Dakota County businesses can hit home run at workshop

St. Paul Saints owner to speak about his hits and strike outs

Mike Veeck

In the event of a fire in the house, young Mike Veeck’s job was to grab a wooden box filled with napkins and matchbox covers and make sure he and it got out unharmed.

Why were his parents so concerned about a bunch of napkins and the matchboxes? It was what was written on them.

“Scribbled on them were the ideas that one day they were going to try,” said Veeck, who will be the keynote speaker during the “Tips for Small Business Success: Hitting a Home Run in Dakota County” workshop from 8 to 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at the Rosemount Community Center.

“They thought less in terms of money and ideas were revered in our house,” said Veeck, the son and grandson of legendary professional sports team owners.

As one of nine children, Veeck said he was encouraged by his parents to not be afraid to fail.

The president and owner of the St. Paul Saints baseball team has lived by that advice and will share his failures and successes during the workshop.

For Veeck, who is the author of “Fun Is Good: How to Create Joy & Passion in Your Workplace & Career,” there’s nothing better than a good time.

That is unless it involves too many explosives or mimes.

Veeck said that failures make for much funnier stories and help people learn more about how to run a small business or be an entrepreneur.

And it’s easier to learn from someone else’s mistakes.

Veeck is well-known for his involvement in promoting the 1979 Disco Demolition Night when a crate full of disco records was detonated in Comiskey Park – home of the Chicago White Sox that his father owned at the time – and a near-riot ensued.

He’s had some other strike outs in his time with the Saints, including having mimes act out “instant replays,” but he says the club doesn’t sell out every game for nothing.

“When you walk in to the park, the people who work there, they are having fun and games,” Veeck said on the phone from the airport this week. “When you see that, the people themselves start having fun, too.”

The St. Paul Saints experience is equal part baseball and sideshow. The sideshow has included a pig that brings baseballs to the umpire, a fan who is Velcroed to the outfield wall in hopes of catching a batted ball and the St. Paul Sieve hockey goalie squaring off against fans throwing baseballs his way.

Veeck said he sees the way he runs the Saints as the way people approach entrepreneurship.

“I try to get across that people need to take their work seriously but make it an environment that is a great place to work,” Veeck said.

He said business owners and managers can make changes that are structural in nature that don’t require money to improve their revenues.

Veeck is a highly sought after speaker for events like this because of his marketing strategies and what organizers tout as his engaging and entertaining style.

In addition to talking about his business experience, Veeck also will provide information about the Saints’ expansion into Dakota County with the Sports Academy in Lakeville and an update on St. Paul’s regional ballpark – the future new home of amateur and Saints baseball.

The event will include Craig Veurink, senior vice president and regional manager for US Bank Business Banking, talking about the business loan process, a panel discussion featuring local business owners and a resource fair.

The free workshop is being organized by Dakota County Community Development Agency, Dakota County cities and chambers of commerce.

Register by Oct. 18 online at www.dakotacda.org or call (651) 675-4432. The first 100 people to register will receive a copy of Veeck’s book.