By Andrew DiDio, Controller, Kite Technology Group
I never understood the routine and instincts required for flying until I hopped on a charter flight from Dallas to Colorado Springs. Buckling into my seat, I was ready, but the pilot was inspecting every crevice of the plane, running his hand along the wings, securing the hatch, and fine-tuning the vast array of switches and dials on the dash. Before takeoff he even strapped a manual to his thigh to remember the subtle checks. Once in the air he told me about the thousands of hours he flew from client sites to conferences to Mt. Rushmore for a daytrip with his grandson. He detailed events that might happen in the air and how he would respond. His checklist never moved from his thigh as he notated numbers from the gauges on the dashboard. Flying seemed so simple, but as we flew over the gritty landscape of northern Texas, I realized that flying demanded routine.
Like the pilot checking and re-checking his flight plan, “world-class” companies have a plan and routine for success. When we focus on certain fundamental routines, our culture embodies those routines, making them habitual. Company issues seem less daunting when the team can point to the dashboard gauge that screams “low altitude, your culture is crashing!”
The KiteTech Flight Plan is our blinking emergency light. This list of the 26 most important principles indicates where we are losing cabin pressure and our culture is failing. Company problems can be traced to failing at the Flight Plan. So, if there are issues with clients, employees, or the trajectory of the company we review the Flight Plan… and then check again.
Our 7 core Flight Plan principles, the Flight Fundamentals, are our “thigh checklist.” We believe that these are the core principles of any successful company and for KiteTech, these are the “must-haves.” Chick-fil-A president, Dan Kathy, once said, “repetition yields constants. Constants create cultures.”
The Flight Fundamentals below have become routine and drive how we hire, fire, promote, and grow our company culture.
1. Deliver Extraordinary Client Service
It is difficult to find ways to differentiate your company in a world that is ultra-connected. If your company fails at keeping a client, there are thousands of others about to swoop in for a chance to “woo” your clients unless…unless your company creates a client experience leaving a client wanting more. Excellence is the bottom-line. Our clients know that we will do what is best for them, regardless of the cost. Excellence is costly. It may cost you staying late one night to fix a server issue or provide a hard drive free of charge, but excellence breeds relationship. When we commit to giving each client our best, our clients trust us to do our job. This loyalty has inspired our clients to promote KiteTech to other potential clients.
2. Think Like an Owner
Owners think at a high-level, constantly aware of the implications on clients, employees, and the health of the company. If a solution to a specific task may make one department’s job easier while crippling another department, our desire to see the success of the company trumps our desire to see success in our own department. Being on the same team helps us align in our vision for addressing problems inside or outside our organization.
3. Always Ask “Why?”
Regardless of organizational position, the most solid ideas will always be part of the solution. Our employees constantly push us to improve processes that have gone unnoticed. If processes are illogical, we encourage our employees to speak up and ask “why?” Employees are on the frontlines and have a different view as to the success of a process than does a leader.
4. Honor Commitments
Every relationship is built on trust. If a client or colleague has trouble trusting your ability to follow through, then the whole company is affected. Clients become impatient, colleagues waste time sending follow-up emails, and there are even negative financial implications. It is imperative that we are in communication about timelines, backlogs, and unforeseen delays. When we refuse to communicate, we erode trust. When we honor commitments and communicate when unable to fulfill our timeline, our clients and teammates feel appreciated and valued.
5. Embrace the Tension Between Confidence and Humility
The goal of the company is to get better, not satisfy your personal ego. Think about ideas detached from the promoter of the idea. You might be biased towards one of your ideas or against one of your enemy’s ideas, but ideas once stated are free from being tied to an individual and can be discussed openly having checked your ego at the door. You can have confidence that you are talented enough to complete your job but reject the urge to allow confidence to morph into arrogance. Humility is a catalyst for teamwork, a required trait of all growing companies.
6. Relentlessly Solve Problems
The target of fixing any problem is a solution and falling short of a solution causes client concern. Our clients trust us to solve their technical problems. If unable, the client-company partnership is fractured. Employees at KiteTech are required to point to a potential solution whenever pointing out problems. Sometimes this requires creative thinking or asking for additional help when necessary. We have become solution-based, refusing to quit on a problem until we have a solution that is optimal for the client and for KiteTech.
7. Project Positivity
Only one person has control over your attitude…you! A negative attitude never led to solutions. When our employees have a positive attitude, even if they are facing a challenging problem, they still can trust that their colleagues/teammates are cheering them on. Choosing positivity orients our minds towards optimism and teamwork rather than pessimism and lonesomeness. We can have confidence in our ability and that of our company and teammates. At KiteTech, no problem that we face is solved alone.
We are now pulling away from the gate, but before you take off, think about the routines that you have created. Do your core principles align with your culture? Are these core principles routine? Are you creating the company culture that you want to embody? Do your employees make decisions based on these principles? If the answer to these questions is a resounding “yes,” then well done, you are well on your way! If the answer is “no,” then I want to encourage you to set aside time with your leadership team to intentionally identify your Flight Plan. If you need inspiration, check out the KiteTech Flight Plan. Remember, to make your Flight Plan routine you will need to go through much fine-tuning, inspections, and checks…and re-checks.
Don’t let the fear of falling keep you from flying.