One CEO, two companies: Three chief execs juggling multiple companies

February 2, 2016
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Apple's legendary co-founder and top ideas man Steve Jobs/FILE
Apple’s legendary co-founder and top ideas man Steve Jobs/FILE

, Chief executives run a busy and tight schedule. 24 hours is hardly enough to balance the demands of the board and shareholders, have meetings with managers, while at the same time keeping an eye on the now and strategic future of the company. If running one company is hectic enough, imagine what it takes to run two equally demanding corporations.

Steve Jobs name is often bandied as the template of rock star multi-tasking CEOs. Jobs was for a long time running both Apple and Pixar before Disney bought Pixar in 2006. The iconic innovator bought the struggling animation film studio after he had dramatically left Apple, turning it around in a series of events that led Pixar issuing the biggest IPO in 1995.

Jobs would later head back to Apple as CEO and run the two companies for close to 10 years before Disney came knocking with a $7.4B offer to buy Pixar, allowing Jobs to focus on Apple, and making him the single biggest shareholder of Disney at the time.

But according to Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson, juggling the two roles was the worst time of his life. Shifting between the two companies took a toll on his family as he had no time or the energy to talk to his young kids and wife. As Job would later admit, this period was the genesis of his health issues that eventually took his life.

The risks aside, some executives consider running two companies concurrently the epitome of the corporate ladder while others are too driven by their energy, ideas and passion needed to direct their companies. The common thread that runs through these CEOs is that they work very hard, they value their time and have strong management skills. While there are many CEOs managing two companies or more, we look at three in the tech and the motor industry.

Elon Musk, CEO Tesla Motors and SpaceX

elon musk space x
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is rapidly staffing up with the best talent he can find – computer programmers /AFP

South-African born Musk is considered one of the greatest innovators and entrepreneurs of modern times. He is a founder or co-founder of at least five companies including SpaceX, Tesla Motors, PayPal, Zip2 and SolarCity. In between his roles as the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, and CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors, Musk is also the chair of SolarCity and OpenAI, while at the same time spearheading Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system concept.

The 44-year-old, who despite his insanely crazy schedule, finds time for his five sons and numerous media and conference engagements. Musk spends Mondays and Thursdays at his space exploration company while Tuesday and Wednesday are reserved for the car maker that aims to produce efficient and affordable electric cars. Friday is split between the two companies and other roles. 70 percent of his time is spent on product design, engineering, and strategy.

Surprisingly, for such a busy visionary, Musk starts his day at 7am and rarely goes past 9pm at the office. A mix of highly effective personal assistants, efficient time management and delegating helps Musk get work done. However, it has been reported he takes on lighter duties like emailing when spending time with his boys.

Jack Dorsey, CEO Twitter and Square

Jack Dorsey
On Monday, at both companies, I focus on management and running the company…Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is focused on marketing and communications and growth. /Forbes

Dorsey’s career journey almost mirrors Steve Jobs, an icon the Twitter and Square CEO considers a role model. Dorsey assumed the position of CEO at Twitter CEO after the Board brought him back to reassure investors. During his seven-year hiatus from an executive role at Twitter, Dorsey co-founded Square, a mobile digital payment platform, growing it to a $3.2B company as the CEO. In December 2015, Dorsey achieved the rare status of CEO of two public-listed companies.

The 38-year-old runs Twitter and Square on a 16-hour time-share method where mornings are spent at Twitter. He then walks across the street to Square in the afternoons in San Francisco. A strong management team in both companies helps Dorsey balance between the two roles. Dorsey is known for focusing in one area of the business per day in a week which allows him to keep track and keep up with double of every aspect i.e product development, HR, finances, marketing & communication etc.

Carlos Ghosn, CEO Nissan and Renault

Carlos Ghosn
As long as I’m heading Renault, I would like to propose that I continue to head Nissan because I think it’s good for Nissan to have the same CEO. It guarantees partnership, the same level of decision /Reuters, AFP

Ghosn is by all definitions, a global citizen. He is a citizen of Lebanon, France and Brazil, and has Nigerian roots. As the Chairman and CEO of Nissan, Chairman and CEO of Renault and Chairman of AvtoVAZ, Ghosn’s traverses between Japan, France and Russia to oversee three mega automakers in the Renault-Nissan Alliance vault (which he is the chair pf the Board).

Ghosn is highly regarded and respected in the automobile industry after turning around Nissan and Renault from loss making corporations to a combined $140B in sales in 2014. Ghosn’s schedule is so tight his diary is planned 15 months in advance and time distributed between the three companies and regional factories. Contrary to popular opinion, Ghosn does not multi-task and strictly sticks to the business at hand depending on where he is. For instance, he only deals with Nissan issues when in Japan and Renault when in France.

“I became CEO at 45, and I was working like a beast. You think, “So I work 15 or 16 hours a day; who cares?” But you can’t do that when you are 60 or 65,” Ghosn said in a 2012 interview with McKinsey.

“Now companies are more global, and so you have jet lag, you are tired, the food is different. You have to be disciplined about your schedule and about organizing everything. Physical discipline is crucial when it comes to food, exercise, and sleep. I live like a monk—well, maybe not a monk, but a Knight Templar. I wake at a certain hour and sleep at a certain hour. There are certain things I won’t do past a certain time.”

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