This “parallel entrepreneur” idea has been around since at least the days of Thomas Edison, and for the new generation of entrepreneurs, who have been multi-tasking since birth, it’s probably not even a stretch.
Some entrepreneurs, like Paul Graham of Y Combinator, and Dave McClure of 500 Startups, mask their focus on multiple start-ups by running an incubator or accelerator, and providing seed funding for a number of individual efforts.
They skip from one to the next, providing expert guidance and money, getting their satisfaction (and reward) from the best of the best.
For entrepreneurs who really try to be the CEO of multiple early-stage start-ups concurrently, the hot new term for this practice is “multi-table” entrepreneurs. I suspect this term is derived from the common online gambling practice of playing multiple poker games at the same time.
In fact, I think that’s a great analogy, since the odds in a poker game may be similar to those of a start-up.
Yet there are clear advantages to the parallel approach, if you have the moxie, resources, energy bandwidth and the ability to multi-task effectively:
1. A portfolio approach vs. all eggs in one basket. Investors have long argued the value of a portfolio to hedge and leverage the risk, so why shouldn’t entrepreneurs do the same? With the current low capital requirements for smartphone and Internet apps, and high market volatility, it makes sense to spread the risk around as much as possible.
2. Optimise your advisers and investors. Advisors and mentors are busy people. In your weekly meetings, it’s as easy to cover multiple company issues as one. Investors building their portfolio love to hear about multiple start-ups in one sitting, to select the best fit. Investors look at the people first anyway, so a strong team is good common ground.
3. Many entrepreneurs love investing in other start-ups. Most angel investors I know have previously founded and run at least one start-up. Both these roles require unique skills, but both can benefit from operating in the other mode. Multi-table investors are the norm, and the investment process is good training for multi-table entrepreneurs.
4. Learn to manage resources like multi-divisional corporations. Allocating resources – financial and operational – between divisions has long been a strategy for conglomerates and can work just as well for savvy entrepreneurs. Revenue from one start-up can be “invested” in another, and assets like buildings and computers can be shared.
5. Attract and share specialised talent and skills. It’s very hard to attract talented people to a single product start-up, but much easier if the entrepreneur has a bigger vision, with several entities producing complementary products. Expensive, “lean-start-up” specialists can see a career potential, work fulltime, and drive multiple successes.
6. Cross-fertilisation from current market feedback. One thing that you learn in one company, at a given moment in time, is equally valuable or leveragable in a different way at your other companies. As your customer list grows in one, you own it for the second. The cost of finding new markets can now be split among multiple entities.
7. Foster and enforce the art of delegation. For long-term success, every entrepreneur needs to know when to step in, and when to delegate. That’s a skill that may not get enough attention until too late. With parallel start-ups, delegation is a requirement for entry, and a valuable skill for all environments.
8. Multiply the pay back. Many parallel entrepreneurs have already achieved financial security through earlier efforts. Now they may see a way to multiply pay-back and spread the risk by active involvement with multiple start-ups. Of course, it’s like doubling down in gambling, which is inherently risky, as you might end up doubling your losses.
9. Products need not be tied to a given company. With open-source tools and public APIs, few products are created in a vacuum. The company entity is now primarily used to allocate ownership, accountability and tax consideration, and need not be bound to a given product or operational structure.
10. Burns off high energy and bandwidth. Now we are back to the fact that there are people who love to multi-task, and anything less is simply boring. This is especially true of Gen-Y entrepreneurs, with fire in the belly to change the world. Some see start-ups as a lottery where more tickets mean a higher probability of winning.
Of course, there are huge risks when you try to ride multiple horses at one time. At the very least, you may not do either well, or won’t be fully there when the going gets tough. Even single entrepreneurs who maintain a day job, for a steady paycheque, feel the pain of juggling multiple initiatives.
The hard part is getting the management part right. Every start-up has to have someone minding the store, and a clear path to “the buck stops here.”
No one can be a full-time CEO and work “in” the business of multiple companies. Plus there is the challenge of making sure the multiple roles do not conflict, legally or otherwise. Tread carefully there.
The most common way people move into the parallel entrepreneur environment, if they are so inclined, is to start another business, while still running the current one. The risk here is that starting something new consumes more energy than anyone predicts.
Overall, for the first-time entrepreneur, my sense is that trying to focus on more than one equally exciting idea is a recipe for failure. But with the cost of entry going down, and the multi-tasking bandwidth of each new generation going up, I suspect parallel entrepreneurs may soon be the norm rather than the exception.
4 Entry-Level Jobs That Will Prep You For Entrepreneurial Success
Success is a journey, not a destination, so think hard about where to start.
Entrepreneurship might look like an unruly beast, especially when larger corporations are involved. However, those in the daily grind of entry-level positions are already developing the necessary skills to bring this wayward creature to heel.
“One of the first truths you’ll learn about entrepreneurship is that you’re 100 percent responsible for your success or failure,” says fellow Entrepreneur columnist Mike Monroe.
Entry-level positions in many different areas – including sales, marketing, development, project management and customer service – provide the perfect environment for future entrepreneurs to learn that truth and hone their skills.
Learning to fly from the ground up
While the average entrepreneur is 40 years old, younger people eager to make their own way have plenty of developmental opportunities that can help them hit the ground running. According to a 2017 survey from Heidrick & Struggles, nearly 15 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies started in the sales department. These high-powered executives didn’t waltz into the C-suite on day one; they learned the tricks of the trade on the front lines with everyone else.
If you crave the life of an entrepreneur, don’t let the barriers to entry get you down. Take one of the following entry-level jobs and use your time in the workforce to get the experience you need to launch your own business.
Inbound or outbound, sales experience can give any would-be entrepreneur a leg up. Not only do you learn how to communicate effectively in a sales position; you must also understand the products you sell (and the brand behind them).
A job in sales will teach you to stop trying to convince people that they need what you have and start listening to what they want. Once you recognise that the market dictates what you sell, and not the other way around, you’ll be prepared to run a successful start-up.
2. Human resources
HR pros keep businesses running. If you work as one, you will quickly learn how much things like timely payment, accurate sick-day counts and health insurance matter to workers. To keep your team happy, you’ll need to know what employees consider to be important. What better way to learn that than to take a job where they let you know?
Jobs in HR also provide crash courses in communication skills and legal compliance. For example, it’s much better to learn that a manager can’t force an employee with folliculitis to shave his beard before the decision affects your pocketbook.
3. Customer service
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in: If you deal directly with customers, you learn how to handle tasks quickly while keeping a friendly face.
Customers range from the kindest people you will ever meet to those who become enraged when they can’t double their coupons. As an entrepreneur, you and your team will deal with all of them. Learn how to respond to customer complaints on someone else’s dime, so that when it’s your turn to do so, your learning experiences won’t have a negative impact on your bottom line.
To be a truly successful entrepreneur, you must learn how to lead a team. Leaders invariably learn some tough lessons at the helm, but if you wait until you are running the whole operation, those lessons could cost you some of your best workers.
This may seem like an odd suggestion for an article on entry-level positions, but note that you don’t need to be in a leadership position to learn leadership skills. From your first day on a job, your supervisors will be sizing up your initiative-taking ability and your critical-thinking and time-management skills to determine whether you have the capabilities necessary to take on more complicated projects. Look for opportunities to listen effectively and motivate those around you – this will help you hone your leadership craft until you get the opportunity to take on the role for yourself.
These positions and skill sets provide invaluable lessons for entrepreneurs, but they’re hardly the only ones. Reporters, insurance adjusters, accountants, teachers and consultants – these jobs and many others are full of learning opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.
If you have to work for someone else before you found your own company, don’t treat the opportunity with disdain. Learn everything you can on the job, so that when your time comes you can use those lessons to lead your company to success.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Youthful Entrepreneurs Light The Way
If there’s one thing these go-getters have in common, it’s a determination to succeed. As we celebrate Youth Month, let’s learn from their example.
South Africa is already a very young country with 45.88 percent of the population under 24; by 2050, this proportion will have increased as the youth population is expected to double to 830 million. Already, 50 percent of the youth are unemployed, so it’s very clear that young people can’t sit around waiting for jobs to come their way – if they want a satisfying life, they will have to take charge of their own destinies.
This is just what these four inspirational young people have done
1. Imke de Villiers
All of them started young. Imke de Villiers, the youngest of the four, is only eleven, but her first book, The mouse hole, is available on Kindle and in online stores. It is evident that a big part of her success is the lead given by her parents.
“At the beginning of the year, we all had to write down three goals for the year, and the book was one of those,” Imke says.
“I have very supportive parents. My sister and I are challenged frequently to think outside of the box. We tell stories, think of money-making ideas and always use our creativity.”
2. Ingrid Moruane
Ingrid Moruane was also an early starter. “Since I was in high school, I’ve always seen myself as the boss. I’m a very driven person, and love working under pressure,” she says. Ingrid was fortunate to get some work experience as a project manager and optical assistant before following the advice of her then-boss to go out on her own, which she did in 2015. Now, aged 24, she will be moving out of her home office to premises in Joburg’s trendy Melrose Arch.
Ingrid’s business is Ing Management, and her concept is a unique one: she provides a portfolio of non-core services to government entities or corporates – event management, team-building events, catering, stationery and even office furniture. She uses trusted subcontractors to get the work done – what she provides is the vision and management. It is a turnkey service designed to remove a lot of detail off the to-do list of a corporate employee.
She sees funding as one of the biggest hurdles she has faced – and this is something one hears a lot about when talking to entrepreneurs. However, she pays tribute to the innovative approach taken by her bank, which stretches to introducing her to potential clients.
“More banks should do the same kind of thing,” she believes.
Believe in yourself
3. Sheldon Crabtree
Sheldon Crabtree has a similar drive to succeed on his own terms. Although his parents sent him and his siblings to good schools – he is an alumnus of Pretoria Boys’ High School, which also produced Elon Musk – there was little spare money. “If we wanted personal things, we had to work for the money,” he says. As early as Grade 5, he would save his pocket money to buy sweets to sell at school; he also refurbished items for resale.
No surprise, then, that he decided not to go the route of getting a degree and a “safe” job, but rather took responsibility for his own life. He likes the idea of benefitting from his efforts.
Now aged 24, Sheldon is the proud owner of a woodworking business and the Deep Roots Night Market, which is held on the first Friday of each month in Groenkloof, Pretoria. The market provides not only gourmet food but also entertainment in a beautiful setting. Around 3 000 people attend each event.
Like Ingrid, he found start-up capital a major challenge – his solution was to take a part-time job that gave him some seed money and spare time. The woodworking, which began as a hobby, also provided some initial funding.
4. Zwelakhe Khuzwayo
Zwelakhe Khuzwayo, 26, is a great example of somebody who saw entrepreneurship as a way to make lemonade out of the lemons that life gave him! He lost his job but, nothing daunted, drew on the inspiration of his friend, Thulane Maestro Mathebula, to set up his own business making promotional videos and producing music.
“I’m one of the few people doing this kind of thing in the north-eastern areas of Pretoria, where I live,” he says. “I hope to gain recognition for the work that I do and hopefully my company will grow and expand.”
What all these inspiring young people agree on is the need for entrepreneurs to start young, and to believe in themselves.
Zwelakhe says that if you put in the work and effort, you will never go wrong.
For Imke, it is all about daring to be who you authentically are – you will always find a way to achieve what you want. “There are always other ways, other options,” she says.
Ingrid has stayed true to her childhood ideal of being the boss.
Sheldon (like Imke) says that parents have a big part to play. Being supportive is part of it, but it is also important to get their children on the right path. “Let your kids understand the power of creating their own wealth. On top of the set chores, let your kids do extra chores for money,” he advises. “Ask the school if they will be able to sell anything during break time, and make sure they get to grips with the social, financial and planning aspects of business.”
As the old saying has it, the child is the father or mother of the man or woman. That is very true – but it also helps if there is an adult helping the process along! As adults, let’s make sure we fulfill this role in the lives of our youth.
MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)
The Kindling Of The Entrepreneur Spirit
The principle of entrepreneurship is to observe challenges and find ways to improve them while simultaneously weighing up the relevant costs and benefits.
Many university students are funnelled into a conservative career such as a lawyer, engineer, actuary or accountant. This is often the popular choice and has the advantages of receiving stable income and benefit packages – it is a “safety net” career and offers the prestige of the title and security of the degree.
That being said, there are a lot of insights that you may miss if you use the narrow definition of what entrepreneurship means in the traditional sense – “starting your own business.” Entrepreneurship is more than that and, in my view, should be looked at using a three-principles based approach. The principle of entrepreneurship is to observe challenges and find ways to improve them while simultaneously weighing up the relevant costs and benefits.
Principle 1 – Adding Value Within Organisations
In my field, being an actuary with a data science background, you always need to find a better way of doing things. We need to use our resources, skills, and systems in a manner that would support our organisations to ensure that we add value to society.
In essence, we need to use statistical or modelling techniques responsibly to ensure that three key focal points are met, which is easily adapted to becoming a viable entrepreneur, with a trusted reputation:
- We do not mistreat or take advantage of consumers;
- The results of initiatives or strategies are measured appropriately; and
- There are no biases based on torturing data to get the results you want.
In addition to doing a good job, we needed to ensure that the work we do can be repeated, with ease and automated where relevant. This will ensure that our influence is long lasting and scalable, which is also critical to starting your own business or initiative. Most long-term solutions should also be flexible enough to add value to society, in whatever touch-points they are impacting.
Principle 2 – Benefitting Society
This is not about how much you give but rather what impact you have. We need to be honest with ourselves and determine appropriate measures to monitor success and what our ROI is aimed at becoming. This is often a challenge and is oversimplified or overlooked by many. For example, we may celebrate success metrics by reviewing how many scholars we fund or how much money was given to upcoming entrepreneurs.
This measure will have little benefit if all the scholars drop out or all entrepreneurial initiatives fail, we will essentially be celebrating an empty figure. The impact we have needs to be long-lasting and setting up society for success, with or without your continual influence.
Responsible and appropriate ways of measuring benefit will help add value to many initiatives. It’s a significant risk starting an initiative without any key performance indicators or measures of success, as you will have nothing to benchmark against and no measure to celebrate or punt as transparent and real success measures.
Principle 3 – Starting an Entrepreneurial Initiative
Some skills are necessary to start your initiative and working for a large organisation may help you build these skills or refine them. Key performance indicators are often used within larger organisations, and these companies may have proper structures in place to learn communication skills, the importance of planning, setting up budgets, pitching ideas or tracking results over time.
As such, some young adults prefer entering the world of work as a first step and then using what they learn to start something new in the years to come. Whichever approach you take, ensure you are learning as much as you can and are open to mentorship, guidance and constructive criticism, we can’t possibly know everything, and there is always more we can learn and improve on.
Bringing It All Together
Starting an entrepreneurial initiative will require a lot of bravery and resilience, an open mind, a good idea, relevant skills and support (financial and social).
What I admire, is that a foundation such as the Make A Difference Leadership Foundation has robust structures in place to support and encourage their scholars, should they wish to start an initiative in the future. And despite the prestige or the safety in obtaining a degree, the foundation inspires the scholars to follow their dreams, no matter how audacious they might be.
With the vision of the Make A Difference in mind, we believe that our scholars and fellows will be able to contribute and add value to organisations. Some may start their own initiatives and those who don’t will still use the principles of entrepreneurship in their daily lives. We all aim to continuously identify solutions that will add value to those around us.
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