Business Lessons Learned from an Airplane

catherine | The Watercooler | Friday January 16 2015

You know, it’s easy to wax philosophic about so many things and today is no different. It’s amazing what can happen when you have a couple hours without anything but your thoughts and no social media or phone.  I normally enjoy a faster pace, being around people and getting my energy from them. If I’m lucky, we usually share a good laugh.

I was recently on a 2-hour flight to Jacksonville and I realized how amazing it is to have this time to truly work on my business. And there is something cathartic going old school with just pen and paper. Once we took off, I immediately went to my notebook and I made some interesting observations as I was watching the flight attendants doing their thing.

Did you know that being successful is like an airplane?

The plane had to be conceptualized. Thank you Wright Brothers for your amazing creativity.

Then the plan had to be implemented. Simply having an idea does not mean the plane will take off. There’s a lot of math. Let’s face it, numbers are sexy.

Now that you have a plan you have to design it. If you just wing it (no pun intended), yes it may work but in the long run you can’t make modifications if you don’t track what’s worked and what hasn’t. Plus how are you going to know where to make improvements?

Even a design will not be successful unless you test it. Testing lets you know what is and is not going to work to achieve your final goal.

This leads to having people test your design. Without customers you may as well have a hobby. Doing nothing will produce nothing but a great design.

Now that you have customers testing your design, you need to make sure you have the right people helping your customers. Airline pilots, air traffic controllers, and flight attendants are all trained in a very specific role within the implementation of the design. These folks are directly responsible for the success of your design being embraced by your customers. Make sure you have the right people in the right position.

Finally and most important, this is always going to be innovation so you need to embrace. Initially airlines were concerned about folks using their cell phone on board. Now you can use the Wi-Fi provided by the airline. Adapting to your customers’ needs while keeping your core competencies allows you to maintain your integrity and expand your company’s value proposition in a strategic way.

It all comes down to having a vision, plan and implementing that plan. The new year always brings about these resolutions. Wouldn’t it make sense to have a “sexy numbers” plan for your business?

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