Something that’s really common amongst small business owners is running two or more businesses. I see people who own a massage therapy business also run a greeting card company or someone who owns a networking company who also own a florist and so on. Two or more businesses happen usually for one of two reasons:
1. Either the first business isn’t making as much money as the person would have liked and they believe another opportunity will be the one that will make it big, or
2. The first business is hard to get going and the business owner gets bored and frustrated with it. When the second idea comes along, it’s more exciting and interesting and the person’s motivation levels are rejuvenated again.
Or it could happen for a combination of these reasons. The problem occurs when the second business idea doesn’t meet expectations and then the business owner creates a third or even a fourth idea. I’ve met business owners who are running seven or eight business ideas and suddenly reach crisis point because they don’t know what they do anymore.
So, why then should you stick to one business idea? Perhaps, these people are right – maybe it does take two or three ideas before you make it big and isn’t it possible to be able to run several different businesses simultaneously?
Well, here’s the thing – and you may disagree here (all opinions welcome), but I’ve worked with hundreds if not thousands of business owners and I really, honestly can’t recall a time when I’ve seen two or more business ideas work simultaneously. The best and most successful businesses work when the business owner concentrates on one thing and one thing only.
But, I hear you cry – what about those people who are doing PR and training or coaching and management consultancy and are really successful? Well, I would argue that if you look closer at their businesses, you’ll find they are running one business in different ways. For instance, a PR professional that I know teaches PR, works on PR on a one to one basis with her clients and has e-books on her site about PR which she sells successfully. She’s even just branched out into offering workshops to teach PR professionals how to be successful. But, everything revolves around PR – if I was recommending this business owner, I’m very clear on what she does.
Also take the example of a successful coach who also does training. It’s not just any training though – it’s training involving coaching. She’s also involved in a coaching network and speaks on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) on coaching. Anyone who meets her knows she is a coach and knows how she can help them.
So, bearing that in mind – here’s my top 3 reasons why you should stick to one business:
1. Taking on a new business is the same as starting a new business.
Your new business will take time, effort, focus, motivation and possibly money to start up and get off the ground. You’ll need to give it at least 18 months of undivided attention and treat it like it’s your baby. OK, I’m absolutely sure you can do this…but, what happens to your first business while you’re doing this and what happens when you get bored of this new business idea or it doesn’t get off the ground as quickly as you want it to? Will you then start another business?
2. No-one will know what you do.
When people ask you the question of what do you do – what will you tell them? Will it be I do x and I also do y and sometimes I do z? Or will it be, I do x and here’s how it can help you? If you have two or more business ideas, believe me no-one will be quite sure what you do and how you can help them. If you don’t believe, try asking a few of your trusted contacts who will give you honest feedback…
3. Jack of all trades, master of none
One of the reasons that’s often given to me as a reason for not choosing just one business is the fear that they won’t be able to use all the skills they have. This is absolutely not true – just look at the PR and coaching examples above – they will use all their skills and much more. If you focus on one thing and take this one idea to the market in different ways, you’ll be amazed at the results and the difference.
OK then, if you already have two or more businesses what do you do? My first suggestion is to stop and decide which one of these businesses you’d really like to focus on – and then (brave step this), let go of all the other businesses and really throw your heart and soul into this one business. If you’re not sure which business you should focus on, get the help of a coach or a business mentor to help you.
And if you’re considering taking on another business – stop and really think about it. Are you sure that’s the best decision? Are you prepared to drop the other businesses you have and focus on this one 100%?
Think very carefully about taking on a new business – I know it’s exciting and improves your motivation, but it may only be a short time until you get bored with this one too and then are you going to be looking for that next big idea?