Everybody I have told about my year in Disney World has been really excited for me but their next question has often been ‘Why do you want to work for Disney again, haven’t you got over that yet?’ – here I am going to try to explain exactly why I believe Disney is not only a fantastic experience but also a fantastic company both in its Parks and Resorts and its wider business. I apologise in advance for the slightly philosophical nature of this post, I promise it is a one-off.
If you have read my earlier post on my history with Disney you will know that my first application to Disney was on a bit of a whim. I had enjoyed 2 family holidays to Florida but I did not know much about the wider Disney company. After my application, however I started reading about the history and culture of the company and I have to say I was hooked. I do not believe that there is another company in the world which simply will not accept anything that is not of the highest standard. The only company that I think comes close is Apple but Steve Jobs is on the Disney board of directors and was a key player in founding Pixar, so that is to be expected.
Aim for the best
Recently I have watched several documentaries on Disney history that have inspired me even more. The first was Waking Sleeping Beauty which charts the history of the traditional animated films and shows all the troubles the studio went through and how through some great management they got back to producing great films. The parallel story of the Pixar brand is The Pixar Story which talks about how Steve Jobs and John Lasseter (who is now a major player in the creative development of the wider Disney company) came to build the most innovative animation studio in the world and later become part of the Disney family. Both of these films give an interesting insight into the Disney philosophy which I can sum up as ‘Aim for the absolute best’ – there have been times when ‘the best’ has not been achieved but the company has usually taken decisive and large-scale action to shake things up and do better next time. In everything I have done I have always tried to be the best and I have massive respect for a company that puts long-term success through investing in great ideas over short-term gain through what is easy.
Through work I have had a couple of opportunities to come into contact with Walt Disney Imagineering. It is an enormous, dynamic and varied organisation (see the video below) but it is led by some really visionary people. Two that I have enormous respect for are John Lasseter and Steve Davison, both have shown that they will not compromise and will produce an amazing product – some have even called Lasseter the Walt Disney of his generation. A company that employs this type of people and can genuinely generate excitement about its Research and Development (this is after all what WDI is) is a company that has a great and long future and one I want to work for.
The other enlightening books on TWDC I have read recently are In Service To The Mouse: My Unexpected Journey to Becoming Disneyland’s First President (only available electronically) and Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service. The first is the memoirs of Jack Lindquist who started at Disneyland as a junior member of the Marketing team and rose to be the president of Disneyland. Lindquist tells stories about his time in the park and it is possible to see the innovative attitude that can be seen around the company – just because it has not been done before does not mean we should not try. Another attitude I love and aspire to match. Jack’s story is a common one, many key members of the Disney team started at the bottom rung of the company – they look after their own. I respect that in a company, if you nurture your own talent your ethos spreads throughout the company rather than allowing undue influence from people from outside who may not understand how your business works. It also means your staff (cast members) are motivated since they know they can go places – I want to go places so I want to work for a company like Disney.
Take Walt Disney Imagineering – they are forever pushing the boundaries and ‘plussing’ attractions. A great example is World of Color at Disney’s California Adventure, the Bellagio in Las Vegas has had a fountain show for years but Disney took that idea, added the latest in video technology and changed the lighting from white to LEDs and immediately created a show that hundreds of thousands of people watch in awe every month. Not a massive leap in technology but a leap in vision to let them try. A simpler example is Disney’s FastPass – theme parks had a problem of long lines for years, everybody knew there must be a software solution to give people timed entry but it took vision from TWDC execs to allow Disney software engineers time and money to design their ‘virtual queue’ system which is now a Disney patent. Not only did they create a great system for their guests, they also created an intellectual property asset which they can licence to other theme parks as a source of revenue.
Great Service = Great Wealth
Be Our Guest is written by the Disney company and is all about their philosophy on guest and customer service. I cannot tell you how irritated I get when I go into a store and the assistants are unhelpful. The smiling I can just about manage without but at least look like you want to help me. Again this not only makes the guests happier but you also make more money – happy guests might just take you up on that limited time offer for a $19.95 watch, a guest who you are irritating is not even going to consider it.
So why do I want to work for Disney? They are a company with vision, a company which understands that providing a great experience creates enormous loyalty and with it enormous revenue. It truly is where great entertainment minds meet great business minds and that is exactly where I want to be. I sincerely hope the CRP is not the end of my Disney career – there may have to be a few gaps, but having been involved with the company for 4 years I know that it is where I want to end up eventually.