I'm not sure where it started or why, but I love Disney. Maybe not in the way the rest of my family does, but it facinates me to no end. Don't get me wrong, we have been to Walt Disney World twice, planning our third trip for later this year, and have been on a Disney cruise. I can certainly be a kid at heart when I'm there, you can't help but be happy when you are there. But what really is fascinating is Disney as a business. Yes, I think about business and Disney, kind of lame, but I can't help it.
After my first trip I read Inside the Magic Kingdom which really got me thinking about Disney as a business. Some of the anecdouts I still remember to this day. Like how every night they strip down and repaint every one of the horse-head hitching posts aligning Main Street USA. Or that the gold paint on Cinderella's Carousel is actually 14 karet gold leaf paint. How you won't see any gum sold within the parks (so you don't stick it to anything) and every single employee, make that every cast member is responsible for keeping the park picked up. The success of the brand they built was intriguing to me and I was drawn to the great lengths they go to for the customer. The entire organization is built around what the customer wants. It started with the beliefs of Walt Disney himself. You see it in the attractions at the park. Beyond just a great ride, they make the whole experience of waiting in line part of the attraction itself.
Since then I continue to read about Disney often to get a glimpse of what Mickey and the gang are up to next. I just finished a great book, Walt Disney: An American Original that gives an in depth look at Walt Disney's life and the start of the company. The perseverence he had was amazing and the ability to branch out to new things, from animation shorts, to animation features, to live action movies, to television, to theme parks and more, and continue to be successful in each new venture is astounding to me. Rarely can a company achieve such success in almost everything they do. That is why Walt is a tremendous roll-model, he never decided that they had reached the peak.
One of his earliests successes was The Three Little Pigs, after there was a great demand for more cartoons featuring the three little pigs, to which he replied, "You can't top pigs with pigs." That was a theme for Walt Disney's entire life, always working on the next big thing. However, Disney isn't perfect, far from it. In the Disney War you can read how Walt's son-in-law, Ron Miller was forced out as the head of Disney and replaced by Michael Eisner. It gives an interesting look at the success Eisner had in the early years and the decline that ultimately led to his being forced out.
All of the history and stories around Disney serve as a reminder and inspiration to me. Be it work or your own life, Disney has lessons that we can learn from:
- Never assume that what you are doing today is good enough.
- Treat customers like they are the most important thing to your organization, because they are.
- Walt Disney was so passionate about what he believed in he was willing to risk everything that he owned to make it work. How much do you believe in what you do?
- Make your entire experience that customers have working with your company enjoyable. Everything they come into contact with connected with your company should be a positive experience.
- Push the limits, beyond what others think is practical or realistic, that is where true success comes from.
Hopefully each of you have a little more of the Disney spirit in your life.