Running a startup is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I guess I probably can’t blame people for the looks they give me when I tell them I run two.
I really just stumbled onto the idea for my first startup. I walked out of a Red Lobster one night and returned to find a big dent on the side of my car. I price shopped the damage at local body shops, but it took way too long and the estimates varied widely. I knew there could be a better way, an automated way, but I sat on the idea for years.
I finally used the money I saved from my Bar Mitzvah to find a design firm and get a website and smartphone app created, but that left an eight-week span where I was in limbo, just waiting for the product to be finished.
During that time I came up with a completely separate, unrelated idea for TheJMom.com, a social network for Jewish parents to set up their children on dates in cities across the U.S. Because I had some downtime, I found a developer, who now works on BodyShopBids with me.
Working to build these two companies has been a challenge for me, but despite the fact that they are in two separate industries, I’ve learned so much about what it takes to build a business.
Here are the common denominators.
Be flexible. Spend your time where it counts — running the business. For the longest time, I had no dedicated office space, and instead of taking time to work out the logistics that go along with that, our team would have weekly meetings at Starbucks or someone’s house. We chose a name, bought a domain and set up an LLC, all without an office.
Set goals. At surface level, this one seems obvious. In reality, it’s critical. The only way to honestly evaluate the performance of yourself, your employees and your company is to set clear benchmarks and measure yourself against them. While working on both startups, our team sets weekly goals and holds each other accountable for them. Whether the goal is to finish coding for the next version of a website or to increase sales by 15 percent, we keep the pressure turned up on each other.
Manage time. The essence of proper time management largely boils down to this: If what you are doing is not likely to have a meaningful impact on your business and how it is run, stop doing it. In a world where entrepreneurs are taught to seek out advice with open arms, it can be tough to learn how to say “no” and mean it, but learning which business invitations to accept and decline can make or break your business.
Treat yourself. If not for your own sanity, then for the sanity of those around you, take time for yourself to relax, unwind and power back up. It might seem like this point contradicts the previous one, but I view this as part of proper time management. Block out an hour every day where you can hit the gym, go for a walk, read a book or catch up with an old friend or colleague. Doing so will allow you to be more productive when it’s time to get back to work.
Find parallels. What aspects of your first business can you translate to your second one? No matter what industries you work in, you will be able to draw important lessons from each of your endeavors that will help you see the big picture. A lot of the things we do with marketing, such as email campaigns, can be duplicated to an extent for both businesses. This crossover saves time and money.
Make no mistake — running two startup companies is a lot of work and requires putting in long hours. You’ll have to hire other people to do some of the jobs that you would normally do. Just remember that you still need to have balance in your life to avoid burning yourself out. It’s a road you want to go down only if you are extremely passionate about what you do. Don’t spread yourself too thin, but know that it is possible to pull off.