By Travis Steffen, a serial founder with seven exits, CEO of GrowFlow, and bestselling author of Viral Hero. Follow @TravisSteffen on Instagram.
For most of the first decade of my entrepreneurial career, I was the side-hustle master. I juggled multiple projects and had several modest exits in a row. However, I was never able to have that one massive win that most entrepreneurs dream of.
Years later, I realized I was doing too much. My side hustles were preventing me from winning bigger. After realizing this, I became an advocate for axing side hustles from my life.
Here are 10 reasons.
1. ‘A Mile Wide And An Inch Deep’
By devoting all the time in your day to one thing, you’re going a lot deeper into that thing. You’re also choosing not to focus on everything else. Remember, every decision you make has an opportunity cost.
This opportunity cost was difficult for me to stomach when I was an entrepreneur in my twenties. The hubris I developed as a result of my early success led me to believe I could do several things at once and none of it would suffer. I eventually realized that opportunity cost is the price of greater success — and one I will gladly pay.
2. ‘Flywheel’ Blindness
Jim Collins teaches this sort of thing in his books. In essence, Jim Collins’ “flywheel effect” refers to a single action that makes everything else better, faster. The commitment to the right thing builds momentum that continues to grow.
An interesting side effect to loading up my plate with side hustles was I was less aware of what our flywheel should have been for each venture I was involved in. Instead, as soon as my work was done on one thing, I shifted my focus to another project. I didn’t give myself time to think, explore, research or kick around ideas.
3. The Wrong Side Of The Snowball Effect
If you’ve ever found yourself visibly succeeding at anything, you’ll have likely experienced something many call the snowball effect: Build momentum in a certain direction, and a number of other things begin to come your way.
What I didn’t realize then was that large-scale success doesn’t come from the volume of opportunities you have access to, but how deeply you can take advantage of the small number of the ones that align with your goals.
4. Limiting Your Time Learning
“Do you feel like you’re the best CEO you could possibly be?” I asked this of a CEO I worked with years ago who was a notorious side-hustler. He looked at me, puzzled. “Well, of course not. I can always be better.” Expecting this answer, I said, “So how much time are you spending learning to become a better CEO?”
Rather than jumping straight from your task list in your primary company to the task list in your side hustle, devote some (or all) of that time learning as much as you possibly can on how to become better in your role. Make notes. Implement them.
5. Limiting Your Time To Recharge
There’s a lot of “educational content” floating around about what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. Too much of it is centered around the idea that you have to work yourself to the bone with 18-hour days for years on end, because that’s “the hustle.”
Here’s the thing. You’re a human being, which means you have a human body and a human brain. Both of those things need to be cared for regularly in order to keep them both functioning at peak levels. Loading your plate with side hustles can hinder these efforts.
6. Diversification Isn’t Always The Fastest Way To Succeed
I’ve heard founders play devil’s advocate to my newfound stance on eliminating side hustles by saying they’re “diversifying.” In the investment world, a sound investment portfolio is diversified across several companies and sectors.
Many founders will still argue that most companies fail, so starting a few of them might help ensure that one of theirs will work out. I would counter this by saying that the lack of depth in focus, not random market factors outside of your control, is often a root cause of this failure.
7. Losing Team Buy-In
If your team doesn’t feel like you’re all in, they won’t be either. As a leader, your team will look to you for more than you might realize. If you’re asking commitment and focus from them, failing to follow this same example will make it more difficult for them to deliver on this.
8. Investors Will Shy Away
I’ve had hundreds of conversations with investors and partners across several companies I’ve built. As somebody who almost always had side hustles while raising investment capital for my primary ventures, I always got questions about my commitment. After all, why would an investor trust you with their cash if they didn’t think you were 100% committed to generating a return for them? If investors have reason to doubt that you’ll be focused, you’ll see the conversation end before it even begins.
9. Losing Your Competitive Edge
Competitors didn’t only compete with you on things like price, features, headcount, customer service or positioning. They also compete with you on the depth and quality of focus that your team grants to your company’s growth. By splitting my focus across various projects most of the time, I provided an advantage to competitors who had the discipline to focus solely on one goal.
10. The Curse Of A Branch To Swing To
When I had multiple projects going on at once, my focus would often fluctuate between which business had the most high-dollar, short-term opportunities in play. What’s more, when times got rougher for one company, I found that I was more likely to place my focus on the other company that wasn’t struggling. It’s impossible to say whether this was always a mistake, but I do know there are numerous anecdotes from entrepreneurs who found success soon after their business was about to fail.