This is going to sound a little harsh, but I can pretty much tell whether you’re going to succeed as a business person within five minutes of meeting you. I learned this from Little League baseball.

For years, I coached both of my two sons’ Little League baseball teams. I’m a good ballplayer and have been since I was a kid. Never, ever good enough to play at a college or pro level because I’m way too small. But, I’ve always been athletic and fortunate enough to have some innate hand-eye coordination skills that help me track a fly ball, pick-up a ground ball and hit a ball pretty well. My two sons, also cursed with my physical stature, were never going to play pro ball. But they were always pretty good too, and I loved coaching them.

When I coached Little League, we had annual tryouts. During the course of a day, I would evaluate about 30-50 kids ranging in age from 8-12 years old. I’m not a professional scout and would be terrible evaluating players at that level. But give me five minutes with a kid and I can immediately tell if they’re a player or not.  All I have to do is have a five-minute catch. Literally, that’s it.

There’s just something about the way they move to a ball, the way they catch, the way they throw. There’s a natural fluidity, an ease of motion, a physical prowess, that for me is obvious to spot. Sure, there are plenty of Little Leaguers that don’t have these innate abilities – they’re a little more awkward and not as relaxed. Many of them play just fine and have a good time. But it’s the ones that do have these qualities that shine. For me, they’re easy to spot. I know they’ll have a better chance of succeeding. “Yeah,” I think to myself. “That kid can play.”

It’s the same for someone starting up a business. I’m not a professional venture capitalist and would be a terrible investor. But, like a Little League tryout, give me five minutes with a person who wants to start up a business and I can tell if they’re a player or not. There’s just something about their attitude, the way they talk, their outlook and their commitment. There’s no romance or naiveté about being an “entrepreneur.” There’s practicality. A need to make money.  A slight desperation. Like the Little Leaguer born with natural abilities, the would-be business person has an innate understanding of making money and not only knows how to buy something for a buck and sell it for three – but intends to sell it for four. Of course, they have passion and commitment. But for them, it’s not about the product or service they want to sell. It’s about the empire they plan to build around it. Sure, there are plenty of startup entrepreneurs who don’t have these innate abilities – and many of them do fine in business. But it’s the ones that do have these qualities that really succeed. For me, they’re easy to spot. I know they’ll have a better chance of making it.

“Yeah,” I think to myself. “This person’s going to make some money.”

Are you this person? Have you been buying or selling since you were a kid? Have you always had a little business going as long as you can remember? Do you always look at things and wonder how much they cost? Do you frequently ask yourself how much money that guy’s making whenever you meet that guy? Do you think in millions instead of just thousands? Do you enjoy – truly enjoy – negotiating, dealing with people, working with numbers? Most importantly – if you think of something you can sell that will make you money regardless of how cool, sexy, hip or techy it is, does it still excite you? Yeah, you got it. You can play ball too.

Join writer and small business owner Gene Marks each Wednesday on the Small Biz Ahead podcast. You can submit a question for Gene to answer on the podcast.

5 Responses to “I Can Tell If You’re Going to be a Great Small Business Owner… And Here’s How”

  1. Hello my name is Juan.
    I’m currently working in a auto mechanic shop, I don’t have much experience on this type of business but enough to know that this is one the most important industries right now and there’s money. How I said said I’m currently employed but I really would like to have my own small auto repair shop. Thanks. I will appreciate any comment.

  2. You may want to read my book: “While the Nation Slept,” that looks in depth at the struggles of small innovative businesses. The book also traces the origins and struggles of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which is designed to assist theses small firms, but which has also struggled to survive. The book is available from Amazon, or the publisher’s web site (Mascot Books).

  3. It’s clear to me that this really applies to what might be called a retail entrepreneur. I am more a service – type entrepreneur, mainly specializing in training. I wonder how to could make these ideas apply in my case.

  4. Hi my name is. Al

    Hello, to whom it may concern
    I have been in the haberdashery business for over 25 years and I recently just retired. Sold the business so the building, I am interested in a new type of business but I’m just not sure what it is I want to do at this juncture in my life. Any comments that you may have that could help me figure out what it is that I’d like to do would greatly be appreciated. Thanks

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