In 2017 I started on the journey (that has yet to be finished) to become a private airplane pilot. To receive your license as a private pilot it is a rigorous learning experience that costs both time and money. What many people don’t understand is that at the end of this long process, you are merely certified to fly under what the industry terms VFR or Visual Flight Rule. This essentially indicates that a pilot is allowed to fly in weather conditions that allow for high visibility. This severely restricts your ability to fly because you must plan and wait for a day in which there are blue skies, or limited clouds. You simply cannot fly in conditions in which visibility can be diminished, nor can you take off from a landing strip if you have the potential to fly through low visibility during your trip.
In order to fly through low visibility weather conditions, you must undergo further training and receive your Instrument Rating. This is a deep dive in the cockpit instruments. An individual well versed in cockpit instruments could theoretically fly the plane without any visual cues, relying entirely on the feedback from instruments to determine altitude, speed, and obstacles.
What is a Blue Skies Business Owner?
How does this analogy relate to the world of business? A blue skies business owner is essentially a private pilot – a task that is not easy, nor to be understated. They have left their corporate career or ventured off to create a job for themselves. Things aren’t always running smoothly, but they know basic elements of their business. They have a rudimentary understanding of cash flow, employee relationships, marketing, and are probably experts in one skill set. Much like a private pilot, they are proficient when things are going well but can become overwhelmed when the weather turns sour.
Are You Flying without a License?
I started my journey to be a commercial pilot while working at a gym. A client of mine, an eccentric gentleman of 65, indicated that a hobby of his, a lucrative hobby that he had inherited from his father, was rehabbing old airplanes and selling them. I told him that my grandfather was a pilot in the Air Force, and that I had always wanted to be a pilot. He invited me to his house and said, “I’ll take you up in the air and show you a thing or two.” Before I tell you the rest of the story, I want to assure you that I was not a willing participant in this crime, and I am hopeful that the statute of limitations has expired!
I arrived at my client’s house late that afternoon to find him with a cold beer in his hand, tinkering with an old Cessna 172B. We started stretching canvas to patch a hole in the plane. The clouds were darkening. Standing in his carport working on his plane, I began to hear the pitter patter of rain droplets dance on the metal roof. After finishing our patch job, my client handed me a beer and asked if I wanted to take it for a “spin.” He said that we’d simply take it up in the air at low altitude above his property to see how his repairs had been.
Out of naivety I indicated that this would be fine. With my slightly intoxicated pilot, we took off from his makeshift runway and puttered around in the clouds for about 20 minutes. When we touched back down, I asked my friend when he received his private pilot’s license. He looked at me with a quizzical look and said, “I’m not licensed.”
My eccentric friend is a perfect example of self-taught proficiency. We’ve all heard anecdotes of grizzled business owners who pulled themselves up from their bootstraps and innately understood business. What we don’t see here is the momentous risk (especially from a legal perspective) that this man took every time he flew without formal training.
The same is true for a business owner who is only qualified to fly in VFR. Mentorship, books, coaches, and mastermind groups act as the Instrument Rating certification for business owners. In the world of flying, a mistake reading the instrumental panel could mean that my intoxicated friend could have flown out of the other side of a low hanging cloud and crashed into the ground. For a business owner, it might mean the difference between success or failure.
Nobody Wants a Pilot Who Can Only Fly in Blue Skies
Investing in an Instrument Rating certification for your business means that you are able to fly your plane in all conditions, utilize auto-pilot when necessary, improve your pre-flight planning, master your take offs and landings, be prepared for the sudden unexpected visual changes, improve your communication with the air traffic controller staff, and heighten your ability to stay composed under pressure.
If you want to learn how to get started on an Instrument Rating certification for your business, schedule some time with Hall of Fame Business Coach Mark McNulty to see what it entails.
Author: Logan Cockerham