Randy Nelson Headshot

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For 20+ years, U.S. Navy veteran Randy Nelson founded and ran businesses that put tens of thousands of former military men and women to work after service. 

But during that time, he also developed a theory about entrepreneurship—that choosing to be an entrepreneur is only the first big decision for a company. The second and more critical decision is to determine what role you'll play in your company's future. Then, build a plan to make your company successful regardless of it. 

After selling his last company, Clayton, NC-based NSTAR Global Services, and working for its new German owner, Nelson left in 2014 to coach entrepreneurs, dedicate time to organizations like the local chapters of EO and Vistage International and the Shelton Leadership Center at NC State University and launch a book series about his learnings and observations in business. The first book in The Decision Series for Entrepreneurs debuted in February. He talks about the book (called The Second Decision), his new career as an author and coach and his lessons learned in the military and while building companies in our latest Founders Series interview below.

Credit: Ryan Timms

From my own perspective leading an organization, I can promise this book might rock your world as a CEO or founder. For me, it's shed light on the inefficiencies and challenges of handling both strategy and implementation at a business, while peppering in plenty of resources Nelson has used in his career to become a more effective leader. 

At the end of each chapter, he offers a checklist or "Qual Card' (a throwback to his days commanding a submarine) for self evaluation. By the end of the book, he hopes the reader will feel equipped and confident to make that second decision and to set a three-to-five year plan for the role. He also gears up for The Third Decision—helping entrepreneurs balance their personal lives with their professional goals—coming to Amazon.com soon.

Nelson has an impressive resume—starting his first company Orion International as a 20-something Navy veteran and NSTAR just a few years later. Both sold for undisclosed sums of money to major corporations and are still operating and employing dozens of people in the Triangle today. 

Local fans of the book (those who took the time to read and write reviews) include NC State Entrepreneurship Initiative Director and Vice Provost Tom Miller and Associate Vice Chancellor Benny Suggs, iContact and BoostSuite founder Aaron Houghton, Atlantic BT CEO Jon Jordan and Chris Ng Cashin of Thundershirt. General Hugh Shelton wrote the book's forward.

Enjoy the interview, and read along here.