Transforming your multi-project startup into one focused company using efficiency, focus and determination to spark success
By Domingo Karsten September 28, 2016
Your first projects and businesses aren’t always an immediate hit. Which is why we like many others took on several projects and registered a multitude of domains. Eventually you come to filter out the unsuccessful and invaluable projects and direct your focus on the ones that bear greater potential.
At the beginning of my merger with my current business partner, we owned a portfolio of four major projects in which we invested a lot of time into and they were all successful in their own right but it quickly became clear to us that one stood out among the rest: our deals and coupons platform Saleduck. And this was the one that we wanted to nurture.
It eventually became clear that selling some of them would be our means of generating new funds and most importantly, it would allow us to focus our attention on Saleduck’s imminent expansion into Southeast Asia. Saleduck has now expanded into Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore.
Therefore we sold our insurance comparison website in 2014. We also got an attractive offer for our Dutch classifieds website of €42,000 towards the end of 2014. However, we still saw a lot of untapped potential for the site and and wound up turning down the offer. We figured that if we invested a little more time into it, we would be able to raise its value and sell it at a higher asking price but unfortunately, we never found the time to give it the attention it deserved. Ultimately, we paid the price for this as the offer dwindled down to €22,000 by the end of 2015. Today it is a lesson learnt but at that point in time, It felt like a blow to us as we knew that it was money and focus we could have better invested into Saleduck from the start.
The Theory of Focus
Many different viewpoints exist on how to manage multiple projects in a startup. Some belief that it is a good strategy for a young company to continuously work on multiple projects. In my experience however, I feel that projects will suffer from the lack of attention they get. When you take on a second project, you do not double your workload, you triple it. Switching between businesses cost more time, effort and money. There are multiple theories and arguments that support this opinion:
Multitasking is a myth. Research by the American Psychological Association showed that the human brain isn’t capable of focusing on two activities simultaneously and is forced to switch between the two quickly and frequently. This switching results in “Switching Costs”. These Switching Costs can lead up to a 40% loss of productivity. When working with multiple projects you are constantly readjusting your mind to adapt to both situations, however when you direct your efforts on one business, you are able to devote your utmost attention to it, making you more effective and efficient.
Focus for success. Influencer and world famous entrepreneur Richard Branson once said that it is important to start off with one successful business. Successful entrepreneurs often have one big project at a time. Some people will point out that there are plenty of other renowned entrepreneurs who manage multiple multimillion dollar businesses with equal success but the reality is that they likely started with one focused idea and developed it to its full capacity. The success you see today comes from having achieved enough scale within their organisation to enlist senior managers capable of overseeing and developing each individual venture.
Don’t unnecessarily lose on effort and resources. Even when you have to only supervise two projects, there is always that one project that you have to put ahead of the other. In our case, Saleduck became the project that we chose to prioritise. This is where you need to identify which is more important and then make your decision. Spending time on a project that has less priority can be counterproductive. Working towards one goal is more efficient and this will save you a lot of time, effort and in our case also a lot of money.
Biggest misconception: “Giving up on a project is a failure.” I’ve come to learn that knowing when to be selective and when to let go of something can actually be beneficial and in these instances, quitters actually do win! Steve Jobs once said “people think focus means saying ‘yes’ to the things you have to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying ‘no’ to the hundred other ideas that there are.”