How can a pilot teach you to be a better business owner?

Cessna-210_007Learning to fly brought a great and valuable lesson to me.  Create and use checklists – especially when performing a task you don’t do very often.

Let me show you what I mean.  I was an owner of a Cessna T210 – Centurian.  A high performance, fast airplane!  Here are the checklists that were required to reviw every time the action was performed:


Before starting engine                15 steps

Starting Engine                          16 steps

Before Take-Off                        11 steps

Normal Take-Off                         8 steps

Normal Climb                               4 steps

Cruise                                           5 steps

Before Landing                             8 steps

Normal Landing                            3 steps

After Landing                                3 steps

Stopping Engines                          5 steps

In my business, all production staff have to produce checklists for common tasks.  The checklist has to be short and to the point but it has to address all the “mission critical” items.  You, as a business owner, do not want your staff to make decisions each and every time they do a task.  You want the decision made once and consistently performed (the checklist).

As an example, here is my checklist for processing bills that come in from the mail:
  1. Open all bills and file in “unposted bill folder” every day.
  2. Every Tuesday, all bills have to be entered into A/P System.
  3. Every Thursday, run cash requirements report and distribute to manager along with all necessary documentation required for payment.
  4. Every Friday, cut, prepare and mail checks approved for payment.
  5. Scan all supporting documents and destroy originals.

A very simple, fast process.  But it is a process that I have approved and one that I want my A/P person to follow every week.  This checklist helps me achieve the following:

  • Fewer items falling between the cracks.
  • Maximum productivity because the clerk is not wasting time doing things that are not necessary.
  • Work does not get behind.
  • The A/P clerk is the person that wrote the checklist and I approved/changed it.  That means I have buyin from the person doing the work.  Not as many complaints.
  • When a new person steps into this role, there are guidelines.  Fewer mistakes and a shorted training period.
  • I am meeting goals (for example, audit documentation) that the A/P clerk may not have knowledge of.
  • If you periodically review all checklists, you will have a way to measure – and improve – the productivity and accuracy of all production in your company.

There is no downside to producing checklists.  Back to my own business life, I migrated to checklists from operations manuals.  The 5 step A/P checklist replaced a 30 page detailed procedures manual.  A manual that was out of date 2 weeks after it was created; a manual that was so overwhelming no one would read it; a manual that sat on a shelf never to be seen by anyone.

Checklists are the way to go.

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