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In this episode of the VulnerABILITY Podcast, Marisa Donnelly welcomes good friend and Founder & CEO of PlaneAhead, Alex Malebranche. In this episode, both Alex and Marisa dive into the foundations of being a founder: What it means to start your own company, find (true) work-life balance, create healthy boundaries, and allocate your time to all the things and people you love. Alex also talks about the challenges of starting a small business in a time of travel restrictions and how his dive into business ownership shifted his vision of family and fatherhood.
Highlights From the Episode:
[2:45] “My foundation for working hard and what I needed to do in order to get my family to a place that they were going to be comfortable really started from that place of seeing my mom work so hard.”
[3:55] “I was actually on paternity leave on one of my corporate jobs, this year in 2021, and I was trying to save some money on a flight—because, you know, having those more those humble beginnings, even though I made some good money in my career in tech, I still have some of those same habits—so, dollars on a ticket… and I realized I saved a few hundred dollars.”
[4:40] “I started working at PlaneAhead, really so I [could] take advantage of the changing rules and expectations as far as travel goes now. And give the opportunities to people like myself who are looking to stretch their dollar a little further.”
[5:50] “PlaneAhead is the first company of its kind that, so far, that takes full advantage of no-change fees. So, how we do that, is we track purchased itineraries for members of ours, and as their itinerary goes down in price, we actually exchange the tickets automatically for them, and then send them the airline credits back from the change.”
[6:15] “If I bought a ticket today from Houston to L.A., and it was $500 today and two months later it goes down to $300, we will exchange it on your behalf, and then you’ll get an email from PlaneAhead that says, ‘Hey, there’s $200 of credits on that trip that you booked.'”
[6:35] “When I started it I was really focused on millennials that are my age as well as families that are strapped for time, strapped for resources. Pay $100 for the year and we take care of all of that… You sign up and we’ll take it from there.”
[9:00] “It’s one thing to start a business… now, imagine [starting] this in the middle of the global travel pandemic!”
[10:20] “I think people don’t realize the frequency of the changes from the airline perspective/how many times they change, and they also don’t realize how greatly they fluctuate… Before this opportunity, with what PlaneAhead is doing, we wouldn’t have known that.”
[11:25] “The hardest part has just been understanding what my boundaries are as a person, and what I mean by that is, all of us have twenty-four hours in the day, and so I need to allocate that effectively and efficiently.”
[12:00] “Understanding my boundaries as a person [means] what can I allocate for business, what can I allocate for time with my family, and what can I allocate for sleep?”
[12:15] “The tradeoff that I’ve got to consider every single day, and I gladly do, is I’m going to forgo sleep and some of the things that would make me comfortable so that I can spend allocated time with my family. And I do my entrepreneurial stuff through the night.”
[13:00] “When it comes to splitting your time as a founder or when you’re at a startup company, there’s this stigma (and rightfully so) that you’re just going to work 16-18 hours of a day, especially at this early stage… so I make sure to tell employees that it’s my company, it’s my job to take that burden on. Anybody that comes on should be able to have work-life balance that is healthy and works like them.”
[13:20] “That work-life balance for me exists, but in order for me to be successful in the way that I want for my company, as the founder, the tradeoff that I have to make is with getting the sleep that I would normally want. That’s a tradeoff that I’m willing to do, but it’s all about understanding what my boundaries are.”
[14:40] “I’m doing all of these things and hustling for all these things so that my family can be a priority. So, I don’t want to lose the value and priority of the family in the hustle of trying to make it happen.”
[15:05] “For any future entrepreneurs or want-to-be-entrepreneurs, the most important thing that you need to have is a support system. And if you’re in a relationship or in a marriage, having a spouse be as supportive and as passionate as you are is critical.”
[16:15] “It’s about making sure that you’re going through the journey so that you can get to the end goal for your family, but continuing to prioritize them every single day so that when you get to that end goal, you’re actually able to enjoy it.”
[17:00] “I think it’s critical to make sure to remember that in the midst of the journey, there are those things that need to remain consistently on the top of your mind.”
[19:05] “I think that [with you] support system, communication is critical when you’re talking about avoiding burnout because they’re there to support you.”
[20:50] “I’ve never been happier or more excited about the work that I do until I started my own business. And it’s because I’m truly passionate about what I’m doing as opposed to being paid to carry out of a mission that’s somebody else’s.”
[22:30] “Travel, for me, is a binding agent for me and my family; it creates those memories. So, to hear stories about how I’m doing that for other families is super exciting for me.”
[24:05] “You have to find the joy in the every day in what you do and who you’re around. Those are just great lessons for overall life happiness.”
[24:30] “A part of me thought, and maybe because of how I grew up, that being financially well off was the goal. And that was what was going to bring the happiness that I’m looking for. But really, it’s the financial part that provides the bit of freedom to do what you’re actually passionate about.”
[28:05] “It doesn’t require money to be a part of the journey. We want you to know that we’re providing value to customers who want to travel. And if you’re one of those people that likes to travel, let’s try to provide value for you!”
The foundations of PlaneAhead are simple: Make travel easier, smarter, and possible. PlaneAhead is a company on a mission to help individuals and families experience what it means to have ‘stressLESS’ travel experiences. The process is easy: You purchase a membership (for only $99/year), book flights directly on the airline websites, send your itineraries to email@example.com, and then when the price of the flights drops, the PlaneAhead team will send you credits for future adventures!
To learn more, head to the PlaneAhead website.
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To hear more episodes of the VulnerABILITY Podcast, head to the podcast page.
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