The Secret Of My Success: Franco Mancassola

Franco is the chairman and founder of the no-frills airline Debonair. He's worked in the industry for about 30 years and helped to engineer Continental Airline's global expansion.

Although I've always been fascinated with airplanes, I never wanted to be a pilot. I think I knew instinctively that my options would be limited. My ambition is driven by a need to create and build.

My father once said "Don't ever reach paralysis by analysis" and I've taken that advice to heart. If you think about things too hard, you'll end up not doing them. I took a huge gamble when I was the London rep for Continental. The chairman came over for a visit and asked me what I did all day. (At that time Continental flew only in the US.) "Good question," I replied knowing that I could have just talked my way out of a job. But my cheek got him to listen to my ideas for expanding the airline into Mexico, and that's what we did.

I've always had a desire to have my own airline and eventually I found the opportunity I was looking for in Hawaii. I set up a company flying people out to the islands. It was tough and we almost went bankrupt. Eventually we got the breakthrough we needed and sold the company in 1990.

At that time the European market was beginning to de-regulate so I saw a chance to come over here and start a new airline. My philosophy was fairly simple: flying should be easy, comfortable, affordable and pleasurable for everyone - comfort is not a class privilege.

As a manager I believe that it is fundamental for people to enjoy their work. I try to give people the tools to do their job properly and impress on them that everyone's job is of equal importance. But I'd never dream of asking people to do something I wouldn't do myself and I certainly don't expect special treatment because I'm the chairman.

I think that to be successful you have to be persistent and courageous. You also need a strong companion to support you - my wife is the real key to my success. Life has been kind to me, but the harder I work the luckier I get.

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