Don’t leave before you leave. It’s a piece of advice that gets offered to a lot of people: women planning to take maternity leave, interns only in the office for a specific piece of time, people hunting for their next job.
It’s the concept that if you’re already planning on something further out, you’re prone to take your attention away from the work you’re supposed to be doing now. It can cause a lot of problems if you’re employed, but it’s an even bigger danger if you’re an entrepreneur.
Serial Entrepreneurs Have Attention Span Issues
Speaking as someone who tends to have multiple plates spinning at once and who has pursued new business projects both in serial and in parallel, I have some attention span issues. I’m not the only one. Good serial entrepreneurs have to be able to walk away from a project they’ve poured their hearts and souls into at some point and that means that we have to not want to work on that project anymore. It’s healthy, but it also presents the biggest danger a serial entrepreneur can face.
Disengaging from your current venture before it’s ready to fly on its own is a good way to wind up with a series of failed businesses. Whether you’re planning to turn a given project over to a manager or you’re exiting from that project entirely, you need to pay it full attention right up until the moment you can turn it loose. Leaving before you leave, perhaps by splitting your attention between an existing business and an opportunity that is just beginning to present itself, is crippling to a company.
It doesn’t help matters that splitting your focus like that may frustrate you: rather than just buckling down and getting everything done, you may wind up kicking around because you really want to work on the newer, shinier project, but you’re not able to get away from your last project as quickly as you want to.
Create Barriers Between Your Projects
Some of the most successful serial entrepreneurs speak about a cyclical approach. While Richard Heckmann isn’t a tech entrepreneur, he may be the classic example of how to create business after business correctly. He works on building a company until there’s a clear reason to get out — either a specific offer to exit that makes sense, signs that the stock market it about to have problems or something along those lines — and then he cashes out entirely. It’s only once he’s out of the game that he starts looking for the next project. Heckmann keeps busy in between, with philanthropy and government work on the side.
That cyclical approach works just as well with tech companies. The only requirement is that you look for exits that give you a little room to relax, rest up from the crazy schedule that goes with a brand new business, and then find the next new thing.
Image by Flickr user John Trainor