Just Like Air Traffic Controllers

Posted by on August 21, 2013

A Monday Morning Memo from The Wizard of Ads

I’ve heard there is a saying among air traffic controllers “When pilots screw up, they die. When we screw up, they die.” Now before you condemn all air traffic controllers as heartless and cold, consider the underlying, inescapable truth of the saying, which is namely this;
The pilot has ultimate responsibility.

But if that’s the case, then why do pilots need air traffic controllers! If the air traffic controller isn’t going to crash with me, why should I involve him in my flying decisions? While we’re on the subject, shouldn’t the surgeon be executed if the patient dies? And how about when the defense attorney loses the case? Shouldn’t he pay the penalty of the convicted? (Believe it or not, I have actually heard just such leaps of logic in recent months.)

In truth, air traffic controllers are a priceless asset to the careful pilot. When a pilot is on an intersecting, collision course with another plane, the aircraft with which he is about to collide will appear only as a motionless speck on the windshield. (If the speck moves slowly across the windshield, the planes are not on a collision course.) In other words, the only plane which is dangerous is the one least visible to the pilot, and at several hundred miles an hour a motionless speck can grow to fill the windshield in just a couple of heartbeats. Thank God for air traffic controllers.

Let me make my point more clearly. You are the pilot of your business. Like all other consultants, we at Williams Marketing are merely air traffic controllers. We can tell you when you are on a dangerous course and recommend a different route, but we’re counting on you to know how to fly. We can tell you about the weather conditions into which you are flying, but the weather is a constantly changing thing and we’re ultimately counting on you to tell us what you’re experiencing.

If the weather gets really rough, we will attempt to guide you out of it, but the stick remains always in the hands of the pilot. The air traffic controller is just a helpful voice in his ear.

While it is never my intention to write you a negative, depressing memo, I have become concerned about the number of business owners I have seen attempting to shift the responsibility for their success onto shoulders other than their own.

Running a successful business requires a great deal more than just hiring competent counselors. You are the pilot. The stick is in your hands. The weather is changing. The air traffic controllers have no idea where you are when you don’t call in and report your position. What are you going to do?

Keep us informed. We can’t help you when we don’t know what’s happening.

Roy H. Williams

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