A bit of Walt Disney’s business philosophy

Picture_10 When asked his feelings about being bottom-line driven, Walt Disney replied:  "If we take care of our guests and our cast members, the rest takes care of itself."

What do you think?  Too simplistic?  Right on the money?  Have a different take?

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15 comments on “A bit of Walt Disney’s business philosophy

  1. It sounds like a nice philosophy. In reality, Walt Disney was a very practical businessman. If you tour some of the buildings in the Burbank complex that were constructed in the 1930s and 1940s, you’ll probably ask yourself, “Why are they built like that?” At that time, Disney (and especially his bankers) didn’t know for sure if the business was sustainable. So if Walt went bust, the buildings could easily be converted into a . . . hospital. That sounds to me like a man who was concerned with minimizing his risk.

  2. Roger,

    I would guess the quote came from later in his life, when he was not as plagued by financial concerns.

    For most of his career, he was trying to find someone to finance the dream. Much of his loyalty to his employees probably came from the fact that for a long time, they were the only ones who believed in the same vision he had.

    Drew

  3. Cam Beck says:

    I’m guessing that Walt believed the philosophy, but he had difficulty convincing the bean counters that he was right.

  4. Mario Vellandi says:

    One still must be conscious of the breakdown of operating expenses though. I’d definitely mention having a great accountant.

  5. Cam,

    And the bankers! He was turned down about 35+ times when he approached them with the concept of Disneyland.

    Drew

  6. Mario,

    Agreed — you can’t take care of the guests and employees if you don’t have a viable business.

    But mentioning the accountant sure does make the quote a lot less inspiring!

    Drew

  7. Foundational. Good products and services with great customer service will always win out in time over great products and services with mediocre customer service. People want relationships as much or more than they want results.

  8. Dawud,

    Amen! In the end, we want to buy from people we like and trust. As long as their product is good…we’re good.

    Do you think this philosophy varies by the price tag or the “complexity” of the item purchased?

    Drew

  9. Price is almost always going to be an issue to some people. So I think it does vary. I, myself, have clients that would like to do more work with me but have fiscal restraints. They still want to find a way to be in relationship with me. Now they’re showing up on my blog – which is great. They get to interact with me – for free. So it’s all about the relationship.

    Did I beat around the bush too much?

  10. Dawud,

    No, not beating around the bush, I just think we’re circling around something interesting. Let me see if I can stomp on it.

    What you and I do for a living isn’t rocket science and we don’t save lives. So our customers can reduce their demand for the “best” in terms of quality of work if the relationship is really strong. (I am not suggesting that either of us does shoddy work. But we are not big name agencies.)

    On the other hand, if I am having brain surgery and might die…the best surgeon in the country might be a total jerk — but that’s who I want. I don’t care about the relationship. I care about his scaple by my brain.

    Am I making sense?

    Drew

  11. Lisa says:

    Hindsight is 20/20. Of course Walt Disney needed to convince the bankers to take a leap of faith, and given the place in time he was requesting money for animantion it did seem a little insane. He was a pioneer in his time. It’s much easier to get backing once something is proven.

  12. Drew: I get your point. I don’t save lives – though I’ve been known to save a business or two, which could lead to not having a house foreclose, which means a business owner not being depressed and committing suicide. Oh wait, maybe I do save lives.

    Just kidding. I hear what you’re saying. It’s just great when the best service provider is also a great person.

  13. Hi Lisa,

    Actually — it wasn’t for the animation studio that Walt struggled for financing. It was Disneyland.

    I am sure it was an incredibly compelling sales pitch but what a far-fetched idea.

    As you say, hindsight is 20-20. I’ll bet there were many a banker who were kicking themselves in the rump after Disneyland opened!

    Drew

  14. Dawud,

    We’re of the same mind. Quality alone isn’t enough. That’s not what separates us from the pack.

    I think you said it — good quality plus great service trumps great quality and lousy service almost every time.

    Drew

  15. I must admit, your information is very precious.

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