Finn was buckled safely into seat 11E, the middle seat, on my flight from Portland to Denver. His older brother, Ben, was seated by the window and I had the aisle.

The look on Finn’s face telegraphed that he had been hoping someone much younger and better looking would be sitting next to him on the plane, but he was gracious nonetheless.

No sooner had I carefully stowed my roll-on in the overhead bin and my backpack under the seat in front of me than Finn looked up at me and asked, “What’s your name?”

I’m not one who generally strikes up conversations with people on airplanes, but I was taken by his directness. I learned later in the flight that Finn would be entering the third grade the next day and Ben would be starting his freshman year in high school. Intrigued by his name, I asked if it was a family name or if it was short for something else. He told me it was short for Finny, but his friends call him Finn.

Finn was wearing his ball cap backwards with his headphones, plugged into his iPad, but he never missed a beat in our conversation. While Ben showed some concern for me by gently reminding Finn that he had just about used up his talking minutes — “He likes to talk a lot” — I found my conversation with this precocious eight-year-old charming.

At one point, Finn asked me what I did for a living. I told him I helped business owners make more money and have more fun and returned the question to him. That’s when he looked at me with surprise and responded to my question with, “I’m going to be in the third grade.”

“So what do you want to do when you grow up?” I asked him.

Without hesitation he responded, “When I grow up I’m going to invent a hover bike. You know, like a hover craft, but not one that hovers on air; one that hovers on magnetic fields.” He continued, “After that I’m going to invent a hover car so we can just fly around.”

It was impossible not to be touched by my young friend’s wide-eyed enthusiasm about his future inventions. Finn was living in a world of unlimited possibilities. Thank goodness he didn’t know what he didn’t know, and nobody had gotten to him yet about all the reasons why he couldn’t do as he intended.

Finn’s dreaming was unencumbered by discussions about design, the research and development capital required, potential markets or health and safety issues.

Finn’s dream was nothing but upside. The realities of life and the world of business will weigh in soon enough on Finn’s dream of his hover bike. Hopefully, they won’t crush my young dreamer in the process, causing him to lose his optimism, enthusiasm and I-can-do-anything-I-set-my-mind-to attitude.

Toward the end of the flight, I asked Finn what had taken him and his brother out to Oregon. He told me they had just spent a week visiting their grandfather.

I asked him if he had a good time, to which he replied, “Yeah, it was alright, but grandpa was grumpy.”

“Why do you suppose your grandpa was grumpy?” I asked.

Finn looked directly at me and said, matter-of-factly, “Because he’s old.”

Ouch. And I was really starting to like him!

Chuck Violand understands the unique challenges of small businesses, having owned a commercial cleaning and water damage mitigation company for 26 years. He founded Violand Management Associates (VMA) in 1987 as a consulting, teaching and training resource for owners of small businesses. To learn more about VMA’s services and programs, visit www.Violand.com or call (330)966-0700.