To Be Perfectly (Howard) Frank, Staying Relevant & Adding Value

Howard Frank, Carnival Corporation’s vice chairman and chief operating officer.

Last Sunday on Seabourn Quest, I had the pleasure of dining with Howard Frank, Carnival Corporation’s Vice Chairman and COO, his wife, two other journalists (including my colleague at USA Today Gene Sloan) and my significant other.

Frank is second in command at Micky Arison’s Carnival Corporation (for more about Micky’s story see From Mailroom To Multi-Billionaire).

Surely, at a dinner with the leadership of such a successful brand there would be lessons to be learned. My take-away from the convivial evening was a business principle that Frank mentioned when asked what he worries about.

You might assume that what keeps Frank awake at night are escalating fuel costs and the operational aspects of running a corporation that employs more than 70,000 people. But the youthful-soon-to-be-70-year-old responded to the question by saying, “staying relevant and adding value.”

I could only assume that Frank was speaking of Carnival Corporation in the face of its competitors and not of himself, although the principle could apply to either. I thought about his words for the next few days and how I might apply it to my own profession and indeed my life, but that’s for another story.

Frank’s worries — and more importantly, leadership’s focus on confronting those worries — have made Carnival Corporation a real American success story. Despite an inauspicious beginning when its first ship ran aground on its maiden voyage, Carnival Corporation now operates more than 100 vessels for multiple brands worldwide. The company grew from 8 ships since Frank joined in 1989.

Dedication and never losing focus (except perhaps for the time when Carnival tried to run an airline and a resort – both failures) are the core principles of Carnival’s success. (Even though the NBA’s Miami Heat lost last night, team owner Micky Arison can claim that he knows how to run a professional basketball team. He can claim at least one NBA championship ring.)

A ‘Frank’ discussion on Seabourn Quest is something I’ll never forget, learning a few things from a man who certainly remains relevant and who added value to our table one evening at sea on Seabourn Quest.

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3 Comments

  • A nice piece of “puff” journalism.
     Let’s get to the questions that most “Avid Cruiser” want answered like:  What Mr Frank is going to do to keep and improve Seabourn in the Luxury category .  For those who cruise with Seabourn often we’ve seen a steady decline in there product since CCL has taken control.  We’re very concerned with the relocation of the main offices to HAL’s headquarters in Seattle.  Would hate to see Seabourn turn into a small  version of HAL.

    Reply
    • What aspects of the Seabourn product have you seen in steady decline?

      Carnival Corporation acquired full ownership of Seabourn more than a decade ago and has had a stake in Seabourn for nearly 20 years., so that’s a long period of decline in product.

      My question: Would Seabourn even still be operating had it not been for Carnival’s acquisition? Think of venerable Royal Viking Line, now gone.

      What is clear is that Carnival has funded three beautiful vessels – Quest, Sojourn and Odyssey – and the need to operate more efficiently and synergize operations so that the product level can be maintained is a sign of the times.

      As long as there is demand for ultra-luxury cruises and as long as people are willing to pay at a level where the brands can remain profitable, you can be assured that Seabourn will not turn into a premium brand.

      Reply
  • A nice piece of “puff” journalism.
     Let’s get to the questions that most “Avid Cruiser” want answered like:  What Mr Frank is going to do to keep and improve Seabourn in the Luxury category .  For those who cruise with Seabourn often we’ve seen a steady decline in there product since CCL has taken control.  We’re very concerned with the relocation of the main offices to HAL’s headquarters in Seattle.  Would hate to see Seabourn turn into a small  version of HAL.

    Reply

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