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On a Wing and a Prayer

Recently I had one of my “first-time-in-my-life” experiences. I flew Crazy Horse at Stallion 51 in Kissimmee Florida. Flying a World War II P-51 Mustang had been a dream of mine for years, and I was finally able to accomplish it.

Whenever I fly a war bird, I mentally put myself in the shoes of the men and women that flew the planes in the time of war. Somehow when I do this, I connect on a deeper level to the sacrifice and courage of our veterans. Through this experience, I became aware of the similarities of building and running a small business to flying this extreme war bird.

Running a small business, just like flying a World War II P-51 Mustang, requires:

Preflight – This is not just paying attention to details before you take off, but actually includes all of the preparation even before arriving at the airport. Looking for the right facility and pilot to fly with was critical to the success of my adventure. In business, it’s the same way. I have seen many individuals jump into a business without doing their due diligence.  One of the elements was to find a seasoned pilot to fly with. It’s the same process as I share with people who are looking for a business coach. Find someone who has been there, done that, and then returned to help others. My instructor pilot “HOMER” was a 15-year veteran of flying F-15 fighters.

During preflight, you review the major possibilities of what could happen during the flight. You also decided on what maneuvers you will do during your flight. In business, this is called developing a business plan. You can’t always prepare for every emergency, but you can decide what you do in big situations. This became very clear to me as “Homer” strapped me into my parachute. He assured me we were coming back from this sortie, one way or another.

In business, we need parachutes as well. I call it your exit strategy. This does not mean that you’re giving up or closing your business, but when things don’t work out exactly as you would like, it’s important to know what alternative action(s) you can take so that you’re able to stay in the game.

Flight – When you are taking off there is a point called, the point of no return. This is where you have to totally commit to taking off. After that point, if you don’t fly bad things happen. It’s the same way in business. Every day, each of us as business owners makes a conscious decision to take off. The challenge comes when we have hesitancy in our direction. Hesitation can lead to adverse results in our businesses.  Over the years, as a business coach, I’ve seen many individuals with great abilities, products and services that are not only needed but wanted, that fail only because they never left the ground!

My oldest son Matt and my granddaughter Aubrey went with me to watch my flight. When I returned, Matt asked me what it was like flying and doing all of the acrobatics. I couldn’t tell him. I was so focused on flying the aircraft just as my instructor was telling me to do that I only had a vague memory of the actual flight. Luckily, there was a three camera shoot that captured my entire flight. You can watch a 2 min. video of my flight on my Facebook page.  As I watched the video, I knew exactly what was coming next.  But during the flight, even though I was flying straight up or straight down at 300 miles an hour, I was only aware of what I needed to do next. When we engage in business and focus on the activities that will give us the results that we want, most if not all of the fear associated with the outcome disappears.

The Debrief – After the flight, we went back into the briefing room where Homer went through the elements of our just-completed flight. He shared with me all of the things that I did right and some of the things that next time I that I can do a little bit better. As I coach my business clients, I called this process “launch and adjust.” It is impossible to know what to change to have a better outcome unless we launch and see what worked well and what needs to be adjusted.

Remember life and business is an adventure — enjoy the ride!

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