Outside Consultant: What Does it Take to Successfully Run Two Organizations Simultaneously?

This "Outside Consultant" column by Joel Johnson, University of St. Thomas women's head hockey coach, ran in the Star Tribune on April 11, 2022.

Numerous high-profile executives have run organizations at the same time – think Elon Musk (Tesla/SpaceX), Jack Dorsey (Twitter/Square) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon/Blue Origin). Most of us will never be as well-resourced as those names, but there are certainly lessons we can take from them no matter how big or small our businesses or organizations may be. Here are some of those lessons I put to use while preparing the U.S women’s hockey team for the Winter Olympics while simultaneously building the University of St. Thomas women’s program.

First, hire great people. More than that, avoid the temptation to micromanage, as your time is limited. Have confidence in your team to delegate and let go.

Next, don’t allow either organization to consume your life. For those with a spouse or kids, the opportunity needs to be at the right time; you need the support network of loved ones to make it work. If there isn’t a healthy balance between the professional and personal side, there’s a possibility of not succeeding in either.

Third, be where your feet are. Practice mindfulness; you need to be present both physically and mentally. While there certainly are going to be distractions, I struggled the most when my mind was not where my feet were.

Another important factor to success is keystone habits. Those have a trickle-down effect on one’s day. Start your day by reading a devotional, a leadership book or the Bible. Get exercise. Listen to an encouraging podcast or music. Follow your keystone habits, and your day will go better.

Finally, learn to say “no.” Really good leaders say “no” often. They know when they can’t serve on another board or they might have to decline to participate in a hobby they love.

Musk, Dorsey and Bezos have a passion for doing two things. They have figured out the implementation, but their success started with their passion. While Tesla and SpaceX may be different companies, Musk’s innovation and out-of-the-box thinking drives both of those companies. 

In addition to that passion, you need to believe that you can do it. For the people who run two companies successfully, there’s not a question of, “Should I do it?” It’s, “I can’t wait to do it.”

Joel Johnson is the University of St. Thomas women’s hockey head coach and was the head coach of the U.S. women’s hockey team at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.