Build Your Business Like an Airplane Other Cool & Meaningful Topics Project Management

The Plane Analogy from How to Grow Your Small Business by Donald Miller

We at Launch Leadership Development want to help small business owners and young would-be entrepreneurs to benefit from the wisdom of successful entrepreneurs who have found tried and true methods to make their businesses work. One such resource is Don Miller’s book How to Grow Your Small Business.

Miller’s Small Business Flight Plan outlined in his book How to Grow Your Small Business is a growth plan and operational manual that helps build predictability and reliability through set systems and processes. He refers to this as “professionalizing” your business.  He chose to focus on six areas in his operation: Leadership, Marketing, Sales, Products, Overhead and Operations and Cash Flow.

He then uses the analogy of these six operational areas functioning in similar ways as the six major parts of an airplane. He says a plane’s primary goal is to get to its destination without crashing. To fly, it needs to keep moving forward at a certain speed. It needs wings for lift, a lightweight body and enough fuel.

Today I’d like to share his comparisons of the six operational areas to these plane parts.

  1. The cockpit represents leadership
  2. The leadership oversees getting the aircraft to its destination. The pilot must have a clear vision of where they are going.
  3. To grow a business, you will need to know how to unite a team around a clear mission.
  4. The right engine represents marketing
  5. Marketing directly contributes to the thrust. Selling more products moves the business forward and helps provide lift.
  6. To grow a business, you will need to clarify your marketing message, so it produces enough thrust.
  7. The left engine represents sales
  8. Sales increase the thrust even more.
  9. To grow a business, you will need to sell by making the customer the hero. Invite customers into a story instead of talking too much about yourself and your business.
  10. The wings represent the product or services you sell
  11. The wings make the plane fly. If the products and services are in demand and profitable, they will give a lift and support the weight of the plane.
  12. To grow a business, you need to know how to optimize your product offering so the plane gets proper lift.
  13. The airplane body represents overhead and operations
  14. You don’t want your plane’s body to grow too big with too much overhead or it will not fly well.
  15. To grow a business, you’ll need to run a management and productivity playbook that ensures everything is contributing to the business’s economic priorities.
  16. The fuel tanks represent cash flow
  17. Cash flow is your energy to all the parts of the plane.
  18. To grow a business, you’ll need a simple and easy to use money management system.

Miller says this metaphor of a plane will give you a decision-making filter and ability to assess where trouble is coming from.

He also says the parts need to grow in proportion to each other. He advises alternating between hiring product creators, team members, marketing and sales help, and administrative help.

Aircraft builders and maintenance crews use checklists, frameworks, and playbooks and business owners need to as well.  This is where the rest of Miller’s book comes in – he has designed a playbook to grow small businesses.

Check out his book to learn how he takes each part of the plane of your small business and creates a system to help your plane reach your desired destination.

-Jan Jones