By Krill Bensonoff, founder and CEO of Unigma and ComputerSupport.com.
Getting one startup off the ground is challenging enough. Not only that, but paying for it can be tough. Many startups, including some of my own, begin as side projects that come to life while you are busy running another company (which usually is more stable and can churn out some cash). Here are five simple steps to follow in order to become a successful "parallel" entrepreneur overseeing both types of businesses:
Start as a Project Manager
Running multiple companies will keep you on your toes. In order to succeed, you will need to become a master of time management. These are a few things that have helped me:
- Balancing your time: Managing your email can be a huge timesuck. To prevent this, I turn off my Outlook for a couple of hours each day. This allows me to focus on getting more work done with fewer distractions.
- Keeping your inbox clean: I like to keep my email inbox as empty as possible. After getting an email, I either respond, take action or delete it. This way I don't have to reread the same emails in the future.
- Focusing on learning: I set aside time (daily and weekly) for learning. Taking classes on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), watching videos, etc., helps me stay relevant and keep up with new technology.
- Keeping your eye on the prize: Every morning, I decide what the most important area of my business to tackle is. Is it hiring, selling or building? Based on this, I plan my day and get to the most important items first.
Find Your Integrator
Frequently in business, you will find two types of leaders: One is the visionary and the other an integrator. The visionary is an expert at seeing the future and managing direction for the business, while the integrator takes the direction and makes things happen. There have been many great examples over time of visionary and integrator combinations that were able to work together to create magic.
Sometimes, you need to find the right partner to get things done. If you're a visionary, you'll want to find an integrator to help you accomplish your dreams. In my case, I found this partnership with Alex Ho, who was the COO of ComputerSupport.com. He helped build the teams, organize projects, and build and deliver the products.
Always Be Learning
Constantly learn ways to be more effective at everything you do. Ever day, I set aside time for learning activities. I'm a strong believer that the internet enables better and faster learning at a lower cost. I also attend meetups or local events when possible and attend industry conferences a few times a year.
We've used the Agile methodology in the companies I've created. We practice daily standups for in-office meetings and video standups for remote teams. Slack, HipChat or other IM tools are also helpful for quick communication. When we develop a product, we always start with an MVP (minimal viable product) and get customer feedback. Then, if customers use it, we develop full features. This can apply to building software, services or most anything else.
Don't Give Up
Failure is not an option. Not succeeding just means you are close -- but not quite there. Try again, get better and learn. There was a time at ComputerSupport.com, back in 2010, when we lost our largest client (probably 15 percent of our revenue at the time). I thought this was the end, but after we lost this big account, we regrouped, improved our service offerings using the strategies above, and grew by over 50 percent the following year, without having to lay off any staff.
I am a strong believer that one can run two (and sometimes more) companies successfully: look at Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey or Richard Branson. Just be sure to grow at least one company to success before you start another.
Kirill Bensonoff is a "parallel entrepreneur," currently holding leadership positions at ComputerSupport.com and Unigma.