If you start something, finish it.
As the president of a two year-old consulting firm, I'm constantly falling prey to my own enthusiasm. Since the inception of f. & co, we have constantly expanded the team, revenue, and (international) reach; all things that give depth and meaning to our collective endeavour.
But simultaneously, we have broadened the scope of what we do. With a handful of partners, we founded Creative Mornings Montreal. Then we put up cllbr.com. Then Failcamp. And many other ideas that are lying about, oftentimes in the back of my mind, atop of my head, and very often, as unfinished business plans and incomplete brand manifestos.
The biggest problem of having the freedom of being an entrepreneur is, very often, that very freedom. While I'm writing this blog post, I could be pursuing new clients. I could rewrite our website, or create a new slide deck to pitch C-Suite Executives that I could scout from LinkedIn.
Yet here I am, writing again.
What this points towards is the notion that burgeoning enterprises and the entrepreneurs behind them are in fact acting more and more like brand portfolio managers; whether developing horizontally like we have been, or vertically by adding new products and services with self-standing identities.
Moreover, products and services are increasingly internationalized from the get-go, meaning that entrepreneurs and managers must not only distinguish between several brands, but must consider how these brands will be constructed in the minds of various nationalities, ethnic groups and cultural geographies.
Such is the case of Nadim Salhani, a serial entrepreneur who spoke at Creative Bangkok 2014. After spending several years as General Managers for Starbucks in Thailand, Salhani became CEO of Mudman, an holding that operates several international brands from exclusive licenses: Dunkin Donuts, Au Bon Pain and Baskin Robbins among others.
Many cities around the world are populated by such activators. In Montreal, the sheer number (and the size!) of the projects led by an entrepreneur like Louis-Philippe Maurice is nothing short of astounding. Between his multimillion dollar startup Busbud, the early-stage venture fund Interaction Ventures, an informal community like Entrepreneurs Anonymous, the activation firm Credo, the coworking space La Gare, an accelerator like the Founder Institute, a regular column in La Presse, an event like La Tournée des Entrepreneurs, an involvement with Notman House.
And the list goes on…
Questions for wandering minds
Examples such as Salhani's and Maurice's beg the question: how do you know when to stop lateral expansion, horizontal exploration, diversification into new fields, new projects, new possibilities?
These days, as I weight the possibility of investing some time and energy in new business opportunities as diverse as an international speakers' bureau or an e-commerce initiative, I wonder; why do these things even appear feasible? And where does it stop?
Another stream of questions concerns the efficiency of a portfolio approach to entrepreneurship ; what if your brands are market rivals to one or another. Or more probable yet, what if they rival for your attention? How do you between chose then? Do you pick the most profitable? The most amusing? The most promising?
In a VC-backed setting, profit certainly isn't a criteria you'll want to aim for, as most firms are in fact losing money — and lots of it — on a monthly basis. In this universe, being cashflow positive signals early death. But amusement isn't much better. And promise? Too speculative for some.
With all the noise around VCs, incubators and accelerators, one thing seems certain: brands cannot live on their own, and no matter the size of your portfolio, you'll always need great people to feed them. Projects, communities, products and services are no longer conceived at the top and trickled down to those who benefit from them. Rather, those are build from the ground up.
A portfolio is only as strong as the ecosystem in which it exists. And for that purpose, proper relational curation is probably more important than any other set of ressources; material, financial or technological.