What Every Business Can Learn from Walt Disney

business lessons from walt disney

 Disney World is one of my favorite places. If you have ever been there, you can immediately tell that it’s a well-oiled machine. Everything runs smoothly, efficiently, and with a smile. Who wouldn’t want their business to have the same standards as the great Walt Disney?  The following are principles that Disney applied to his company, as well as his theme park, that has made it one of the largest, most recognizable brands in history. 

Treat Your Customers Right

This is what Disney World is known best for, impeccable customer satisfaction. They don’t just say they want you to have a magical experience; they actually go above and beyond to make it true.  Disney knew that even though the park is crowded, waits are long, and the climate is hot,  by providing great customer service, a quality product and a friendly staff you will keep coming back. It’s also what creates brand loyalty, what all businesses strive for. 

Key Point: Stay away from focusing on your bottom line and get back to simply making your customers happy.

Never Stop Improving

Even though there’s a certain nostalgia one feels when returning to a Disney park , that doesn’t mean that time has stood still. The Disney brand is known for innovation. They hone in on ways to improve their customers’ experiences without causing disruptions. One key example includes the Disney World app which allows you to skip lines, check wait times  or make reservations. Another is the new Disney bands which allow you to enter the park, pay for merchandise, and collect ride photos all with the flick of the wrist. The brand saw the need among its customers and filled it with a solution. Make sure you are collecting client feedback and coming up with innovative ways to solve major pain points. 

Key Point: There is always room for improvement. 

Value Your Employees

Walt Disney World employs more than 62,000 people in Orland, Florida alone.  It is the largest single-site employer in the world. Walt Disney believed that a happy employee leads to a happy customer. The more engaged your employees are the more committed they will be to servicing your goals. So what were his tricks to keeping employees happy? 

–          Listen:  Make sure you have a channel for your employees to provide feedback such as internal surveys, regular open meetings etc. And most importantly,take action in communicating the feedback and how you plan to address it. 

–          Give Purpose: Motivate your employees by giving their work meaning. When people are trusted to do their job and given clear expectations they will feel valued and empowered. For example, Disney employees have power to make decisions. Store clerks don’t have to ask managers to offer a replacement for a broken toy, and customer service reps are able to offer extras without getting permission if a customer is unhappy.

–          Allow  Creativity: Your employees have the most customer insights.  That makes them a valuable asset to not only keeping customers happy but making product improvements. Take time to create channels for employees to be able to voice their ideas and provide creative solutions to the leaders who can act on it. 

Key Point:  Your Employees happiness matters

Choose Your Employees Carefully 

One of the biggest mistakes an employer can make is to choose based solely on talent and not attitude. You can always train an employee with the skills needed to do the job but you can’t train for attitude. Walt Disney World Management selects its “cast members” with care requiring every employee to have these five traits: Friendliness, patience, diligence, composure & multi-tasking. “If you want friendly service, then hire friendly people”. 

Several other large employers have also picked up this way of thinking. Chevrolet has seen a rise in employee retention and testimonials from satisfied customers since adopting a “hiring for nice” policy. They now have  an average retention rate of customers reaching 69 percent; a full 29% higher than its competitors. 

But adopting this policy is not enough. You also need to reinforce it through leadership. Reinforcing the behavior that they want to see and leading by example.

Key Point: Skill matters but attitude matters more. 

Don’t be afraid to fail 

Failure can lead to the next great idea.  Walt’s took great risks in creating his first studio, Laugh O’ Gram. It never made a profit. To make matters worse his greatest creation Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was lost, along with his studio, his equipment, his animators and his creations. But things didn’t end there. On his way home from realizing he had lost everything. Walt created Mickey Mouse. Failure is a natural part of the cycle and shouldn’t keep you from trying something new. 

One of the most important principles for Walt Disney is to “never set out to copy what others are doing, set out to do something new”.

Key Point: Innovation requires risk and risk can lead to failure. But failure can lead to great success. 

Teamwork

The focus at the Disney Company is to make sure that each guest has a memorable and pleasant experience, it doesn’t matter whose “job” it is to pick up a piece of trash. It becomes everyone’s responsibility. Current CEO, Michael Eisner, has been known to pick up trash throughout the park or walk through implementing feedback from employees.  His actions showed that everyone is a piece of the puzzle and they are all responsible for the greater good of the company. As a manager you shouldn’t be afraid to get down in the trenches with your employees to help reach a deadline. No task should be beneath you. This shows teamwork and group responsibility that will shine through. 

Key Point: When you’re a team it’s everyone’s responsibility to pick up the trash. 

Have Focus On the Big Picture

Every single person in your company should constantly be thinking “Does this align with our vision?”.  If not, then don’t do it. Companies waste too much time and energy getting side tracked with projects that don’t align with the company’s main mission. 

Walt Disney’s principle of Make Your Elephant Fly”, stresses that the long term vision must be aligned with short term execution. Be methodical on the projects your company takes and the decisions being made. Each should align with your company’s end goal. 

Key Point: “Dreams are made one decision at a time” 

Leadership is a fundamental pillar of any company. It drives the vision, the culture , and path to success. Walt Disney is known for being one of the greatest visionaries and leaders in U.S. history. It’s no surprise that he had principles he based his management on. Excel SoftSources leadership leads by example. Our leadership team values honesty, integrity and value.  They work hard to provide employees with a positive work culture and provide clients with exceptional service.  Come work with us!

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