The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker….or a combination of all three?

Diversification has always been the name of the game in investing, but it’s also becoming the favored path of many small business owners. Instead of focusing on a single business as the solitary source of revenue, many solopreneurs and SMBs are running two, three, even ten different businesses at a time.

Here are a few ways to make sure you’re running your businesses and they’re not running you!

Know your number

Not everyone needs to run multiple businesses, and not everyone should be! If you’re considering juggling several separate entities, it’s a good idea to determine your limits before you begin.

To determine how many different businesses you should run at one time, complete the following exercise:

  1. Find a long list – it could be a grocery list, the cast list of a film, or any long list of items with which you’re not familiar.
  2. Give yourself exactly 10 seconds to study the list before looking away.
  3. Write down as many items from the list as you can remember.

How’d you do? Did you write down three, four, five items?

The number of items you remembered is the maximum number of businesses you should be running at any one time. It’s also the number of different projects your brain can juggle at one time – if your number is 4 and you’re constantly taking on 7 different projects, that could be the reason you’ve been so stressed out!

Choose complementary target markets

If one business sells Philly cheesesteaks and another sells vegan cookies, you won’t be able to do much cross-selling. Consider running businesses that complement each other and can be marketed to in similar ways. As you build email lists for both, you’ll be able to target customers from different lists with offers from both companies.

Create and fulfill needs

If Business A sells sneakers, Business B could sell shoelaces. If Business C sells jelly, Business D sells peanut butter. Each of your businesses can feed into the others, creating and fulfilling the needs of your customers.

Related businesses are also a great way to grow your company’s brand. For example, a coffee shop owner could start a company that makes scones. Those scones would first be offered in the coffee shop, then expand to grocery stores, where customers will become aware of and be driven back to the coffee shop.

Stick to a strict schedule

Stay organized by setting specific hours to attend to the needs of each of your companies. Just as you assign certain hours of the day to certain tasks within a single company, you should set aside certain times of day for each individual company.

You may find that Company A only needs a few hours of attention in the morning, while Company B requires the majority of your attention throughout the day. Stay focused by remaining strict with yourself and only attending to phone calls, emails and tasks for Company A during the allotted time.

Do you run more than one small biz? How do you handle it?