Carnival's CEO reveals the advice he would give to his 25-year-old self

  • Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald told Business Insider that he made listening to his employees and customers a priority at the beginning of his tenure.
  • If he could give his 25-year-old self advice, it would be to listen.
  • "I would just tell my 25-year-old self to do, hopefully, what I try to do a lot of my life, which is listen, listen, listen," he said. "You can learn from anybody and everybody."
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Since Arnold Donald became the CEO of Carnival Corp. in 2013, the company has more than doubled its annual earnings, and increased its share price by about 20% as of this writing. And even as the cruise industry has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Donald is optimistic about his company's prospects for 2021. 

Donald said in a 2019 interview with Business Insider that he made listening to his employees and customers a priority at the beginning of his tenure. If he could give his 25-year-old self advice, he said, it would be to listen.

"I would just tell my 25-year-old self to do, hopefully, what I try to do a lot of my life, which is listen, listen, listen," he said. "You can learn from anybody and everybody.

"If you listen to the world, it will reveal itself to you. In business, if you listen to your customers or guests, they will tell you what it takes to exceed their expectations. If you listen to your employees, they will tell you how to deliver whatever that guest or customer wants in a manner where it's sustainable for the company."

Donald said his emphasis on listening has given him greater insight into customer psychology, like when he spoke with a passenger about a rival company's cruise ship. Donald asked the passenger why he liked the ship, and the passenger cited the ship's rock climbing wall and ice-skating rink. But when Donald asked if the passenger had used either, the passenger replied that he hadn't.

The exchange suggested to Donald that the passenger took pride in the mere fact of traveling on a cruise ship with desirable amenities, which made Donald realize the importance of gathering customer feedback in a way that would reveal more profound psychological insights.

"We have to ask questions in a way where we understand, psychologically, what's driving somebody," he said. "There's a deeper way of learning how to ask questions."

This story originally published in June 2019, and has been reposted. The original copy incorrectly stated that the share price of Carnival Corp. had increased by 70% between the beginning of Donald's tenure in 2013 and the end of 2018, when it should have been roughly 40%. 

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