“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky (legendary hockey player who holds numerous NHL records, including most career goals and points scored)

Inc. magazine just came out with its yearly issue on the fastest-growing small companies. Looking over the list, you have to be impressed with the variety of businesses that are alive and thriving in America.

The No.1 company, which grew from $200,000 in 1996 to $60 million last year, sells and services routers, switches, and communication servers. The third-ranked company sells commercial equipment. Another provides tax services. Also high on the list are companies that sell professional cleaning products, insurance, adult-care services, software, computer hardware, telecommunication services, waste management, and IT staffing services.

At any party in Boca Raton, Florida, you’ll meet wealthy men retired from the oddest businesses. One guy I know manufactured those brushes that are inside glue jars. Another imported sunglasses from Asia. Another imported and sold oversized bronze statues from the Philippines. These are not real-estate, oil, or software barons, but they are all very rich.

All over the country, thousands of obscure businesses are operating out of anonymous warehouses, employing hundreds of thousands of people, and quietly making their owners millions of dollars.

That doesn’t mean that any business has the potential to make a lot of money. There are plenty of businesses — and some popular and high-profile ones fall into this category — that have all the cards stacked against them when it comes to earnings.

I’ve been coaching a former employee who just turned 40 and has decided to start his own business and make a million dollars. He’s ambitious and hardworking. He sets goals, follows tasks, networks, etc.

Everything he’s tried up to now has failed — but not because of anything he’s failed to do or has done wrong. The problem, at least from my perspective, is that he’s selected the wrong businesses.

There is a very simple way to determine whether any particular business has the potential to make you rich. Look around at the owners of similar businesses. If they have been in business for seven years or more and are still driving used cars and living in small houses or apartments, it’s probably the wrong business.

(Note: Most “fun” businesses are not lucrative. I’m thinking of travel, publishing, restaurants, nightclubs, and almost any sort of entertainment. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are few and far between.)

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