Designed to Fly
It’s no secret that our company’s background lies in the aerospace industry. Flying is an incredibly efficient way to travel, covering a lot of distance quickly. Aerospace engineers have a lot to do with that.
But just how efficient a flight is also depends on whether the aircraft travels with or against the jet stream. Cutting through a headwind involves more resistance that riding a tailwind and causes the flight to take more time than it would otherwise.
As with aircraft, businesses are designed to operate efficiently. But obstacles inevitably arise and cause drag. Let’s look at some of the headwinds a business can face, as well as ways to power through them.
Unwieldy business systems and processes
Everything about an aircraft is designed for efficiency, including the shape. Headwinds cause drag, but the shape of the aircraft is designed to reduce drag and allow flight against the headwind. Maybe you consider business systems and processes to be a drag—they take time to nail down, and no one enjoys red tape.
But having clear processes in place provides structure to your business that will let everyone involved know how to move forward. Put good systems and process into place, and constantly evaluate their use to your company so that you can keep them streamlined.
Customer demands and requirements
Perhaps you already have your own business processes ironed out and working well for you. If that’s the case, you’ve probably also encountered customers whose processes are different and who want you to adapt to their requirements. Making exceptions can decrease the efficiency of your processes, and the same goes for your customer. What’s the answer?
At KTM, we frequently encounter this dilemma. Customers often ask us to provide drawings and reports that meet their internal standards. Often, we’re able to accommodate. At other times, the customer can accept our standards once they recognize that what we deliver will meet technical requirements and save costs. In the end, it’s all about clear communication, negotiation, and doing what we can to meet the customer’s needs.
Delayed payments or deliveries
The longer you’ve been in business, the more likely you are to have encountered delayed (or non-existent) payments from customers, as well as uncommunicative or slow-delivering suppliers. Both of these situations disrupt cash flow and threaten your company’s ability to reach its goal destination.
There’s no magical solution for these issues, as your customers and suppliers may very well be facing the same problems, which trickle down to affect your business too. But there are some ways to mitigate your risks.
Internal financial reserves tide your business over while you wait for due payments to come in. Up-front payments or down payments can guarantee you’ll have the cash necessary for your project costs while a customer earns credit. And finding vendors you can rely on, building partnerships with them and sharing success, can decrease your risk of late vendor deliveries. Once you find these kinds of relationships, protect them. They’re invaluable in driving your company forward.
One of the least efficient parts of flying is takeoff. An airplane uses vast amounts of fuel during this process, and stresses on the frame are substantial. It’s steady, level flight where the airplane reaches maximum efficiency.
This situation applies to business as well. You’ll use more resources, eat through more cash reserves, and cause more strain on your infrastructure when your business is growing than when you’re maintaining steady business operations. Plan ahead and pace yourself so that you don’t grow too quickly.
Unprepared or under-equipped employees
The most important factor for smooth flight in your business is your workforce. Building the right team takes time and patience. Look for employees who are trainable and willing to learn, and then give them that opportunity.
The framework provided above through your business systems and processes sets your staff up for success. On top of that, allow them to learn, recognizing that learning often comes through mistakes. Build checks into your processes to make sure mistakes are caught before they affect the final product (and the customer!), and when mistakes happen, don’t berate your employees. Instead, help them learn from the error and figure out how to prevent it in the future.
An atmosphere of learning rather than punishment for errors creates a place where your employees can grow—and once they’re properly equipped, they and your company can soar.