• Brooke Simmons

3 Systems Lessons From 10,000 Airplanes

People perched on the wing of a water bomber watching a fireworks display.
Snuggled up beside engine #1 of the CL-215 water bomber watching the finale of the night air show at OshKosh 2019.

I’ve just returned home from a mini-vacation that is still blowing my mind.

Some of you may know that I’m a bit of an aviation nerd. Well, this year, I finally made my way down to the creme de la creme of aviation events, EAA’s AirVenture Fly-In in OshKosh, Wisconsin.

Let me try and paint a snippet of a picture of the magnitude of this week-long event in a smallish midwestern town of about 66-ish-thousand:

During the week….

  • 10,000 aircraft attend the event...about 3000 show planes and 7000 visitor/fly-in airplanes. This makes it the busiest airspace in the world.

  • Around 600,000 visitors attend the event.

  • The tower manages about 127 takeoffs/landings per hour

  • There are over 1000 workshops and forums throughout the week.

  • There are over 11,500 campsites on the grounds. (I stayed at Camp Scholler which was literally a mini-city. I almost got hit by scooters and golf carts on my travels more times than I would like to mention here. This level of crowd and normally this wouldn’t interest me AT. ALL. But I was fascinated by the community here...we’re all here for the same interests and we all had that in common...makes a good convo starter).

  • Plus at least one airshow every day, on certain days there are two - lasting from 2-3 hours. This obviously shuts down the main runway and poses challenges to surrounding airspace.

To say this is an aviation-person’s Disneyland is an understatement.

To say this event could not run without some serious organization and systems in place is also an understatement.

I was seriously blown away by the level of organization, volunteers, staff and coordination of moving parts that makes this a crazy-successful event year after year.

As usually happens when I travel, I had a few percolating thoughts and ideas on how my business systems could improve by watching and learning from this event...here they are:

1. Effective communications and systems are a MUST to ensure smooth processes for you AND your clients. - Consider landing 10,000 aircraft in a week with messy communications and systems. The communication and systems in place at OSH start long before the pilots leave their home airfield.

In fact, the NOTAM (the information document explaining arrival procedures) is 32 pages long.

Could you imagine flying into that busy airspace with shoddy information?

How about being a controller trying to give information to that many people who have gaps in what the steps are to get in there and land safely?

It would be a crazy, dangerous nightmare.

While communication and systems for your business likely aren't life threatening, communicating next steps/instructions/what to expect in a systematic way in your business helps your clients AND you get on the same page quickly and efficiently.

THINK ABOUT: An ideal client workflow. On-boarding effortlessly. How do you want your clients to feel? What's the easiest way possible for everyone? Where are there communication gaps now?

2. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Good things take time..thankfully. - This was the 50th year of OshKosh, and you can probably imagine based on the stats I just gave you that there is a LOT going on.

But it obviously didn’t start out with 10,000 aircraft...it started with a few...and built from there...brick by brick, system by system, one foot in front of the other.

The systems they have - from the check-in at Camp (which was dialed-in too...not surprisingly), to the NOTAM and arrivals, have been built over the years as things grow. Improvements have been made.

Your systems are not meant to stay static. They will work well for a while and then you're supposed to outgrow them.

Also, stop comparing your 2 year systems to someone else's 10 year systems. Meet yourself where you're at and go up methodically.

Tweak. Turn up. Dial in. Brick by brick. One thing at a time. You're on your own timeline. Thankfully.

THINK ABOUT: What if you could dial in your client systems 10% more than right now ? What boundaries do you need to change based on YOUR needs? What about the needs of future you? What have you outgrown? Who can you drop your comparison game with?

3. Be open to learning from others. Always. - Along the way this trip, there were a few people I met who were outstanding leaders. They took initiative, were kind, and genuinely wanted the outcomes to be positive. They also had a lot of moving pieces to manage and were dealing with heat and long days, but didn’t seem to budge on the fact that the event was going to be a success.

Be open to learning from the systems, skills and mistakes of others.

Thinking that we know it all or judging and criticizing how other people do things is a good way to keep playing small and boxing yourself in.

Learn from others, ask questions. Make mental notes about positive leadership skills or systems they use to make things successful. Emulate their positive traits. Ask how they do things.

THINK ABOUT: Who has a skill that you admire that you could practice or learn? What business has a system that seems to work well for them? What pieces of that could you put into play in your business? Who seems to have a task dialed in? Ask them about it.

Hopefully, you’ve had the opportunity to step away from your business and have some of your own adventures this summer!

Until next time...



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Brooke Simmons

Brooke Simmons is the principal of Green Door, small business systems strategist, baby pilot/aviation nerd, yogi and nature lover. She loves mixing super practical systems strategy with a cup of common sense and a dash of mindset mastery. She works with clients by creating courses and programs to help them master their business and 1:1 strategy sessions. You can get in touch with her here.

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