Taking off into the blue

Up there above the clouds, there’s blue sky awaiting our new business venture, and we’re keen to reach the point where we will take off and the enterprise becomes airborne. It’s what we’ve worked on for months, and years, dreaming of the high altitude cruise to success!

The idea of viewing a startup business as an airplane readying for flight provides a good metaphor. You have to know where you’re heading, and have enough fuel to get there, with the right crew onboard, and so on. You also know that the airways are crowded with other flights heading in similar directions, at similar price points, so although you have great hopes for the journey. There’s also some realism about how successful you’ll be.

Success is not optional

But wait a second! If we think a little more about this metaphor, it’s clear that aviation doesn’t dream or hope about being successful. Success is an absolute prerequisite. Success in airline terms means reaching the destination safely, and more or less on time. If when we boarded an aircraft the pilot announced, “Hey, we might be going to Paris… or maybe Sydney. Oh, and by the way, there’s an 82% chance we’ll crash on the way…” how long would you stay seated on the plane?
So, safety standards are rigorous on aircraft, and having a clear and precise flight plan is always essential. It can’t be any other way, and there will be enough variables to deal with on the journey anyway – such as bad weather – that might really stress-test all the planning.

Checking is not optional either

Airlines, and the pilots who fly for them, therefore have very strict processes for checking every aspect to rule out error and failure. As well as all the visual and mechanical inspections, this is formed around a Pilot’s Checklist which is never altered, and always run-through. No pilot will ever skip even the most mundane item on the checklist, because they know that even those small items can come back and cause disaster. Even if a plane has just successfully landed and is being turned around for the next short hop back to base, the checklist is still run through, item by item, point by point. You will not hear a pilot ever say, “Well, that item seemed to be working OK on the way here so we’ll save five seconds now and not bother checking it.” – Lives depend on checking everything, regularly and rigorously.

If your business is typified by that plane, ready to take flight, how much have you checked that it’s truly flight worthy? How recently did you do those checks, and how thoroughly? I’m willing to bet that even if you really were quite diligent in going through a fair amount of the necessary checks, that many of them are long in the past. What I’m certain about is that all the flight-planning and safety procedures will not have been done as thoroughly or as carefully as they should.

You’re not the only one onboard

OK, you may say that unlike a plane, no-one is literally going to die if your enterprise crashes, but remember, it’s not just you and your immediate team who will be affected. If you’ve got as far as taxi-ing onto the runway, then that means you should also have a full load of ‘passengers’ too – your investors, advisers and supporters who have put their trust in you, and are expecting to be safely taken to a particular destination. Crashing and burning is no longer an option – you must deliver on your promises!

Over years of working with many startups, this is why I have devised my comprehensive “Pilot’s Checklist” which any enterprise can use to see if they are ready to safely and successfully take flight. It’s amazing how often I see entrepreneurs who read through the Checklist and then remark, “Wow I’d forgotten all about that!” Imagine if our pilot on the commercial flight ‘forgot’ about the engines, or the fuel! My Pilot’s Checklist prompts users to examine hundreds of points which may seem completely obvious in themselves, but which if left unchecked can significantly alter the chances of success.

And so, into the blue


As any pilot will tell you, taking off into the blue is an exhilarating experience, but one where every possibility of failure must be eliminated. You have created a business offering which is ground-breaking, exciting, cutting-edge… and you really want to see it take flight.
If you’re Serious About Success, you really need a very comprehensive Pilot’s Checklist.

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