An entrepreneur must make decisions about three key leadership positions in a company — what his role will be along with who will be the chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

“In my 25-plus years in the entrepreneurial community, I can pinpoint the lack of an A+ operations leader/COO as one of the most consistent mistakes an entrepreneurial CEO makes in his organization,” business growth coach and author Randy Nelson said during his keynote address at Nexstar’s Super Meeting Oct. 9 in Philadelphia. “Without someone to hold your people accountable, you are setting yourself up for failure.”

Nelson, a submarine officer in the U.S. Navy before entering private business, also emphasized the importance of hiring a CFO or financial manager.

“A real CFO understands the risks and the numbers, and will give you higher-level advice than a bookkeeper or controller,” he said.

Since most of his audience consisted of owners of independent plumbing, HVAC and electrical service companies, Nelson spent most of his time talking about entrepreneurial leaders. He differentiates between an entrepreneur who maintains the status quo and a Qualified Entrepreneur who possesses the vision, personal skills, perseverance, and nuts-and-bolts knowledge to create a three- to five-year business growth plan.

Owners can start the plan by answering a series of questions:

  • What is my current role and what is my desired role in the organization over the next three to five years?
  • If my board of directors fired me today, what three to five major decisions would the replacement CEO make in the next 12 months?
  • What are the top five industry trends over the next three to five years, and what moves are my competitors making to lead change in our industry?
  • What are my five key goals in my personal life over the next three to five years, and are they in sync with my business plan?

The record number of Nexstar members in attendance received more advice Oct. 10 from a second business growth coach and author, Jeff Hayzlett, who told them to ask themselves, “Why am I in the game?”

“I have three reasons: I want to build wealth for me and my family; I want to do something interesting; and I want to have fun,” he said.

Owners must create a culture of radical transparency and risk-taking where employees can speak up to identify an organization’s weaknesses. While companies should not change for the sake of change, they must adapt or die, Hayzlett said.

“Become the chief tension officer in your company,” he said. “Our job is to put tension into the system. With healthy debate, we get something that’s better.

“When you take a risk in business, and you fail, remember that no one died. Take the risk.”