Business Lessons from Observing the Walt Disney Company





On this Abandoning Average episode, I want to chat about business lessons you and I can learn from the Walt Disney Company especially in light of their recent launch of their streaming service--Disney Plus. (Are you as excited as I am?) We will talk about lessons for leadership, pivoting and innovating in your business, outsourcing, and general care for your customer.


If you all have been watching what's been going on around here, you know that I launched a new leg of my business as a travel planner--specifically for Disney Parks. With that, I've had my eye on the parks, its inner workings, the decisions made by the company, and the overall response of Disney customers as a result. With all of this studying, I have come away with quite a few lessons that I want to share with you, because they are really good!


(3:15) First of all, if you have come in contact with the Disney brand at all, you know that they are known for being kind, good citizens of the world. That experience they give to their customers is a direct result of a conscience decision to fit that brand.


(4:03) Disney is a prime example, especially right now, of taking risks to better serve your business, but also the people involved in your business. We must never forget that we are serving people first and it may take risks to execute that well.


(5:25) The CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, wrote a book titled The Ride of a Lifetime in which he shares many of his leadership lessons that I want to pass on to you!


(5:55) One of the lessons Iger shares is one that he calls "Innovate or Die." He talks about first knowing the customer and making changes around that. Sure, you need to change your business model if you are not being profitable. However, sometimes you need to take big risks in order to serve your customers even better by understanding them better.


Now, specifically using Disney Plus as an example of how to treat customers, many of the people at Disney started to notice a change in the entertainment industry. They noticed how many of their distributing options before this new streaming service had a third party involved. With their licencing agreement on Netflix, their release of movies in theaters, and selling merchandise in stories other than their own, Disney often didn't control their own data and didn't have a personal relationship with their customers. One of the only places they did have that personal relationship was at the parks. We all know that as a result, Disney is known for taking really good care of their guests at the parks! With that knowledge, there came a lot of risk to make a change.


(8:50) For example, often times we are told to outsource work quickly so you can focus on other things. However, many times that comes at a cost of understanding the customer.


"If you are going to solve their problem, you need to first understand their problem."

(9:40) Keep in mind that we are first and foremost here to help other people.

(9:53) The second thing that I want to keep in mind is that we need to have our core values in place all the time.


From Bob Iger's book:

(10:45) "True integrity--a sense of knowing who you are guided by a sense of knowing right from wrong-- is a kind of secret leadership weapon. If you trust your own instincts and treat people with respect, the company will come to represent the values you live by."


(11:30) Bob Iger also shared about wanting other people to believe that he was indispensable to his people, but came to find that was not the best way to approach his work. There is a point where we need to start giving to others, sharing knowledge, and providing opportunities to create a much closer knit community than creating a one-man show.


(13:40) Many will say today that you need to just focus on yourself and what is best for you. There is a culture rising where it is okay not to have time for people. It is different than not having time for everyone (because it is true that you don't have time for everyone). Rather, it is a sense that you can pick the people who are not worthy of you and choose to push them out of your life. Yet, even hearing from Bob Iger as one of the most influential CEOs today, he made time for people repeatedly. He counted it a loss when people felt as though they could not reach and speak with him.


Open your doors for people even when there is no return on investment.

(20:15) Remain steadfast in who you are. From Bob Iger again, "Hold on to your awareness of yourself, even as the world tells you how important you are. The moment you start to believe it all too much, the moment you look yourself in the mirror and see a titled emblazoned on your forehead, you've lost your way."


How many times has this happened where we get so focused on a goal or what we had decided we want to become that we lose the core of who we are--our integrity, our beliefs, our loved ones.

Let that never be said of us! Let's make the change today.