How My Business Took Flightby Local entrepreneur Michael Ottenweller talks about how learning to fly simplified his business life.
When I began my pilot training in 2008, I really had no idea how dramatically it would affect and complement my business life.
In 2006, Ottenweller Co. opened a satellite facility in Mount Airy, North Carolina. The trip to Mount Airy by automobile was a nine-hour adventure of boring flatlands and white-knuckle winding toll roads through the mountains. Our options to fly commercially to North Carolina were not much better. The door-to-door time out of Fort Wayne International was about eight hours. So, no matter how we traveled, spending a full day in Mount Airy meant three days away from Fort Wayne.
During that time, our business was going through a transformation in the way we conducted operations. We needed a much greater focus on process and procedural controls, and doing our work according to predetermined plans. The discipline I learned in obtaining both my private pilot license and my instrument rating matched up very well with the new methodologies we were using to run our business. I think my entire staff is sick of hearing airplane analogies when we discuss safety and work procedures in the company. They know, however, that I’m absolutely correct when we talk about the daily preventative maintenance on a machine being very much like the preflight inspection of an airplane.
The other intangible benefit was being put back into a structured learning environment. I had not been in a classroom setting for at least 30 years, and I found that it was very stimulating and gratifying to learn something new that I could be proud of.
I’m fortunate to be able to fly a Cirrus SR 22, a very modern airplane, with flat-panel displays and a ballistic parachute for an additional layer of safety. Our trip to Mount Airy now takes approximately three hours door to door, making a day trip safe and time efficient.
When I fly, the daily stress and worries of work seem to melt away. I can truly say that flying has changed my business life!