Today’s fast paced digital economy has proven to be fertile ground for serial entrepreneurs, a term often used to describe business leaders who have found success building and leading multiple companies in a variety of industries.
Becoming a successful serial entrepreneur depends on much more than just timing and industry knowledge. Being able to juggle multiple projects, lead multiple teams, and remain informed about industry trends — all of this and more are requirements that influential serial entrepreneurs share.
According to a 2013 Funders and Founders report, Sir Richard Branson is one of the most successful serial entrepreneurs to date, having amassed more than $4.6 billion from his airline, record company and subsequent mobile phone subsidiary and space exploration businesses.
When asked about the process of choosing the right business endeavor to pursue, Branson quipped, “Business opportunities are like busses, there is always another one coming.”
The report went on to note that of the 960 self-made billionaires around the globe, 830 found their fortune by working as serial entrepreneurs across a variety of industries.
“Entrepreneurs are known for being able to focus on one thing to the point of making it a reality,” notes the report. “Entrepreneurs are also known for their ability to recognize business opportunities when they come. These two qualities can be at odds with each other.”
With that said, many entrepreneurs around the world are able to strike the right balance between business fidelity and the pursuit of new opportunities. Sometimes this means looking at adjacent or similar sectors; for others, it means looking for potential in the industry that is completely opposite to their current endeavor.
For American-based serial entrepreneur and founder of Nautilus Ventures Christopher Michel, the most important trait all aspiring entrepreneurs should embody is tenacity.
“If you don’t have a lot of tenacity you will not go that far and you will potentially miss the opportunities to do some really great things,” he said. “A lot of real innovation happens through the difficult processes.”
Having the ability to look at the big picture instead of getting bogged down with the minutia of small details is another skill serial entrepreneurs share, in addition to ensuring they are approachable and foster open lines of communication with their teams.
“Keeping things in perspective and lightening up on a regular basis make you more approachable,” said serial entrepreneur Scott Tannen, CEO of Boll & Branch. “When you need to get serious, the change in your demeanor will be a great unspoken cue to your team that it’s time to buckle down.”
Scheduling and managing time efficiently is one other element needed to juggle multiple entrepreneurial endeavors. Canadian serial entrepreneur Don Simmonds, who has established businesses in a range of industries including renewable energy, technology, telecommunications, and media, urges young entrepreneurs to be especially cognizant of their time management.
“Create a detailed schedule that allots enough time per day or week for each of your businesses or business endeavors and stick to it,” said Don Simmonds. “Sometimes that means hiring more staff or limiting the amount of meetings you take a week. Whatever it takes to ensure you are able to devote the time you need to the growth of your business.”
However, that doesn’t mean all work, all the time. For Simmonds, who has led an array of successful start-ups, finding the time to nurture his community through multiple charitable initiatives is just as important for him, as well as spending time with family. Dedicating time and energy to his community and family provides a grounding element for Simmonds, reinforcing what’s truly important in life.
“You need a balance between work, charity and family. If you don’t have that, you will burn out and your business will ultimately suffer,” Simmonds added. “What’s worse is that as an entrepreneur, you will forget what truly matters in this world — family, integrity, and giving back. And if you compromise these priorities, everything else accomplished can seem like very empty achievements in the end.”
Finally, entrepreneurs need to remember that success does not come without stumbles and roadblocks. In the end, regardless if an entrepreneur is running one business or ten, how they handle these hindrances and set-backs determines their success.