What To Do When You Have Multiple Business Interests
So many interests, so little time
When I was growing up I tried every single stinkin’ sport and activity under the sun. Softball, tennis, soccer, running, discus, horseback riding, diving, swimming, piano, violin, trumpet, french horn, scrapbooking, painting, stamping, sticker collecting, rock collecting…
You get my drift. I had LOTS of interests and I’m sure I drove my parents nuts!
Fast forward to my working years and I had lots of jobs. Mowing lawns, working at Pier 1 Imports and a movie theater, cooking scrambled eggs at my dorm’s cafeteria, doing promotions for magazines, food companies, and brands like Chevy, Stoli, and Malibu, answering questions at my university’s Visitor & Information Center, interning for special entertainment and events for the Wisconsin State Fair and also for the buying office at Kohl’s Corporate headquarters.
Have your eyes glossed over yet?
So many opportunities, so little clarity on where to focus
It wasn’t that I couldn’t hold down a job. In fact, I was a very good employee (well except for maybe when I quit the scrambling eggs gig after a week of burning myself constantly with their two-handed, bulk-egg cooking method to trade-up for the Stoli and Malibu shot girl gig…best decision ever).
The reason for my varied work history is that I had lots of interests and liked to take advantage of opportunities that I saw. That’s why when it came time to finding a full time job, I was known as the girl who always wore a suit because I was constantly interviewing (and would also bike around campus in my suit and high heels with a tote bag slung over my shoulder and a non-leak-proof coffee mug sticking out the side - it’s a miracle I’m still alive, really).
It’s also why, when I decided to leave my cushy corporate job, I explored ALL the options from career changes to launching a non-profit. When I decided it was finally time to live out my entrepreneurial dreams and start a business, I had no idea what kind of business I should start and again, I explored all the options.
Picking a path
Now that I’ve got this business helping entrepreneurs craft unique, compelling, and profitable business, strategies my path is well laid. But let me be clear, I have ideas for new launches and business endeavors all. the. time.
The number of interests and ideas I have has not decreased in the slightest. So, how did I go from being all over the place in my interests and money-making endeavors to being so focused? And what should you do if your business interests are just as varied as mine?
Well, now, that’s the one million dollar question, isn’t it? Let’s chip away at some of the mystery of this question’s oh-so-elusive answer.
Start with purpose
If you’re all over the place and want to turn every idea and hobby into a business endeavor, you probably feel like you’re in constant emotional turmoil. All the bouncing back and forth between all of your opportunities and trying to figure out where to put your energy can be incredibly exhausting.
I started to get clarity on what to do when I started to get clarity on my purpose. Figuring out what fueled me deep down helped me narrow my field of opportunities.
It became clear that some of my ideas had evolved out of my ability to see creative solutions. I felt a sort of duty to explore solving things because I had the capability to see solutions. But the truth is that solving all of the world’s problems is not a burden that falls solely on me. Some people are much better suited to solve some problems that I am. I realized I needed to focus on solving the problems that resonated best with the core of who I am and leave the rest for someone else.
In fact, by focusing on too many things, I would be less effective at solving for the things I was uniquely suited to do, ultimately doing a disservice to the world. (You might need to re-read that last sentence and really let it sink in…)
It also became clear that some of my ideas had arisen from a money-making opportunity. They shallowly just seemed like they were too good to pass up. Let me be clear here - making money is NOT bad. In fact, making money allows you to do amazing things for yourself and for the world. If your purpose is best accomplished by making money in a totally unrelated way that allows you to fuel those resources into things you do care about (all while not being totally burnt out and unhappy or getting sucked into spending the money unwisely) then have at it!
But if money isn’t a means to the end but instead the end itself, then you’ll only stay motivated and happy for so long, so start with purpose to refine where to focus your energy.
Need help figuring out your purpose? Read Purpose Statement: What is it & How to Write One.
Choose a niche
I am a huge proponent of niching down your business. Focusing on a niche enables you to become a highly-sought-after, well-paid, memorable expert. Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?
Most entrepreneurs, however, cringe at the thought of having to niche down. They think they’ll get bored. They think they will shrink their earning potential. But nothing could be further from the truth.
By choosing a niche, you give yourself the time, resources, and head-space to get really good at something. You know how all that crap about how multi-tasking is a valuable skill is now being thrown out the window? Well, the same applies to multi-tasking your business endeavors. Don’t do it.
You should, however, feel comfortable doing some exploration and experimenting before choosing your focus.
Here are some good places to start to explore niching down:
Should your hobby be your niche?
When we’re super passionate about something we love doing, like a hobby, we entrepreneurs tend to always be thinking about how to monetize said hobby. Doing so can create your dream job or it can make life miserable for you.
If you’re someone like me that has a lot of interests and hobbies, this can create quite a conundrum for you and only add to your entrepreneurial confusion. To help you decide if these hobby-turned-business ideas are a distraction or something to be seriously considered, you’ll want to figure out what kind of lifestyle you want to live.
If you’re the kind of person that likes some separation between your personal life and your work life, do NOT, let me repeat, do NOT monetize your hobby, no matter how tempting it is. Doing so will turn your hobby into a job, which usually means you no longer get joy and rejuvenation from doing it. You’ll have to find a new hobby, so decide thoughtfully how much you enjoy doing your hobby for fun.
If you’re the kind of person whose work = life and you prefer full integration, then by all means monetize your hobby. Love the outdoors so much you want to be immersed in it all the time? Go ahead and launch a tour and expedition company.
If you love the Adirondack Mountains so much you hike it every weekend, then become the go-to Adirondack Mountain guide. But if you love peak-bagging in a different location each week, this will make you miserable. Instead, you’ll have to focus on building a reputation as THE go-to outdoorswoman that your loyal fans will pay to follow to whichever mountain range is calling you next. Or maybe you become a blogger, vlogger, or hiking book author instead.
Your niche possibilities list should have been shrunken. You either eliminated your hobbies from the list of potential business endeavors or you just chose your business endeavor by deciding to go all-in on your favorite hobby as your business.
Write a mission statement to keep you focused and on track
Even once you choose a niche I can guarantee the ideas will keep coming to you. Some old ones will stick with you like a stubborn wart. That’s why having a clear and concise mission statement is so important. It acts like guardrails, keeping you on track and focused on the thins you decided were most important to focus on. Download a free guide on how to write your own killer mission statement (with best in class examples) below.
Focus first, then expand
But should you continue to ignore all of your other awesome ideas and interests forever? Not necessarily.
Remember how I talked about how not to multi-task your business adventures? Well, you are in-fact able to effectively do something at the same time as an ingrained habit - something that’s become automatic - for example, reading a book while you’re eating. You’re not going to choke because you’re a pro at eating and swallowing your food without having to focus on it.
The same goes for your business. When you’ve got it down pat enough that you don’t need to dedicate so much energy towards figuring it out and executing it, THAT is your cue that it’s okay to start expanding into something else.
Launching a new brand vs expanding your current brand
When you’re ready to venture into something new, you’ll be faced with the decision about whether to launch a whole new brand or business, to house it under your current brand, to develop a new sort of umbrella brand that all your endeavors can live under, or to have a parent brand with sub-brands.
Let me caveat this by saying that I am not giving you legal or accounting advice. How to legally or financially structure your company is a totally different topic. What we are talking about is your brand strategy.
Here are some considerations for each of these four options:
Use your existing brand
If your current brand has a super strong following or brand recognition, or even if you’ve spent significant time crafting your current brand, it’ll be pretty tempting to just add your new endeavors to the same business.
However, this will only work under the following circumstances:
Everything still fits underneath the same concise and compelling mission statement.
You are serving the same type of clients or customers. If they are different, then you must have the resources to create and manage separate marketing and sales for the different clientele.
Your existing customers and followers will not be totally confused or turned off.
If all of these circumstances are not present, consider one of the following options instead.
Launch a Separate new brand
This option will make the most sense to everyone externally, but it will be a lot more for you to manage. Double the social profiles, websites, marketing materials, emails, etc.
If you decide to launch a separate brand, be sure to read, What You Need to Know BEFORE You Work on Your Branding to make sure you have all your ducks in a row.
Rebrand under a new umbrella brand
Launching a new umbrella brand means you’ll be starting from scratch. It will be difficult, but not impossible, to transfer your old brand’s momentum to your new brand, but also easier to manage in the long-term by simplifying your marketing efforts.
You could switch to a new umbrella brand if you have nothing to lose by ditching the old brand. However, if this is the case, I would seriously consider if you’re ready to expand or if you should first focus on knocking your first business niche out of the park (see niching topic above) or switch focuses completely and leave your old business and brand in the dust instead of now trying to do both.
An immediate benefit of switching to an umbrella brand is if you want to distance yourself from the reputation of your existing brand. Say, for example, you owned a hair salon called Creative Cuts & Colors (I loooove my illiterations!). In a heated rent dispute with a well-known, very vocal land-lord, the Cut & Color brand unfairly got dragged through the mud and trashed. Not ready to give in, but instead wanting to expand upon your successful business, you instead launch a whole new brand called Sassy Sweet Salon & Spa (I know, I know… I’m not in the naming biz, okay…) that also does nails and provides spa services in addition to continuing your artsy hairdo excellence.
A parent brand with individual, but seEmingly independent, sub-brands
Think Unilever, Intuit, or Procter & Gamble. P&G markets none of its products under their company name. Instead, each of its individual brands like Pampers, Dawn, Tide, Pantene, and Swiffer (which also have their own sub-brands, confusing, I know) each have their own distinct branding, budgets, and teams. Some of the brands are even different internationally.
A few years back they decided to start promoting their overall company name too, mainly through campaigns during the Olympics such as the Thanks, Mom commercials. They probably wanted to reap the benefits of having a more recognizable parent brand, or maybe it was a recruiting strategy.
Either way, this is a costly way to go and is really only the right move for large corporations. This will not be a manageable strategy for the majority of entrepreneurs and business owners.
The only parent brand most entrepreneurs should consider using is their own personal brand.
IN A NUTSHELL: What to do with multiple business interests
It’s natural for entrepreneurs to have lots of interests and see a business opportunity in virtually everything. This doesn’t mean to you should pursue them all. In fact, you shouldn’t.
Narrow your ideas and opportunities by figuring out what fuels you. Write a purpose statement and let that guide your business decisions. If you focus on too many things, you’ll be less effective at solving for the things you are uniquely suited to do, ultimately doing a disservice to the world. Read Purpose Statement: What is it & How to Write One.
Choose a niche. Focusing on a niche enables you to become a highly-sought-after, well-paid, memorable expert. Start by doing some exploration and experimenting before choosing your focus, using these resources to guide you.
Building a business around your hobby can create your dream job or make life miserable for you. If you’re the kind of person that likes some separation between your personal life and your work life, do NOT monetize your hobby, no matter how tempting it is. If you’re the kind of person whose work = life and you prefer full integration, then by all means monetize your hobby.
Focus first, then expand: When you no longer need to dedicate much energy towards figuring out and executing your business, THAT is your cue that it’s okay to start expanding into something else.
To decide how to brand your expansion, consider these options:
Use your existing brand: Best if you’ll be serving the same clientele and everything still fits underneath the same concise and compelling mission statement).
Launch a separate new brand: Makes the most sense externally, but will be a lot more for you to manage. Read, What You Need to Know BEFORE You Work on Your Branding.
Rebrand under a new umbrella brand: Switch to a new umbrella brand if you have nothing to lose by ditching the old brand (but consider thoughtfully why this is and what this means about your readiness for expansion).
A parent brand with individual, but seemingly independent, sub-brands: The only parent brand most entrepreneurs should consider using is their own personal brand.
Write a mission statement to keep you focus and on track
The ideas won’t stop coming. Old ideas may stick with you. That’s why having a clear and concise mission statement is so important. It acts like guardrails, keeping you on track and focused on the thins you decided were most important to focus on. Download a free guide on how to write your own killer mission statement (with best in class examples) below.
Do you struggle with doubt and indecision about what to do with your business like most entrepreneurs? I’m here to help you make sense of all your scattered thoughts and ideas, turning them into unique, compelling, and profitable business strategies, so you can grow your business with confidence.
Just because you work for yourself, doesn’t mean you have to figure it all out by yourself.
I’m here to help you confidently run your business like a boss!
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