It seems like there’s a downpour of gloomy economic news. That’s the only way to frame the most recent headlines such as “Stocks sink as investors wait for the Fed’s rate hike”; “Climbing Housing Costs Could Prop Up Inflation for a While”; “Surveys of households and business leaders point to a lukewarm U.S. economy.” Adverse market conditions call for being an instrument flight rule rated pilot and that’s the focus on this episode. In aviation, when the weather turns stormy, you need to use instrument flight rules (IFR). Current conditions suggest it’s to take this advice so you can pilot your business through the current storm. In the business world, planning, customer-centric processes and insights from data reflects instrument flying. 

Flying a plane or running a business is hard. Both take skills and practice. Flying is even harder when the weather gets rough. Or in our case, when the economic environment becomes gloomy. Developing a customer-centric data-to-insights culture, creating a growth plan, employing performance management processes, and creating and leveraging a customer advisory board, will begin to give your organization the necessary instrument flying skills. 

data, processes, performance management, navigating growth, customer-centricity, customer-centric, insights, data-driven, data-derived insights, competitive intelligence, customer insights, customer intelligence, decision-making, business management, marketing management, performance measurement, culture, organizational culture, frameworks, accountability, marketing effectivenessFor those of us who have pilots for family or friends, you’re probably familiar with the terms visual flight and instrument flight rules. If you’re not, here’s a brief explanation. Visual Flight Rules (VFR) refer to flying the aircraft as it was intended in nice and clear weather. Visual flying means the pilot primarily controls and navigates the aircraft using outside visual references. Instrument Flight Rules) apply in adverse weather conditions, such as clouds, heavy precipitation, and low visibility. Instrument flying means that the aircraft is flown using only the instruments with no visual references to the outside world.

When Do Market and Customer Conditions Call for Instrument Flying?

Visual flight rules and instrument flight rules are about more than the weather. Under VFR there are certain guidelines around weather and airspace. Under visual flight rules, pilots can choose which rules are best suited for them. Pilots are skilled at reading visual cues correctly. When the weather is good and you can see the horizon, you can rely on your eyes and the instruments. This is true for business leaders as well.

Like the leadership team in any organization, piloting your company under VFR means you decide the best course of action based on what you can see and how skilled at reading market, customer, and competitor cues. You can choose to pilot by experience, instinct, or by deriving insights from data.

Visual flight rules mean a pilot can fly pretty much anywhere they like, so long as they avoid controlled airspace, abide by cloud clearance requirements, stay out of the clouds, and avoid bad weather situations. Like the VFR pilot, however, there comes a point when as a pilot you want to enter controlled airspace with higher density, fast-moving traffic, fly cross-country or travel in new parts of the world.

data, processes, performance management, navigating growth, customer-centricity, customer-centric, insights, data-driven, data-derived insights, competitive intelligence, customer insights, customer intelligence, decision-making, business management, marketing management, performance measurement, culture, organizational culture, frameworks, accountability, marketing effectivenessFor businesses, this represents the opportunity to enter new markets, where the organization has less expertise and information. Instrument flying is required when looking for new growth opportunities or the market environment is uncertain . 

Instrument flying is the complete opposite—everything a pilot does is planned in advance and approved by air traffic controllers. The pilot must file an IFR flight plan—and what’s more, the pilot must receive permission to do absolutely everything. 

In the business world, we live in the age of the empowered customer, and customers are your organization’s air traffic controllers. Bringing your A-Game to empowered customers takes a customer-centricity framework, processes, and best practices. 

Listening to customers becomes critical to surviving and thriving in adverse conditions. One way to improve your customer listening skills is to establish and operate a customer advisory board. Well-implemented customer advisory and technical advisory boards provide strategic insight and feedback to help you understand the issues driving customers’ and prospects’ business requirements and decisions. 

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Why Every Business Leader Should Become an Instrument Flight Rated Pilot

We can compare the criteria for deciding whether to use visual or instrument flying rules to how we pilot our business. At a minimum to fly a plane, to hold a private pilot’s license, a pilot needs to be visual flight rule rated. This training entails learning how to use landmarks, highways, bodies of water, and so on as visual references. VFR- rated pilots learn how to look out for other aircraft. They can be flexible and are not required to file a flight plan, although it is highly recommended. Executives are business pilots They are always on the lookout for competitor or customer issues, so they can see and avoid them. Just as pilots file a flight plan, we highly recommend that every organization have a strategic growth plan.

data, performance management, navigating growth, customer-centricity, customer-centric, insights, data-driven, data-derived insights, competitive intelligence, customer insights, customer intelligence, decision-making, business management, marketing management, performance measurement, culture, organizational culture, frameworks, accountability, marketing effectivenessVFR pilots have altitude and flight level constraints and are dependent upon the weather. Any sudden changes and they are grounded. Sudden changes happen in the business world too. Whether it’s customers merging, new competitors emerging, an existing competitor with a new solution, supply chain challenges, talent or skills gaps, and so on, adverse conditions can bring your organization’s growth plan to a halt. 

That’s why many pilots prefer flying under IFR all the time. IFR provides flexibility, safety, and efficiency. IFR-rated pilots fly with nothing but their instruments, their ears, and their wits. They rely on Air Traffic Control (customers in business) for communication and instructions. A flight plan is required to help ensure the pilot and crew have the fuel they need to reach their destination. In business, the flight growth plan helps ensure the organization has the resources it needs to achieve desired outcomes.

Master 4 Instrument Flying Skills to Weather Any Market Condition

As the pilot for your business, there are four instruments you and your team need to master: 

  1. A customer-centric culture. In its most basic terms, customer-centric means you place your customers at the center of how you operate and the decisions you make.
  2. Deriving insights from data. Data-driven decisions and analytical models help you make better informed decisions to improve growth and reduce risk – both now and in the future. 
  3. Exceptional processes. Make sure your processes drive operational excellence.
  4. Performance management. It is vital that you develop and implement a performance management framework for your organization, and in particular for your Marketing organization since it is your growth engine.

data, processes, growth plan, planning, performance management, navigating growth, customer-centricity, customer-centric, insights, data-driven, data-derived insights, competitive intelligence, customer insights, customer intelligence, decision-making, business management, marketing management, performance measurement, culture, organizational culture, frameworks, accountability, marketing effectiveness, growthThese four are the business leaders’ instruments for navigating market conditions and improving decision-making.

When you are IFR rated, you have developed the expertise to fly a plane in visibility that may end at the windshield. And that’s what it’s like for businesses now, it’s hard to see very far in the future to make the best decisions. Let’s talk about how you and your organization can expand your customer-centric data-to-insights culture, create a growth plan, employ performance management processes, and create and leverage a customer advisory board to give your organization the necessary instrument flying skills for any market condition. 

We hope you found this episode of What’s Your Edge? Helpful. What’s Your Edge? Is the creation of VisionEdge Marketing. VisionEdge Marketing, founded in 1999, helps our customers solve the most difficult problems when it comes to using data, analytics, process and measurement to accelerate growth, create customer value, and improve performance. We always welcome hearing from you. 

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