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How to Run Multiple Businesses without Dropping the Ball

For our third installment of Stress Awareness Month content, we’re addressing another question many FBA sellers ask us: What’s your advice for how to operate multiple businesses? Whether you’re working a 9-to-5 job and running your Amazon business on the side, or you’re financially invested in several companies – multitasking can come at a cost.

Thrasio’s CEO Carlos Cashman is the master of juggling multiple ventures. As a self-described serial entrepreneur, Carlos can’t even give you an exact answer on how many ventures he’s involved in.

Here are Carlos’s 5 tips for handling several businesses and ventures (while still having a life).

1. Set boundaries

“I’ve always been good at the balance piece. In my 20s, I worked a lot, but I also partied a lot. As life goes on, you can’t keep that up. I’ve always kept it between 40 and 50 hours per week unless I have something big going on,” says Carlos.

According to Carlos, the mistake most entrepreneurs make is thinking they need to be working around the clock. Too many entrepreneurs bully themselves into working 100-hour weeks because that’s the story told out there in the media. Be careful what you pretend to be, for you may become that.

When it comes to setting meetings or working with a team, let people know what they can expect from you.

2. Maximize the time you do work (and then you won’t work so much)

When I was young, I had a friend who was the best at setting work boundaries. We moved to New York together to make a movie. Writing and directing that movie was this guy’s #1 priority. We both had day jobs at the same company.

My friend was clear upfront: he would do anything asked of him between 9 AM and 5 PM, but then he was out. He would do his assignments for the day, and then actually go to the boss and ask for more work. He would ASK for more work!  It was mind-blowing to many of us. But he knew his time was bounded, and while there, he was there to work.

Other people in the office (myself included) would goof off, take a break, read a book, play pong, or whatever, because we knew we were going to be there until 7 or 8 PM. That was what dedicated startup engineers did. But at 5 PM, my friend was gone for the day. And he got more done than most of us I think. Everyone respected that.

Exert your power. People respect strength and resolve especially when it comes from someone with tremendous drive.

3. Choose your schedule

Work will fill the space you give it. I’d be amazed if you could work more than 5 hours per day. Knowledge work is about output, not hours. There are a lot of studies that show this, actual creative, knowledge work can’t be done more than 4-5 hours a day.  You can work a bit more on administrative stuff, etc., but it’s not as high value.  Be sensitive to that.

Time management is not something you can handle passively. It has to be an active choice.

Tackle what’s important, and everything else will wait. If you give yourself a 16-hour workday, you will find a way to fill it. But not every minute of that day will be useful or effective. For some reason, we feel guilty if we don’t put in 8 hours, which most people recognize as an arbitrary metric that certainly doesn’t apply to the knowledge work that most of us do these days.

If you don’t have a 9 to 5 job, challenge yourself: schedule a 4- or 5-hour workday. Make that concentrated, productive time. The rest of the day cut yourself some slack. Take a walking meeting, spend time with your family—you’ll be amazed how little your business suffers.

If you realize administrative tasks are eating up a lot of this focus time, start making a list and consider hiring a VA to take those over.

4. Make sure you’re motivated by more than the bottom line

When asked what it’s like to run a business that’s such a success with all the recognition Thrasio has gotten, Carlos is unsurprisingly humble, “Everyone likes being in a winning locker room. But, if we only had 100 people working at Thrasio, we’d still be having a lot of fun. It’s no secret Thrasio has seen massive success, but recognition and this level of growth was never the only goal.”

Entrepreneurs have the luxury of doing what they like to do (most of the time). When you’re running a business, it helps to be building or selling something you believe in and to work with people you like. You’ll have significantly more success (and a broader personal definition of success) if you’re starting businesses that are interesting to you and as the business grows and becomes successful you can enjoy the people who have helped build it gain recognition and success as well.

Thrasio has a strict “no assholes” policy. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Carlos doesn’t believe anyone should have to work with jerks, regardless of seniority or longevity.

5. Don’t do what you don’t like

“I don’t like structure or schedule, but that’s just me. I like it to be more need-based and more fluid,” says Carlos.

Carlos himself is not a people manager. He doesn’t have direct reports. He’s a phenomenal motivator and leader. He coaches and mentors 4-5 other entrepreneurs that he meets with about every couple of weeks. But he doesn’t enjoy managing people directly.

Recognizing what you don’t like to do or may not be good at is one of the first steps to relieving the stress of owning a business. Entrepreneurs are naturally hard workers and DIY-ers, so it can be hard to let go of even small things like mowing the lawn. Hire a housekeeper and a landscaper. At a minimum, hire a VA to make your dentist appointments. You’ll make more money if you can focus on strategic planning.

“You can try to do everything yourself and save money by not hiring a business manager, or you can give up some portion of your income but free yourself to live whatever life you want – or maybe use that time to find ways to grow your business,” says Carlos, “I see too many entrepreneurs try to do everything themselves, and they never find the path to growth because they never have time to really think about it. Give up some of your income, hire someone to do a lot of your work, and then focus on growth if that’s what you want. Or focus on life, and living the way you want.”

FBA is a one-man band. It can be lonely and stressful. You may not be as stuck as you feel—buy back your time by hiring a good manager for $75-$150K per year.

When you’re scraping by, it’s hard to let go of the money. But if you’re making a healthy profit and paying yourself a real wage, never do any job that normally pays less than an hourly wage you’re making or would accept for yourself.  I.e. – if mowing your lawn can be done for $20/hour, and you’re making the equivalent of $100/hour, don’t you dare mow your own lawn.  Take the energy you save and grow your revenue.

If you’re on the verge of burnout, sell your business or hand it off

Time is your treasure. Hoard your time. You don’t get it back. Many of the companies we acquire come from entrepreneurs who just don’t have the same focus and drive they once did for their FBA business. According to an internal survey, about 20% of sellers are shifting their focus toward a new venture, and another ~9% are retiring altogether.

Carlos has bought and sold several businesses. As have several senior leaders at Thrasio, including Caleb Light and David Toledo. We know what it’s like to live with the stress of keeping the lights on.

For more on Stress Awareness Month, check out How Amazon FBA Sellers Stay Motivated and Who Should FBA Sellers & Entrepreneurs Hire First?

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