Porter Airlines : What their chief learned pumping gas
Robert Deluce is the president and chief executive officer of Porter Airlines. In our series on the financial habits of notable Canadians, Deluce told the Toronto Star’s Emily Mathieu what he learned working at his family’s hunting and fishing charter business, the significance of a 1956 Oldsmobile and why, when it comes to purchases and sales, almost everything is negotiable.
How did your family influence your attitude toward money?
My family is very entrepreneurial, so I’ve always looked at finances from a business perspective. Whether as an individual or a household it’s important to understand your revenue streams and expenses, and to look for quality and value when making decisions about how to spend money wisely.
What is the best financial advice you ever received?
I’ve always had to earn my own money. Even though I was involved in a family business, there was no free ride for me or my eight siblings. My parents always made sure that we were compensated for the work we did. I appreciate the value of money because of this.
What lessons did you take away from your first job?
My parents started a hunting and fishing charter business in 1951 in Northern Ontario called White River Air Services. I later boarded as a student at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto and worked at the family business when I went home during summer holidays. I would pump gas, load aircraft and do other odd jobs while learning the ropes as a teenager. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was my apprenticeship for running a business, and an airline in particular.
What was the first item you purchased with your own money?
The first item of any significance was the purchase of an old 1956 Oldsmobile from my grandfather for $500. This was in 1968 while I was attending McGill University.
What has been your savviest investment?
The purchase of a home in 1987 from an investment banker on the day after the stock market tumbled. After doing a really light “freshen up” renovation, which consisted primarily of interior paint, we resold the house six months later for about $400,000 more than we had paid for it.
What is your worst spending habit?
Like many people, my morning coffee is a habit that adds up. Of course, I have to have the premium drinks, which makes it worse.
How do you prefer to pay, cash, card or debit?
Credit card. It helps me keep track of expenses and I always pay the full balance every month. Cash is my back up. I never use debit cards.
What hard financial lessons have you learned?
Never leave yourself with only one supplier; you must have choice and some tension to ensure value.
What is your best money-saving advice?
Everything is negotiable. Rarely should you pay the sticker price for a product or service. You can get a better price simply by asking, comparing suppliers, buying in larger quantities or employing other strategies. Sometimes you can negotiate more value by having upgrades or bonus items included in the cost. If you’re somewhere, like in a grocery store, where this doesn’t usually apply, you can still save money by planning ahead and buying staple items when they’re on sale before you absolutely need them and have no choice but to pay the going rate that day. Never be in a hurry to conclude the transaction. And if you are buying a car, absolutely do not ask for a certain colour as your first item of discussion.
Are there any money saving tips you can pass on to travellers?
It’s important to know what you’re getting for your ticket when flying. You can usually choose from various fare types and each one gives you different benefits. Buying the lowest fare usually means you’ll have to pay extra to make changes later on, but you save upfront. A premium fare has things like this built into the upfront price. You should purchase according to your needs and be aware of fees if they’re required for baggage, seat selection, etc. We try to offer real value at Porter by including certain amenities that other airlines either don’t offer or make you pay for.
Do you worry about retirement?
I don’t plan on retiring anytime soon, but I do have a financial plan.
Are money and success the same thing?
I don’t think so. There are a lot of ways to make money, but success is something that you earn. Most successful people also have a sense of accomplishment. This may come from building a business or contributing to a cause where there is also benefit to others, not just you. Often this has nothing to do with making money or your total net worth.