Last week I highlighted one definition of multitasking – the ability to listen, ignore and forget all at the same time. Since I wrote that piece I have been thinking more about multitasking. No, that does not mean that I spent the last week dwelling upon my own shortcomings.
I was writing about multitasking in the context of individual tasks and whether it is indeed possible to spin numerous plates all at the same time. But then it struck me that there is another context in which to consider the question of multitasking. What about people who run more than one business at the same time and manage them all quite successfully. I hesitate to call them serial entrepreneurs because that to me suggests someone who builds one business, sells, builds another, sells that one and so on. Only working on one business at a time.
When a client came to me with an idea for a new but additional business, my general view has always been that this is a distraction from the main event and is likely to lead to the first business being starved of attention and consequently not performing to its maximum potential. I am excluding from this the sort of diversifications that you see on many farms these days unless they become a significant business in their own right.
I have now realised that I know of quite a few people running multiple diverse businesses. Do I need to rethink my approach?
Let me give you a few examples.
Kenny Smith has IRN Security (installing security systems), Klass Klothing (providing branded work and sportswear including supplying sports clubs with dedicated webpages for their own websites from which club members can purchase team clothing for themselves) and he is also the front man of the successful Highland band Torridon.
Scott and Sarah Murray have Inverness Travel (they organised our recent very enjoyable trip to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone) and Cru Holdings (that operates 6 bars and restaurants including Prime, the popular steak and seafood restaurant facing the river in Inverness, and very good it is too).
Abbie McCahill operates Adder Business (a full service marketing company which provides websites and social media management, both of which they operate for us) and CATCH Highland (a call handling service right here in the North of Scotland used by a variety of businesses from one man bands who don’t want to miss calls when on the tools, to some significant businesses that want out of hours and overflow cover).
I could go on!
So, these are very varied and with some very innovative offerings. How do they manage to control the different businesses? I’m jealous! I know that we have 4 offices and that they are “geographically challenged” being so far apart but at least they all do the same thing, more or less. And these days every office is just a Zoom link away so we never feel totally out of touch. But what if we started another unrelated business on the side?
As I type this, I just realised that we are involved in another business developing renewable energy devices but our function is financial and we are just one of 4 shareholders. We easily accommodate the demands of that business in with our own because we do for it what we do for anybody else which for now means spreadsheets, company secretarial, accounts and tax. This business is still a fledgling and still in the development phase and there are no staff. I may get to understand the demands of running multiple businesses properly once the products get to market. More on that another time.
This other business probably would not have been possible without the technology that we now take for granted. The engineering director is in the Warwickshire, 2 of the other directors are in Thurso and then there is yours truly. We meet over Zoom or Teams and have attended meetings with contacts all around the world in the same way.
The world has become a much smaller place thanks to technology, and it’s going to get smaller.
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Alan E Long
The Long Partnership