Do you have bold dreams but hesitate to pursue them?
If so, today’s David and Goliath story will help you to take that next step. But it’s also a cautionary tale, a reminder that if you achieve great success, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll remain successful.
The David in our story is Freddie Laker, who was determined to introduce low cost international air travel.
Goliath is the giant airline industry who secretly conspired with each other and with governmental bureaucratic regulators in a heavy handed attempt to stop him.
Laker, born in 1922 was raised in a modest home with no indoor plumbing. His father left when Freddie was just 5 years old and his mother Hannah supported the two of them by buying and selling items (a one woman flea market) cleaning houses and by running a small store.
It was Hannah who taught Laker his entrepreneurial skills.
After World War 2, Laker became a freelance pilot and he started various businesses as well. He bought and sold war surplus vehicles and spare parts and from the back of his van, he even sold plants door to door.
In the 1950’s Laker started and successfully built a small charter airline and in 1960 after a series of mergers, he became the managing director of the massive British United Airways. But in 1965, tired of trade union battles and bored with big company management, he quit.
In 1966, with used aircraft he launched his history making company, Laker Airways, as a vacation airline. As was common then, governments and airlines set artificially high ticket prices and rarely allowed price competition or discounting.
But in Britain, there was an exception for “affinity groups,” and Laker saw an opportunity. He declared his passengers members of a club, such as a flower lovers society and slashed their ticket prices. Laker Airways prospered.
The success of Laker Airways emboldened Laker and in 1973, he submitted applications to the British and U.S. Governments to start transatlantic service to the U.S. at prices as low as 1/3 that of the competition. The airline cartel was furious!
For four years, they and their government supporters fiercely fought him, but finally in 1977, he got the approval and his “Skytrain” service soon became extremely successful.
Competitors were forced to slash their prices and airline discounting on a grand scale as we know it today had begun.
As a result, the public admired and adored Laker and the British Government knighted him for his extraordinary service to air travel. He became known as “Sir Freddie.”
But Laker had made significant mistakes. He expanded too quickly as a Recession came on and he had too many DC-10’s; a plane the public believed had serious safety problems. In 1982, with low cost air travel well established, the pioneer Laker Airways went bankrupt.
His competitors pounced on his financial difficulty. Later litigation showed they secretly pressured DC-10 manufacturer, McDonnell Douglas not to refinance Laker Airways’ obligations. The airlines settled the litigation by paying millions of dollars to Laker’s creditors.
Yet the public so loved Sir Freddie, they took up a collection and raised millions of dollars in an unsuccessful attempt to keep Laker Airways flying.
In the years that followed, the heroic Laker became a much in demand public speaker and a big favorite among entrepreneurs.
But in the airline business, he would never again be a major player.
In 1992, he set up a tiny Laker Airways in the Caribbean which flew with moderate success until it closed in 2005. Sir Freddie passed away this year at 83 and because he was often on the phone his family intended to do what people joked about; cremate his cellphone with him.
What drives a man like Sir Freddie to stubbornly defy authority and challenge the conventional? It is more than making money and it is something most of us have a bit of. We resent bullies telling us what we can do and we seek a sense of fairness. He had the courage to take it to the extreme.
Why else would he do this but for ego and his sense of righteousness? He had become wealthy, yet he subjected himself to enormous stress, and to litigation that risked his fortune. But growing up poor during the Great Depression, it burned within him when he saw people taken advantage of and their money wasted.
He became a sort of Robin Hood, taking from the then rich airlines and giving it to everyone else.
Sir Freddie leaves us quite a legacy, having played a crucial role in making air travel affordable to vast numbers of people, not just the economic elite. Today, people by the millions fly across the Atlantic and throughout the world on airlines that use his discount, no frills approach.
Success Tip of the Week: You don’t have to do anything as bold as Freddie Laker to pursue your dreams. Select a dream and tackle it in small steps. Every day a little progress and the next thing you know, that seemingly impossible dream may have become reality.
In the next KazanToday: Practical advice from a 41 year marriage.