You can sign up to our LinkedIn newsletter here

Can I only be a Portfolio Executive? Or can I have a richer portfolio than that?

As I continue to work with people building up their Portfolio Executive Workstyle, I am finding an increasing trend that people want to mix it up a bit. They want to do some other ‘stuff’ and this seems to be driven by two desires.

More money now!

The first one is short-term economic gain. Although they absolutely buy into the power of a portfolio executive workstyle, they are not building up their portfolio clients at the pace they would like and so to supplement their portfolio income they will do other stuff. It might be short-term consulting or part-time interim assignments, maybe doing short contracts.

In itself, those are not bad things. The penalty you pay for doing this is slowing the development of your portfolio executive portfolio.  The risk is that if you do not set aside enough time to continue to do business development it will ultimately undermine your portfolio.

So, if, for example, you have a three day a week interim assignment, and two portfolio executive clients that are taking a day a week each then that might meet your short-term financial objectives, but it will prevent you developing your portfolio executive portfolio. You will have no time for business development.

I want to launch a business start-up now!

There is another thing I am seeing, which is people saying that they love the portfolio executive workstyle, but that they have always wanted to start their own business as well. They are trying to sit on two horses at once. They intend to build a portfolio executive portfolio of part-time senior executive roles, but they also want to invest time in a business start-up.   I think these two things are fundamentally incompatible until your portfolio executive portfolio is mature. You need a core set of clients and you can reliably build and replace clients.

Not yet?

The reason I believe this is that a start-up business requires three significant things that I believe will undermine your portfolio executive workstyle development if you do them too soon.

  1. Focus. You need to put energy into building a start-up. They do not just happen.
  2. Cash. Start-up businesses consume cash. They will always require money.
  3. Team. You are going to need to build a team and all of that time working your team to establish your start-up is going to create drain on your time.

When the time is right.

Does that mean that a start-up is out of the question?  Not at all!  Make sure that your core business, your core portfolio executive workstyle is really working.  Then when you get involved in the start-up be very careful about where you sit within that start-up structure.  If you are going to be the sole founder and the driving force for everything, I suggest it will be very difficult for you to sustain your portfolio executive workstyle.  On the other hand, you can be an advisor, chairman or co-founder for the start-up.  You may have shares, or be a director, but you are not expected to take on the majority of the work.  You can have a really interesting and enjoyable time. 

You will have to set very clear expectations about the total amount of time you can give to the start-up and, as it grows, the temptation will be for you to invest more and more time in it.  This is a high risk strategy for your portfolio workstyle and you will want to consider very carefully whether the excitement of the start-up and the promise of a different future that this offers you, is really compatible with the portfolio workstyle that gives you freedom, joy and reward that is sustainable over the long-term.


Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.