When you think of business leaders who changed the world, it’s likely a few key names come into your mind: Henry Ford, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney…
That’s right. The founder of the massive Disney enterprise.
Walt Disney was one of the most innovative business leaders of his time. From his humble beginnings as a newspaper delivery boy to his legacy as one of the most successful filmmakers of all time, Disney consistently found the best employees, pursued new technologies, and took advantage of untapped market demands in the entertainment industry. His first full-length picture, Snow White, earned over $8 million on its first release, which would be equivalent to $134 million in today’s economy.
Disney built from his initial success by investing in new ventures, such as additional movies and the Disney theme parks, which have built the empire into a $142 billion entertainment icon. By using Walt Disney as a model, in addition to some helpful business resources, your company can build the same kind of strong reputation for excellence and gain the loyalty of customers everywhere.
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
With Disney, action was the name of the game. Instead of just talking about wanting to go into cartooning, Disney added cartooning courses to his regular high school studies, often staying up late at night to complete work for both. When many animators were discussing the merits of cel-based animation versus cutout-based animation, Disney was experimenting with both, finding the superior method.
Instead of talking about what you need to do in your organization, take action. Good leaders see potential risks, plan around them, and ultimately take the next step. By focusing on action, you inspire your employees to do the same, speeding up internal innovation, creation, and production. This fosters an organizational culture of movement that can lead to better products, quicker responses to market changes, and, ultimately, decision-making advantages over the competition.
“We are not trying to entertain the critics. I’ll take my chances with the public.”
Walt Disney set himself apart through his commitment to customer relationship management. Instead of trying to please stockholders or investors, Disney focused on his fans’ opinions of his business ventures, exemplified in the creation of the Disneyland theme park. When investors pressured him to raise ticket prices to help cover immense construction costs, Disney responded, “Disneyland is a work of love. We didn’t go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money.”
In business leadership, this same ideal holds true. Without dedicating yourself to your customers, you will never convince them you care about them as individuals. By recognizing who your real investors are, you can create products that will inspire them, help them, and eventually turn them into brand evangelists and lifetime fans.
“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again.”
Impeccable quality sells itself. No one knew that more than Walt Disney. In 1934, Disney began a project that most of Hollywood would call “Disney’s Folly.” This high-risk investment, a full-length animated feature film that cost nearly $1.5 million dollars to make, was sure to sink Disney and his budding company into bankruptcy. Regardless of the opposition, Disney continued to use the most cutting-edge technology, talented screenwriters, and advanced animation theories to create “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”
This commitment to excellence separates a good business from a great one. Customers know when a business has put the effort into creating a quality product that keeps their needs in mind. Regardless of how much money it might cost, customers will often go out of their way to support a strong product. Service industries, similarly, should create a quality customer experience so life-altering that it becomes an mental anchor for future purchasing. Doing what you do well will get customers to sell your product for you, building a positive reputation that can carry your company into the future.