10th March 2016


The next time you are sitting on an airplane ready to go on holiday perhaps you can pay more attention to what is going on in the cockpit than you might otherwise have done.

Once the pilot has done all of the necessary checks and everything is good to go, with the nose pointing in the right direction, straight down the runway and with everything clear the pilot very quickly applies full power. He unleashes all of the power and energy at his disposal with the simple intention to overcome any and all inertia to get the aircraft travelling down the runway at the maximum velocity within the space available. The speed he is trying to reach is the speed at which the aircraft can become airborne, and with the command “rotate” he will lift the nose of the aircraft skywards and the plane will begin to leave the ground and become airborne.

The appropriate application of the huge power of the engines has overcome the initial inertia which held the craft stationary and then sufficient speed and power, plus the aerodynamic design of the aircraft caused it to break through the gravitational pull of the earth and start flying.

Once the craft has reached sufficient altitude and speed you will notice that the pilot will then throttle back, using less thrust and needing less energy. The energy demands to keep the plane flying are less than were needed to get the plane to take off speeds in the beginning.

This is analogous to what happens when we start a business. The energy needed to create and give birth to a business is immense. Life is full of frantic and frenetic energy sapping activity, which when applied appropriately and successfully will grow the company to escape velocity at which point the thing will take off. As the business continues to grow and gain altitude it may be possible to reduce the amount of brute force that was needed to get it off the ground and the owners and leaders might be able to metaphorically throttle back and apply less energy and apply that energy in a slightly different way.

It would be very dangerous for the pilot to reduce the thrust when the plane is still on the runway. It would never take off if it never reached escape velocity. Similarly with business and some businesses will never achieve escape velocity.

Unlike aircraft that perform to a quantifiable set of laws of physics and known parameters, businesses are subject to a complex set of variables and the vagaries of the marketplace as well as the relative competence and capabilities of the leaders. Unlike the aircraft industry in business we don’t have the luxury of simulators and repetitive practice. We probably get one go and we have to get it right.

The amount of energy isn’t the only input but it is one that we can be aware of and quickly alter. If your business is struggling to get off the ground are you applying the right amount of energy in the right way? And if you are applying the right amount of energy and the business still isn’t flying it is probably time to look at the design. After all some ships produce more thrust than some aircraft do and they never get airborne either.