Tuesday, September 26

Branch out without burnout: how to succeed at more than one business | Supercharge your business

Whether it’s balancing the books, designing the next product release, or pitching for finance, entrepreneurs have to be all things to their business at all times. But what happens if they’re at the helm of more than one company?

We spoke to three successful multi-business owners about the highs and the lows of bringing multiple visions to fruition and their advice on making the juggle work.

‘I’m like a farmer laying seeds’
After a steady career in marketing and advertising, Chuong Van Dang didn’t expect to start his own business. But while in Malaysia, he had an idea for a social media platform for scuba divers. “We crowdsourced dive logs and reviewed hotels, and we basically thought we would eventually sell it to TripAdvisor,” he says. Although it grew to 10,000 users in 100 countries, Dive Share eventually wound down without making its millions. But it was an experience that marked a turning point for Van Dang.

Now based in the UK, he runs a cleaning company for Airbnb with a team of 14, a dim sum and cocktails meal kit business called Yum Sengand works part-time for the space tech company Magdrive as a marketing consultant.

“When it comes to running multiple businesses, it’s important you don’t have all the businesses at the same stage – you can’t have two in startup mode, for example,” Van Dang says. In his case, four operations staff manage the day-to-day running of the Airbnb cleaning business, while he focuses more on Yum Seng, which he founded during lockdown with his wife, Stephanie. They’ve just expanded to deliver nationwide after focusing on south-east London for the first year. “It meant much larger premises, larger warehousing and a much larger commitment,” he says.

The team of five has moved into a nearby shared office space with on-site storage, high-speed broadband and lots of creative minds to collaborate with. Technology has also helped him keep everything going in other ways. “I use a lot of Teams, Slack and WhatsApp. I find those are the quickest, simplest ways to communicate. Email isn’t quick enough!”

Also Read  Argentina logra el activo apoyo de China a su reivindicación de las Malvinas

Ten years after starting his first business, he can’t see himself doing anything else. “You never switch off, so not burning out is the biggest challenge. But it’s also about finding the right business partner to work with and trying not to overstretch yourself. I’m like a farmer laying seeds, waiting to see which opportunity really takes off.”

Chuong Van Dang multitasks with a focus on his dim sum delivery business Yum Seng, while operations staff manage his cleaning company

‘I’m better at keeping things in perspective now’
Being diagnosed with cancer in 2019 forced Natasha Ascott to take a step back from running her award-winning children’s outerwear company Muddy Puddles. After months of treatment and being told that she was in remission, Ascott somewhat surprisingly decided to start a second business. “The team did a brilliant job of running Muddy Puddles without me and I had the space and opportunity to decide whether I wanted to jump back in with two feet or do something else after six years of growing the company,” she explains. “I now work with them part-time.”

The first Muddy Nursery opened in Buckinghamshire six months ago, with a second due to join the chain in early 2022. Ascott started her career as a teacher and says the diversification aligns well with her passion for education and a customer base she knows well – Muddy Puddles sells to 30,000 families and 300 schools and nurseries every year.

But she admits launching a new business hasn’t been easier the second time around. “Some of the biggest challenges include making sure I give the right focus to the right things across both businesses. I try to use the urgent/important matrix to help me prioritize, but can definitely get lost in the weeds. It’s also challenging to communicate and connect well across two different cultures and teams.”

Also Read  Twitter negotiating its sale to Elon Musk

His advice to other entrepreneurs is to get comfortable with juggling. “With two businesses, you’ve got even more hats you need to wear,” she says. Good connectivity is essential too. “I work between a lot of different places and I’m totally dependent on everything being synced up wherever I am. One of the first jobs we prioritized at the nursery was getting everything on to the cloud and making sure everyone could communicate remotely and on-site.”

Despite the challenges, she likes the mix of having a product-based and a service-based business and says she feels more resilient this time around. “My dad’s an entrepreneur too and he always says to me: ‘Nothing’s ever as good or as bad as it seems.’ I think I’m better at keeping things in perspective now.”

‘We walk the walk as well as talk the talk’
If you’d told Simon Forster he’d be working with some of the biggest names in fast-moving consumer goods with the design agency he co-founded from his dining room table 12 years ago, he wouldn’t have believed you. “I think my dream at the time was to earn a living and convert my garage into a studio,” he says. Now, he employs a team of 20 at Robot Food and has upgraded his studio to an office in Leeds city centre.

Working closely with consumer brands gave Forster the inspiration to start one of his own. Stories & Ink is a skincare brand for tattooed skin, and was stocked by major retailers before pivoting to a direct-to-consumer model. The range has generated £800,000 in sales over the past year and is due to be launched in the US shortly.

Also Read  Aemet: Extremadura towns where it has rained the most since this Sunday


Forster admits the biggest challenge with running multiple companies has been embracing delegation. “I was involved in everything, and you simply can’t be when your business scales and you have multiple interests,” he says. “You have to find people who are better than you and empower them to succeed. Now, I’m the hype guy, the numbers guy, I set the vision and tone.”

He’s been able to do that more efficiently than ever before over the past two years, thanks to embracing flexibility and bolstering connectivity throughout the company. Robot Food projects have been organized via Google Chat rooms, workflows have been redesigned to facilitate remote collaboration, and the team has been given more autonomy to choose when and where they work.

“Nine to five in the office doesn’t suit everyone,” Forster says. Moving Stories & Ink away from retail and towards e-commerce has opened up new opportunities, while a new Stories & Ink tattoo studio in Falmouth is giving local talent a platform.

Despite straddling very different businesses, Forster says running two companies has its benefits. “Stories & Ink is the perfect case study for Robot Food, because brands come to us knowing that we’re walking the walk, as well as talking the talk,” he says.

Do you have flexible business connectivity needs? You need a connectivity package that gives you the adaptability to do what you do best. To find out more about how Volt from Virgin Media and O2 can seamlessly supercharge you and your business, visit virginmediabusiness.co.uk/volt


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *