Embracing career-long learning is a key component of improved performance and reduced failure rate as an entrepreneur. That is why continued learning throughout our lives is so important to building a successful business and becoming a Qualified Entrepreneur.
Part of being a leader for your business means you are willing to commit to the work and learning necessary to lead the company, as well as to put the right people in the right seats to support your vision for the company. With this in mind, it is important to never make the same mistake twice. Learning from past mistakes is critical. I know I have plenty of mistakes left in me, just hopefully not the ones I have made in the past! Jim Buck, a former Army officer, Fellow Entrepreneurs’ Organization participant and a friend, once said, “Smart men learn from their mistakes. Wise men learn from others.’”
Here’s how I see the situation in the corporate world of today with its many complexities, it’s school or “be schooled.” If you are not attending classes, learning from your peers, and studying to master the craft of being a Qualified Entrepreneur, then watch out because those around you are, and they will soon surpass you in all the ways that matter. Career-long learning means you are learning beyond your initial schooling and training. It consists of everything from learning on the job (OJT) to learning from a mentor to continued learning even once you’ve reached the height of your career. Just like athletes work on form, physiology, and kinesthetic knowledge their entire careers and surgeons devote time each year to continue their education, so should you! Any professional works continually to improve. Each of us has to work to “up our game,” because standing still means falling behind.
When it comes to entrepreneurs and the corporate world, I like to think of this career-long learning process as an Entrepreneurial Education Timeline. This timeline starts with becoming a “Disciplined Entrepreneur” and transitioning from the “I don’t know what I don’t know leader to the “I know what you don’t know” leader. That self knowledge makes it clear for you to see how your shortcomings may be affecting your company and this usually results in a commitment to a career-long learning process and finding ways to continually improve.
Beyond this initial learning process as an entrepreneur comes a point where it’s necessary to become more involved in groups and organizations with other entrepreneurs and CEOs. Joining organizations, such as Entrepreneurs’ Organization and Vistage, allows you to work alongside other entrepreneurs and CEOs and share common issues and concerns. This provided me focused and dedicated CEO “think time” so that I could constantly learn how to improve my companies even through the ups and the downs of the economy. I was able to improve my own personal capacity as a leader and help other’s develop their capacities by joining entrepreneur related groups and organizations.
Another aspect of continued learning once you’ve already become a successful entrepreneur involves finding personal coaches and mentors to look up to as you manage your company. One of the most important outcomes of this educational journey for me was learning to surround myself with people who would tell me what I needed to hear instead of what they thought I wanted to hear.
Sometimes to consistently improve performance as an entrepreneur, we need continued education. I have attended the EO London Business School in March of this year with 70 other global entrepreneurs to do just that. My learning continues even after building and selling two companies…that is what career-long learning truly means!
Abraham Lincoln once said, “I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” No matter how you continue to learn, in order to become a successful Qualified Entrepreneur we need to remember to make career-long learning a priority and always strive to continually improve our performance as entrepreneurs.
-Randy H. Nelson