This article was originally published in Loganair’s FlightLOG magazine, March 2019.

 

I celebrated my 30th wedding anniversary at the end of 2018 and can barely remember life as a single lady. 


But there were boyfriends before I met my Australian husband; incidentally we met on a plane, a Qantas flight from Hong Kong to Perth in Western Australia.

One of my earlier boyfriends, who was much too clever and educated to stay with me for long, went on to marry someone much more suitable, had two children and settled down in Glasgow. Then he and his wife bought a house on the beautiful Hebridean island of Colonsay. Fortunately, we have remained friends, and so I get to visit. Even more fortunately, Colonsay has an immaculate tarmac airstrip, and I once flew there from Oxford for lunch.

Oxford to Colonsay in a straight line is roughly 400 miles and took me 3.5 hours in a little single engine plane. As with every flight that any pilot takes anywhere, I planned carefully for the journey. All pilots, before they take off, whether they are in a little plane like me or an A380, know what their ‘alternate’ airport is – i.e. what airport will they land at if their original destination, by the time they get there, is not available. My alternate airport, I remember, was Prestwick, which is quite far from Colonsay, so it is just as well that another aspect of planning a flight is to ensure you have enough fuel to go beyond your destination.

I have never had to land at an ‘alternate airport’. In the hundreds of flights that I have flown myself I have always been able to land at the airport that I planned to go to. Does that mean that all the planning and extra fuel is a waste of time? No. Planning for things to go wrong means you can pilot in confidence knowing you are fully prepared if the journey does not go to plan.

That is why all business leaders, just like pilots, need to plan for the unexpected, even if the odds of it happening are remote. They should know what their back-up plan is, and that they have enough ‘fuel’, - i.e. capacity – to carry it out. I chair the risk committee of a public company and see it as a key part of my role to challenge management about their business continuity plans. What happens if the internet goes down? If the office burns to the ground? If the power goes off? Have they run a simulation of what they would do?

The information age offers great productivity gains and fabulous customer interface but that means businesses are even more vulnerable to any interruption in their technology. I remember switching all my office phones to internet phones and saving thousands of pounds only to realise when the internet went down that I would have been well served to have kept one normal line for just such an emergency.

Knowing that your business can continue to function, whatever the circumstances, is critical. Chances are you will never need to put your plans into action. But business continuity planning, like flight planning, is essential if you are going to lead – or pilot – in confidence. Are you prepared?

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