Designing for Cruising Altitude

By Beacon Staff

Like people, businesses have many different stages of life.

Some are newborn babies. Some are venerable old cowboys that at 86 can still take a strong 22 year old and pound the tar out of them.

Lots of people are rolling down the runway of a new business right now, almost ready to take off. Maybe they were forced to start a business – and maybe they’re thinking that if things get better they’ll take a job. Whatever works for you.

In the meantime, let’s make sure that business is designed so it doesn’t suck the life out of you.

Taking flight
Do your best to design a business that can grow with your ability to bring customers in. What if you got 10 new customers tomorrow?  

It might not cause you any difficulty – unless you do a lot of one-on-one work. Consultants really have to be careful about this or they’re likely to find themselves overwhelmed with work.

The net result – you might end up being unable to deliver, or do so promptly. If that’s one of the things that got you those 10 customers in the first place…ouch.

Now imagine that you manage to do something amazing and bring in 100 new customers tomorrow. Next, you get 1000 a quarter or 10000 a year.

And they all start to show up at the worst possible time, like when you’re sitting in the lobby at the tire store. Or watching a mid-day school play (remember, missing that stuff is why you started your own business…)

I know things are real slow for a lot of folks, but it’s definitely possible – even today.

About all those new customers, could your business and family life deal with it?  The money’d be nice, but can you actually deliver the work? And would it still be fun?

One way to deal with this is to structure your business like an airliner.

Airliners fly pretty much the same regardless of how good or bad the parent airline is doing. They taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, descend and land.

It’s the middle part we’re after.

Takeoff, Climb, Cruise
Your business can be a lot like a plane climbing to cruising altitude: a lot of energy (and money) is burned to climb from the runway to your 35,000 ft cruising altitude.

But what happens once you reach 35,000 ft? Since the plane is lighter and no longer climbing, fuel needs shrink substantially. The plane is easier to fly straight and level, so easy that you can hit the autopilot button.

Your business(es) – or product line(s) – can work similarly.

Before you get there, it helps to determine what cruising altitude is for each of your existing products and services. Once you get each line of work up to altitude, structure it so you can hit the autopilot button.

In other words, design a process that others can be trained to follow, making sure to set up a dependable way to monitor quality, throughput etc. (Yeah, that e-myth thing)

When you have to be involved, that’s fine – just don’t assume that you have to do *everything*.

You don’t.

Typically (not always though), you are the one with the specialized knowledge, so your work adds value to the work product. In most circumstances, your knowledge, experience and skill can be leveraged during the design phase while the “real work” is left to your staff once things are tightened up.

Now that you’ve put that business line, product or service on autopilot, use your time, energy and expertise to build something else of value for your clientele. 

The number of perfect welds or lines of C# code you can pound out per day are kinda meaningless vs. the great ideas you can design in your head and later build in your shop with help.

You can find another welder or .Net programmer and teach them to work the way you do. The chance that you can find someone to think like you is not nearly as good.

A properly structured business is scalable. You aren’t.

Design your business for the situation you want to create for yourself, not the one you’re in today.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him via email at mriffey at flatheadbeacon.com.