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Flying High Again

"Cliff Freisen, Harvey Freisen"

Bearskin Airlines serves northern Ontario from their base in Thunder Bay. It's owned and operated by two brothers, Cliff and Harvey Freisen. They bought the Airline in 1978. It had 5 small planes and a staff of 40. By 1985 they had 20 planes and a staff of 130 and were virtually bankrupt. They had expanded too fast. Rather than quit, they regrouped, reorganized and saved the airline. So much so that in 1988 the Ontario government and the Chamber of Commerce awarded Bearskin Airlines the Outstanding Business Achievement Award. Cliff Freisen explained when we met ... "It was tremendous to receive an award like that. It gave us a lot of confidence and it gave our management staff a lot of confidence to come from being virtually bankrupt, and then receive an outstanding business achievement award. It proves that when you work hard you can become very successful."

The Freisen brothers now have 28 airplanes, 225 staff members and sales this year nearing the 20 million mark.

Being bankrupt is not a new story, it happens to companies all the time. The strength of Cliff & Harvey's story is that rather than declare bankruptcy, they hung in, cut expenses, and turned the airline around. Today it's one of Canada's most successful privately owned regional airlines. What is Cliff's advice for others whose company may someday face a similar situation?

"People have to be very very persistent. They have to never never give up. They have to keep going. They have to be positive. Keep a positive attitude and share a lot of the problems that you are having with your management. Keep them informed so that they can understand what is happening, because they are the people who are going to help you through."

Now that they are flying high again, what is their formula for staying up there?

"We set goals for ourselves, when we achieve those goals we set new goals. That way you continue to grow."

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