What is a Qualified Entrepreneur – and How to Know If You Are One

By Randy H. Nelson

Jim Collins. When we hear his name we show our respect. He has written many best-selling and influential business books including Built to Last, Good to Great and Great by Choice. I love Jim’s books. I also have embraced his plea for those who truly want to succeed: Confront the brutal facts!

The reality is the majority of entrepreneurs around the world fail. But I know what you are thinking: That doesn’t apply to me because my company is successful. You are right, and my goal is to keep you that way for the long-term. You do that by becoming qualified – but what does that mean?

Prior to starting my 25+ year entrepreneurial career, I was a Navy Submarine Officer, serving as a qualified submariner. In the Navy you have to be qualified prior to be given the permission to operate in your field of expertise. Only after I had successfully completed the qualification program was I allowed to lead on the submarine. Makes perfect sense doesn’t it?

I know what you are saying – you don’t drive a nuclear submarine; you are the CEO of a company with a little less at stake. Really? Would your employees be okay if they thought you were not qualified to lead them to the entrepreneurial Promised Land? Brutal facts: Yes, we entrepreneurs have the guts to start our own businesses. We have the determination to work harder than most. But many of us are definitely not qualified.

I personally crossed the line between entrepreneur and qualified entrepreneur when I attended EO’s premier CEO learning program, Birthing of Giants (now named EMP – Entrepreneurial Master’s Program). I arrived at BOG with strong credentials, but I found out quickly how much I didn’t know I didn’t know, and it was not a small amount. BOG humbled, shocked and embarrassed me. After the first day, I had committed myself to raising my own game as an entrepreneur and a leader. I committed to becoming a qualified entrepreneur. Fast forward 15 years to the publishing of my best-selling book, “The Second Decision: the QUALIFIED Entrepreneur.”

Combining my Navy Submarine and entrepreneurial experience, I created the Entrepreneurial Qual Card, built around the top reasons companies either fail or under-perform. Imagine that you had an oral examination in front of your Board of Directors. Imagine them peppering you with questions meant to test your knowledge and capabilities to lead your own organization for the next 3-5 years? Would you pass with flying colors?

Brutal fact: The growth of a company is limited by the growth of its leader.

I challenge you to look where you are currently at as just the starting line. How much more can you grow? Where could your company go if you were indeed a qualified entrepreneur? In order to become a qualified entrepreneur, I suggest taking the following initial steps:

1.The entrepreneur becomes fully self-aware that they don’t know what they don’t know. This self-knowledge makes clear how the entrepreneur’s shortcomings may be affecting his or her company, and usually results in a commitment to a life-long learning process.

2.The entrepreneur becomes aware that a transition must occur from the business being about “me” as its entrepreneur/CEO to the business being about the company’s needs.

3.The entrepreneur commits to making the Second Decision. This is a conscious choice to acquire a more disciplined approach to management and leadership – or to bring that discipline to the company in another way. The qualified entrepreneur knows that it’s less important how his or her role is shaped than that the company succeeds.

My goal is to help you confront the brutal facts and to significantly raise your self-awareness. You be the judge of yourself as to whether you have improvements to make. Ultimately, I hope you  join me in the ranks of qualified, global entrepreneurs.

Randy H. Nelson is a serial entrepreneur, executive coach and mentor, public speaker and best-selling author. Randy was a founding member of EO Raleigh-Durham in 1998 and remains an active EO member. Randy is working on his next book in The Decision Series for Entrepreneurs™, “The Third Decision.”

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