With more startup businesses closing every year in America, we ask ourselves, “What is the difference between a successful company and a failure?” Half of today’s private sector businesses go out of business within the first five years, and nearly 70 percent close within the first ten years. We must do better! More businesses are dying each year than are being born. Why? The answer to that question lies in the qualifications of the entrepreneur. Here are five essential traits of a Qualified Entrepreneur that can help change the success rate of startup businesses.
The first part of becoming a Qualified Entrepreneur is understanding what it takes to be a Disciplined Entrepreneur. It is important to be disciplined within yourself to help move your organization forward and to produce good leadership decisions within a managerial team. A Disciplined Entrepreneur is someone who becomes fully self-aware that they don’t know what they don’t know and that it’s better to achieve a status of “I know what I don’t know.” This self-knowledge makes it clear how the entrepreneur’s shortcomings may be affecting his or her company, and thus, helps the entrepreneur make better decisions for the long run. The Disciplined Entrepreneur understands that for the business to succeed in the long term, a transition must occur from the business being about “me” as its entrepreneur/CEO to being about the overall needs of the company. The Disciplined Entrepreneur commits to undertaking the preparation necessary for 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 Disciplined Entrepreneur knows that it’s less important how his or her role is shaped than that the company excels and succeeds. We need discipline to stick to a vision, work a plan and avoid the “heck, why not?” decisions that come from welcoming any and all opportunities, even great ships run aground.
Leadership is a vital component of a Qualified Entrepreneur in a successful business. To help a business succeed, it is important that the entrepreneur understands that leadership within a company entails knowing your responsibilities and role and knowing when to share or even delegate responsibilities. As the leader, you could be the founder, the owner, the operator or even the captain of the ship, if you will. Regardless of the title, this is the Qualified Entrepreneur who, at any stage of the company’s growth, wants to self-qualify as CEO. He or she has the capabilities and is willing to commit to the work and learning necessary to lead the company. If the Qualified Entrepreneur feels that they are not CEO material, as a leader he or she understands how to put the right people in the right seats to support a vision. As the leader, the Qualified Entrepreneur, and/or the executive team, is charged with instilling discipline throughout the organization as well as making their own consistent and disciplined leadership decisions.
To become a Qualified Entrepreneur, you have to ask yourself, “Am I the right person to lead the organization to succeed or is there someone better than me?” This component of a Qualified Entrepreneur means you have to take into consideration your own needs and desires and the needs and desires of the company. It’s about the self-awareness journey through which you evaluate your skills and interests in each key aspect of managing a growth company. Self-help author Stephen R. Covey advocates for self-awareness and defines it as “the ability to reflect on one’s own life, grow in self-knowledge, and to use that knowledge to improve oneself and either overcome or compensate for weaknesses.” Self-awareness helps us understand if we are meeting the first two essential traits of a Qualified Entrepreneur: discipline and leadership.
4. Understanding of issues and challenges
A Qualified Entrepreneur understands that issues and challenges will come up within the company’s life cycle. To lead a successful business, the entrepreneur fully understands and acknowledges the four issues that may pose a challenge to his or her efforts to become a Qualified Entrepreneur. These issues and challenges that entrepreneurs might face, include insistence on autonomy; unwillingness to build structure, cultivate expertise, or delegate; boredom; and failure to engage in self-examination.
One of the most important parts of becoming a Qualified Entrepreneur with a successful business is knowing how to do self-performance reviews. Isn’t it ironic that we entrepreneurs are so good at holding other people accountable as we grow, and demanding great performance from them to help us grow, yet we don’t do performance reviews on ourselves? I firmly believe that my book’s program of leadership and managerial self-assessment will help to reduce the failure rate of entrepreneurial companies in this nation. Borrowing from the US Navy’s “Qual Card” certification system, I’ve created an entrepreneur’s own certification system checklist to help entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial CEOs self-assess and develop skills to be ready for the demands of leading the larger, more complex companies that begin growing immediately post-startup. Part of this self-assessment includes taking note of the growth phase of a company based on the Greiner Curve, truly understanding what challenges go along with the current phase of the company life-cycle you are operating in, while gaining insight into what challenges the next phase will bring.. A Qualified Entrepreneur must ask himself/herself if they are indeed the right person to lead the company for the next 3-5 years? For more information on the Qual Card and “The Second Decision: the Qualified Entrepreneur,” visit http://randyhnelson.com/book/.
-Randy H. Nelson