4 Lessons I Learned About Business While Flying a Plane (Yes, I’m still alive!)
It’s not just every day that I get to fly to meet my clients. Most of my work can be done remotely, so there is never much need to meet in person. So earlier this month, when a client asked to fly out and pick me up in his personal plane for a lunch meeting, I jumped at the chance!
The lunch meeting went great, and we were on our return flight when my client asked if I wanted to fly the plane (I had secretly been hoping that he would offer!) I did not have to think about an answer; my mouth had already blurted out a quick, but shaky, yes. For the the next fifteen minutes, my adrenaline was at an all-time high! Forget Six-Flags or whitewater rafting… I was flying a plane! I am happy to report that I was a very safe pilot and except for two hair-raising passes over a friend’s house (ask my wife) and a little unavoidable turbulence, I flew the plane smoothly for the duration of my time at the controls.
After handing the controls back to the steady hands of my client, I began thinking about how flying can teach you some good lessons about business. Below are five things that struck me.
The Art of the Pivot – Chase Opportunity
When I first took the controls of the small Cessna, the pilot/client pointed out a mountain top peaking over the horizon and he told me to head straight towards it. Sounded easy enough to me, but with the strong gusts coming off of the Rockies, little did I know I had my work cut out for me. All through the flight, I had to keep making slight changes to the direction of the plane. I thought I was flying straight but the wind kept pushing me off course.
It’s the same with business… you should always be re-evaluating where you are heading. Determining the best direction to head, is a constant discipline. Never be afraid to take your business in a new direction. As Seth Godin says, “Smart marketers know how to pivot.”
Plan On a Few Bumps – Plan to Fail
There will always be turbulence. The best thing you can do is plan for it. You should not blissfully run your business and hope that your good fortune holds out. Count the costs and brace yourself for a few bruises. Keep your business lean and flexible. If you are rigid and unchangeable, you wont be able to last through the storm.
Check the Weather Before You Leave – Research Your Market
This was not the first time I had planned to meet with my client. Two weeks prior we had planned to get together but the morning weather had thrown a wrench in our plans. When you are flying a Cessna you must consider the weather. If you don’t check the weather and start your flight anyway, you could end up in a twisted heap of metal… More then two of my client’s buddies had ended their life in this manner. Make sure to plan ahead, it pays off.
In the same way, you should consider the environment of your business. There are always things changing in your industry. You must be innovating or you will be end up in the dustbin of history. It does not matter if you are a start-up or an established Fortune 500 company. Look at AOL, Detroit, or the traditional music business. In each of theses three cases, the market shifted. Customers did not stop spending money; they started spending it in new ways, with different priorities.
Are You an Early Adopter? — Leverage New Technology
Technology is always changing. Every time it does, is an opportunity to get a edge on your competitors.
While I was flying, I asked the pilot what all the dials and controls did and how often he used them. His answer? He hardly ever uses them. Almost his whole cockpit has been replaced by one small, inexpensive piece of technology… the GPS.
The best tool for the job is often changing month to month. A few years ago, no one would have thought that a plane could be piloted without all the dials and meters. However, now all that information — plus more — will fit in the palm of your hand.
Is your business staying ahead of the curve? You have to remember that every day hundreds, if not thousands, of people are eyeing your market hoping to steal away your customers. They will beat you by cutting costs, reinventing your industry, and taking new ideas to market faster… all by using available technology before you do. Do not be stagnant. Jump on opportunity.
Hope this was thought provoking! Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.