When one business is not enough
The world has no shortage of serial entrepreneurs – individuals who have successfully launched more than one business.
Virgin Group founder, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Richard Branson, is perhaps one of the most prolific serial entrepreneurs globally, with more than 400 companies under the Virgin brand to his name. Not only has he gone to successfully launch multiple businesses, but his business interests traverses various sectors from music (which is where he first got his start), to air travel, financial services, telecommunications and fitness.
To understand what drives serial entrepreneurs, SME South Africa interviewed 4 to find out the critical skills needed to run more than one enterprise and how they maintain what is often a tricky balance.
Jaco Gerrits – ‘It’s not always easy, but most definitely worth it’
Companies: Dynamus Technologies, a software development services and holding company which has launched CrashDetech, a smartphone app which auto-detects a serious car crash, and Thembela, a web-based service connecting suppliers, procurement, job seekers, recruiters and employers.
Q: What motivated you to start multiple ventures?
As a tech entrepreneur, I’m always on the lookout to solve problems in new and exciting ways. Having more than one business is the result of identifying multiple opportunities where I believed a product and/or service could be of benefit.
Q: What are some of the advantages of running more than one business?
Believe me when I say that many, no wait, most of my business attempts were far from successful. The biggest benefit is the lessons you learn from each. I’ve had many failures, but more importantly, this allowed me to learn more about myself and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
Q: How do you manage to run multiple businesses?
Personally, I feel it becomes easier over time. The lessons you learn allows you to be more effective in each [of the businesses]. I also think having more than one business requires operational efficiency. We’re privileged to be in the tech industry allowing us to have a high level of automation, allowing us to scale with greater ease.
Siphe Kala – ‘Do not start all the businesses at once. You need to nurture each business for a few months to a year before you can fully hand it over to a management team‘
Companies – Blaqgold Holdings (BGH), a consulting and business advisory company and parent company of Blaqgold Strategic Solutions (BGSS), a solutions lab developing solutions for the Sub-Saharan Africa market; Blaqgold Distribution (BGD), a distribution company; and Blaqgold Industrials (BGI) which produces and distributes industrial consumables.
Q: Why the decision to become a serial entrepreneur?
Having multiple businesses allows you to diversify your risk as well as your sources of income. This means that you can almost be certain to have some kind of income from somewhere.
Q: Is there an advantage to having more than one business?
For me, yes it is. Owning multiple businesses allows me to keep extremely focused and to be more efficient with my time.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about being a serial entrepreneur?
Watching each of the entities bloom. Like any parent I can’t say I love any one business more than the other but it has been extremely rewarding to watch each of them come into their own.
Karen Wessels – ‘Always ensure flawless communication within a business and across all the businesses you run’
Companies: SnappSales, a marketing agency focusing on sales leads and VA Connect, a virtual assistant business, aimed at business owners and entrepreneurs.
Q: How were you able to successfully launch and run multiple ventures?
I realised that there are key fundamentals to run a business successfully. I also found ways of replacing myself in the business allowing me to start multiple businesses. I want to help create jobs and one of the best ways of doing this in South Africa is by starting your own business or businesses.
Q: Are there advantages to having more than one business?
Absolutely! It’s definitely more work, however, it is easier and the rewards are so much greater. We now have the opportunity to service different parts of the market causing a multiplier effect on our network, our business knowledge and skills are automatically increased, and we can reach out to so many more people.
Q: Are there any unique challenges you face as a serial entrepreneur?
There are a few that I can mention, these include, the demands of being in so many different places at once and sometimes having to work long hours. One has to deal with an increased responsibility when it comes to staff and potentially lacking laser focus. It’s very tough to think of cons, as we are trained to only see the positive.
Khethi Ngwenya – ‘There are many sacrifices to be made, make sure you are always organised and attend to every single call’
Companies – Ludiaana Guest House, an accommodation group with its first 14 bedroom guest house based in Vereeninging. SchoolMedia a marketing and advertising company, and Conti Lube, an industrial lubes and greases supplier.
Q: What motivated you to launch multiple ventures?
I could not rely on one stream of income and I enjoy learning different industries.
Q: What do you consider to be the biggest advantage of owning more than one business?
Being able to grow my business,creating more employment and being able to generate more profit.
Q: How do you manage to run multiple businesses?
It is really not easy. You need to be able to manage your time and make sure that you give each business equal attention. With me, I make sure I am well organised, I am up to date with what is happening in each business and I also have a great team who have helped me so much in building all my businesses.