Whether to stick to one source of income or to have multiple streams of income is a huge debate being held amongst experts in the business world. The big question is, who is right?
I actually did an article and a video entitled “Diversifying has destroyed many Startups” check it out on my page. On account of the many questions and quarries I have decided to do another one and I will have this topic tabled during my May Country Tour, I hope you have secured your ticket.
Allow me to run you through a few definitions of what people mean when they say multiple streams of income.
- Some suggest that it is having 5 to 10 different sources of income so that when one fails you can leverage on the others.
- Others suggest that it is having a job while hitting on side businesses or hustles.
- Others further suggest that it is having a business that does not depend on one client to cover 50% of its revenue. Rather, multiple client accounts should exist within the company to guarantee multiple streams of income.
Before I give my opinion on this matter, the argument is whether one should Generalise or Specialize. The real issue lies on Generalisation or Specialisation. Note that the highest paid professionals are those that are specialized in a particular field as an example Specialised Medical Doctors earn way more than Genaral Doctors. The most expensive Hospitals are those which are specialized. Most business coaches might suggest to diversify but the reality is that those coaches have probably never built a big business themselves.
Andrew Carnegie is the richest man that ever lived in America. His business was sold for $480 million at the beginning of 1900s, in today’s value it would be equivalent to an outstanding $430 billion, which is four times the world’s wealthiest man who is Jeff Bezos valued at $110 billion. Carnegie once said, “Put all your eggs into one basket, just make sure you watch over your basket.” The biggest question is why unlike today’s experts did the richest man in America decide not to diversify?
In addition to that question, give an example of one billionaire who started out with a diversified portfolio? Bill Gates was Microsoft only, Mark Zuckerberg was Facebook only, Jack Ma Alibaba only and Jeff Bezos was Amazon only. They only diversified after their businesses had grown extremely big such that the business did not need them anymore. Most of our celebrated entrepreneurs locally also started with specialized businesses like Mikalile who specialized in furniture only and later diversified to Hospitality after growing big.
I remember the first company started by my two friends and I called Gladtidings Software Ltd. The company had one product which was a School management system called Gladtidings E-School and this was the only product we marketed. It will surprise you to note that from this one product we raised enough income such that I was able to start my Transport business. We grew reasonably big to a point where Gladtidings E-School is still the most used School Management System in Zambia up to date.
Before you choose which definition of multiple streams of income you want to put into action in your life, ask yourself, will this cause me to generalize or specialize?
The challenge and mistake most people make in their quest for multiple streams of income is that they get involved in many small mediocre things that do not lead to meaningful wealth. You find that one starts to deal in auto spares, farming, construction and IT at the same time. Since every business is like a baby, it requires a lot of time and attention to nature before it can grow to a point of supporting itself. The same way it would be difficult to take care of five babes at the same time is the same way it would be difficult to start five businesses at the same time. Note that it is difficult to raise five babes at the same time but I know families that have raised ten children with ease simply because they were spaced and attention was given to one at a time especially during the early months. I normally feel pity when one says I have started three businesses or when one says I am a general dealer, in fact, I don’t trust the service offering of general dealers. When you find a course of action pursue it to the core, specialize and make it so big such that it becomes your identity. Once it has grown and is stable, you can consider starting out in something else as the earlier engagement grows under the management of others.
My challenge to you is to let the generalizers try and cover everything without specializing in one thing. Let them generalize, let them deal in rice, cement, diapers and whatever else. The duty of the Radical entrepreneur is to offer guidance. My personal advice to you is that you need to decide when to go all out and have multiple streams of income. First, build your business and achieve that high level of income, then when you have a lot of cash in your business, you can diversify into multiple streams of income. If you want to have ten businesses.
What matters is what stage of your career you are at. Build your business first and get those victories, then gain multiple streams of income outside of your business. Specialize first.
By Dumisani Ncube
Founder/Group Chairman, DLN Group