Contract Pilot checklist:
- Decide to go freelance...............................Confirmed
- Draft a Business Plan..................................Initiated
"Peace-time plans are of no particular value, but peace-time planning is indispensable."
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
When "experts" talk about business plans, business planning, pitch-books, elevator pitches, etc., cliches and quotations abound. These pearls of wisdom are often spun by noted political and respected military leaders; that saves me the hassle of coming up with my own! This discussion will focus on the why and a little bit of the how to plan for a career as a contract pilot.
Though there are some instances when it's fun to just "kick the tires and light the fires" to go fly, it's not always the most productive or fulfilling use of resources. Whether using a syllabus and process to advance toward that next rating, or setting up a going concern in the form of a business, having a plan is the only way to measure progress and know that you're not just "winging it".
"Failing to plan is planning to fail."
OK. But where should I start, Ben?
There is a plethora of resources available on how to develop a business plan. The detail, and look will vary with how much effort is put into writing it, the stage of the business, and what the end objective is. Any complete financial plan will have certain components, however:
- Executive Summary
- Company description
- Market Analysis
- Organization and management
- Service or product line
- Marketing and sales
- Funding request or organic funding plan
- Financial projections
A free resource which outlines each element is available through the Small Business Administration @ Write your business plan 1 There are industry specific emphasis items that will naturally be more developed and detailed.
An alternative to the full, detailed plan is a derivative of the lean start-up movement. One example is detailed in Running Lean 2 . The author, Ash Maurya, has a step-by-step process to develop a one-page business plan version of a Business Model Canvas.
The key element is that a business plan is a flexible, living document and it should evolve with the business.
"No plan survives first contact with the enemy." (loosely translated)
-Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
Just like when you're heading into that line of thunderstorms that the weather forecaster didn't tell you about before you stepped to the airplane, sometimes you need to proceed to an alternate. In planning parlance, this means that an assumption in the plan could not be verified, necessitating a change in focus to a branch plan.
For instance, what if you, as a freelance pilot, become medically disqualified from flying? Without an adequately thought out course of action, the plan fails.
The process for developing a branch plan is the same as that for the branch plan. Have a back-up. This can come in the form of a "side-hustle", 3 which utilizes your other skill-sets. Translation, you should be able to capitalize on whatever training you have, a hobby that can be monetized, or have a lot of savings available to cover the time away from flying professionally.
"A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week."
-George S. Patton
As a living document, the business plan will never be complete. Perfection is an aspiration. Please don't let it be the reason to delay execution. When it's "good enough", GO FOR IT!