There’s a story that tells of Walt Disney sitting on a bench at an amusement park. After noticing how poorly organized and full of litter it was, he came up with the concept for Disneyland. When he told his wife his idea, she said, “Why would you want to build an amusement park? They’re so dirty,” to which Walt replied, “That’s the point. Mine will be different.”
So what makes the Walt Disney Company different? Here are four keys that Disney has mastered:
- Education is vital to success.
Early on in its existence, Disney learned that employees are vital to a company’s success. To ensure that all of its employees understood the “Disney way,” Disney created a training program called Disney University that all of its employees, also known as cast members, were required to complete before ever interacting with a guest.
- Trust your employees
Disney has recently completed three major acquisitions (Marvel, Pixar, and Lucas Films) and they’ve been a huge success. When the Lucas Films acquisition was announced, it took the business sector by storm, not only because of its impact, but because no one saw it coming. The surprising thing about the acquisition was that Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, had told the people who report to him that an acquisition was in the works several months before it happened.
He told Grazer, “I like being direct and I like people knowing what I’m thinking about where the company is going so I end up sharing a lot.” Iger clearly understands how important it is to trust your employees, even with sensitive information.
- Always be improving.
The creator of Disney University, Van France, relayed a story of how Walt Disney would walk through the park looking for things that could be improved. France continued that tradition by going through the park looking for problems and thinking through how to fix them.
As the CEO, Iger has been driven by a similar thought process. He’s had to navigate some difficult situations as the traditional marketplace has transformed into a digital marketplace. When faced with trying to lead Disney into the future while holding onto its original values, Iger said, “There’s a lot that happened in the past and there are values that can be carried forward. But I’m trying to pull from that a formula that can be applied to the future.”
- Focus on the core of the business.
When Disney first started, its focus was on comic strips, characters, and amusement parks. Later, Disney’s focus shifted to movies, merchandise, TV shows, video games, and several other ventures. However, despite all of the goods and services that the company offers, the core of the business has always been the same: a great customer experience and quality products. Instead of following the trend of other movie studios (producing a large number of films and hoping for a hit), Disney opted to produce only a handful of really great films each year. This strategy also gives Disney the ability to focus on other revenue-generating opportunities, such as TV shows, video games, and merchandise.
Other major companies have taken a similar approach. In 1997, Apple cut its product line by 70% to focus on its core products. This cut was harsh in the beginning, but would later be viewed as the catalyst that transformed Apple into one of the leaders in the technology industry