Thirty-thousand feet is the cruising altitude for most long distance commercial flights and, until a band of Russian/Ukrainian thugs decided to shoot flight MH17 out of the air, it was considered a safe environment for civil aviation, which contributes so much to global commerce and inter-cultural contact and understanding between people of different origin.

Thirty-thousand feet is also a good distance to observe when looking at a problem that needs to be resolved or an action that needs to be taken. A solid strategic planning process for a business starts at thirty-thousand feet, looking at the world in which the enterprise is, or will be, operating.

Business operators are constantly reminded to "keep their noses to the grindstone" and that is certainly good advice when it comes to executing the business plan and running the business on a day to day basis. But too often business operators do not come up for air at all, ever. They feel they cannot take their eyes off the ball and they will not lift their noses from the grindstone. That is when many businesses run into the proverbial brick wall!

Businesses need to plan for success. Success does not come automatically with working hard and long hours. If it did, we would not see that many small privately owned businesses fail every year. And planning for success starts at thirty-thousand feet. At the start of any new enterprise, and with some regularity thereafter, the leadership team of a business needs to take a good distance from the day-today and look at the direction of and the prospects for the business with an eagle eye that covers all the ground beneath, the big picture.

Owning and operating a business is an awesome responsibility. Particularly when the business employs people. It represents a calling of the highest order. And-because of that-business needs to be conducted with all due regard for the social impact the business actions have on its stakeholders and the community in which it operates. Owning and operating a business is not an egocentric activity, or it should not be. Small, privately owned, business is a formidable engine of innovation and economic growth. It is also a powerful path to personal wealth creation. America's economy would not be what it is if it were not for the multitude of privately owned businesses that scatter the landscape. America is the champion of free enterprise and it finds economic strength in the scope and dynamism of entrepreneurial activity. It finds comfort in numbers. There are so many small enterprises that it can afford to lose a good percentage of them every year, clearing the field for new upstarts. In the realm of small business there is constant churning, replacing the ill-conceived or poorly resourced endeavors with better upstarts. This process lends strength to the economy and creates the right conditions for innovation and growth.

From thirty-thousand feet it is easy to see what the key critical success factors are for a small privately owned business to succeed. To make it in the competitive rat race an enterprise just has to follow a few simple, basic, rules. Given enough distance of observation, like thirty-thousand feet, the ingredients for success in business are clearly identifiable (in no particular order):

  • A strong balance sheet
  • A lean, knowledgeable, and motivated organization, top to bottom
  • A fanatic desire to be in business, combined with a clear sense of direction
  • A fanatic dedication to the success and satisfaction of the customer
  • A capacity to keep business simple and predictable
  • Alignment with the best supply chain partners in the business
  • Forward thinking ownership and executive leadership
  • The ability to trust yourself, your organization, and your key people

None of this comes without proper planning. So, I'm asking the business leaders among my readership: Does your business meet all of these critical success factors? What is missing?

These are the type of questions that need to be asked from time to time. And that is why, with some regularity, business leaders need to lift their noses from the grindstone and put distance between themselves and the business they are responsible for. The right answers for any individual business can only be found when looking at the business from thirty-thousand feet. Trust me, it is safe out there in the rarified air. What is not safe for the business is for the leadership not, with some regularity, to spend time at high altitude, review the landscape with an eagle eye, and ponder the strategic decisions that need to be taken for the continuity and growth of the business.

(Frans Jager is Principal of Castnet Corp. ( a Business Consultant for the Green Industry and an Executive Coach. He frequently writes about matters pertaining to the Green Industry and general public importance. He can be reached at and you can read more on his blog

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