Why You Should Use Caution with Parallel Entrepreneurship as a Growth Strategy

WHAT is Parallel Entrepreneurship?

When my advisory practice began 14 years ago, I worked with business owners who were focused on growing and scaling their business.

A funny thing happened as my client base shifted to women entrepreneurs who happened to be a bit younger. (I forget sometimes that we age…is that weird?) It’s when I first encountered women who had multiple businesses operating simultaneously.

Their numbers have increased in recent years, supported by technological advances and adoption of lean startup approaches. Parallel enterprises are typically at different stages in their individual business life cycles when launched. They may or may not necessarily occur in adjacent fields to the entrepreneur’s first business.

Not sure that I actually coined the term ‘Parallel Entrepreneur.’ But it sure seems to fit these women who simply cannot do only one thing at a time. I believe the innate ability of women to multitask helps explain our exceptional rate of parallel entrepreneurship. But one’s gender is no guarantee of success.

Perils and Promises

Parallel entrepreneurship offers some remarkable advantages, particularly if your businesses support and play off on one another.

Gina Ragsdale is a great case in point. Gina owns Southern Demolition & Environmental Company, who provide both commercial and residential demolition and asbestos abatement services. They also do ‘deconstruction,’ where they salvage items from the houses and other buildings as they demolish.Once well-established, Southern Demo’s experiences led to Gina’s second business: The Deconstructed House. It’s a wonderful store selling amazing architectural finds from some historic and not-so-historic buildings. It also led to a THIRD business, Vintage Bricks. Vintage Bricks sells architectural tiles made from recycled bricks from those buildings they demolished, and they sell all over the US.

See what GREAT sense this makes? It is truly impressive to watch Gina grow her businesses! She is leveraging all three amongst each other, and she started them sequentially in a way that made business sense.

Look Before You Leap

Others might attempt parallel entrepreneurship only to discover that their budding businesses need more time and attention as they launch than they are prepared to give. It can lead to wasted time, money, and growing frustration.

If you already find your attention span challenging, it may be unwise for you to head down this path of parallel entrepreneurship. Consider getting one of your businesses established with a positive cash flow and management continuity that can fund subsequent startups. A solid foothold in at least one business makes a lot more sense than launching #2 or #3 because you feel like it.

I love the energy and spirit of parallel entrepreneurs! They tend to be big consumers of support services rather than trying to do everything alone – very wise. But for my money, very, very few people are truly equipped to maneuver this successfully.

Before you start your second (or third, or fourth) business, stop first and seriously evaluate your strengths, abilities, and needs. Do you have the vision, discipline, support, and perseverance to add it to your plate?

Take the time to think it through ahead of embarking. If you have an advisor you trust to reflect with you, they may offer you different aspects to consider that don’t immediately occur to you. Remember…you don’t have to go it alone.

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