We don’t know who coined the term “Five-tool player,” but it has been a common phrase in baseball for many years. My suspicion is that it may have first been uttered by a sports writer for the Sporting News, a publication which has been publishing continuously since 1886. Its first use may have been to describe Big Ed Delahante, a superstar for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1890’s. The term has always been used to describe special baseball players such as Willie Mays, Duke Snyder, and for those of you who may not go back quite that far, Barry Bonds (San Francisco Giants) and Alex Rodriguez who continues to be an active player for the New York Yankees.
The term describes a player other than a pitcher who excels at all aspects of the game. Five-tool players are able to (1) hit for power, (2) hit for average, (3) possess great speed on the bases, are (4) solid fielders, and can (5) throw quickly and accurately.
It occurred to us that the most successful entrepreneurs are also Five-tool players. Sure, the tools of entrepreneurship are a bit different, but they still must be exceptionally talented and skilled in at least these five areas:
- Great knowledge – Successful entrepreneurs always seem to clearly understand the products or service that they sell and the markets into which the products or services are sold. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, the competitive landscape so that they can develop and sustain competitive advantages.
- Passion – While it is often said that successful people must lead balanced lifestyles, we often notice that the entrepreneurs we work with usually have amazing drive. They care deeply about customers, employees, and partners. They are intense, confident, highly motivated, and totally committed to their businesses. Oh, and very importantly, they love to sell.
- Ability to listen – What an absolutely critical quality for any entrepreneur! There is so much opportunity out there, but it is very easy to miss these chances if the human antenna is not totally engaged. As Stephen Covey wrote, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
- Winning attitude – The most successful entrepreneurs just know they are going to succeed. Not only that, they will not let anything stand in their way. This is a quality that employees can see, and so can customers. A winning attitude is not something that you express; it is something that you embody each and every day.
- Perseverance – Each of the four tools mentioned above must be employed in conjunction with the ability to withstand adversity. Let’s face it, business is brutal. Success is never easy, and every successful entrepreneur has the innate ability to withstand those daily problems and challenges and keep moving in the right direction.
Do you possess all five tools? Sometimes it’s hard to be honest with ourselves, so it may help if you ask those around you for their opinions. Once you’ve identified which tools you might be missing, you can develop a plan for self-improvement. That should get you well on your way to becoming a startup All Star.