgent the task really is.

Another part of setting priorities is committing to firm boundaries. It’s easy to work 24 hours a day when you’re running multiple businesses. But how many of those hours are really productive?

Setting clear working hours is an important way of improving your productivity. Not only does it give you a deadline to work to, it also creates a work-life balance that will benefit your overall health and well-being.

Set up systems

We all know there are tasks you do repeatedly, so look at your businesses and see what they are. Simple systems can save you precious seconds every day, which adds up to a heap of time at the end of every month.

Some systems that work well for us include:

-          Creating template emails for common enquiries and then ‘topping and tailing’ them with a personal response.

-          Creating email rules and folders.

-          Setting up folder structures for certain types of work.

-          Working through a checklist to ensure you don’t miss a step in your process.

-          Doing similar tasks on one day of the week – also known as ‘batching’. For example, it’s tempting to invoice as soon as you finish each job, but it will save you time if you bill them all at the end of the week.

There is a good blog over at She’s Got systems that can help out with trying to systematize your repetitive business processes.

Duplicate ideas and systems

So you’ve set up one business. Now, what can you borrow for the next one?

We’ve found you can gain a real advantage by reworking and reusing as much as possible.

Could your website template work for both businesses if you tweak the colours and logo? Can you share resources across each business? Look for two-for-one deals, and take advantage of having multiple businesses when negotiating with suppliers. Something along the lines of ‘If this deal works well for company X, I’ll also use for you company Y, B and L’.

Whether you want to become a business mogul or just achieve a better work life balance, we hope our practical time and saving solutions will make managing your businesses easier.

 Over to you

Do you manage more than one business? How do you juggle all the responsibilities? Do you have any time-saving tips to share? Comment below and let us know.

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