Hear mention of the name Walt Disney, and your mind immediately harkens back to childhood, to a place where magic is possible, and dreams really do come true. But in addition to creating characters that inspire us to this day, Walt Disney was an innate businessman who built an empire that has stood the test of time, all from the sketching of a cartoon mouse.
Here are five lessons in business we can learn from Walt Disney.
“When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.”
Throughout Walt Disney’s career it was his belief in himself, his ideas and the ability of his team that differentiated him from his peers. This belief gave him an ability to “sell” his concepts to others and create contagious enthusiasm and subsequent investment.
When others said Disneyland was a folly, Disney had an inherent belief he could create something that children and adults would be drawn to, and his legacy stands the test of time.
“The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting.”
At many notable times in Disney’s career he failed to give in to popular opinion and predictions. Many in the industry said Snow White would bankrupt the company. Three times over budget it almost did, but with belief and perseverance it became the most successful film of 1938, not only recouping its investment but paying for itself three times over.
It was a similar story with Disneyland, which Disney initially funded himself. After planning he then attracted shareholders like ABC by brokering a deal to broadcast his cartoons on television.
“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
Disney was renowned for seeking the best in himself and his staff. He would walk the lot talking to people and unearthing their skills. He sought to foster talent and tap the goldmine of at his fingertips, creating a team which played to their collective strengths. A good animator but not a great one, he also knew when to step back and let the expertise of others evolve into something incredible.
“Whenever I go on a ride, I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved.”
Never one to rest on his laurels, Disney was always on the lookout for what could be done better, more efficiently, in a more spectacular fashion. Far from pessimism, it was a commitment to creating something exceptional that sparked the imagination of his staff and the public, and had his company constantly reaching new heights and developing new techniques.
“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. And one thing it takes to accomplish something is courage.”
Like many great entrepreneurs, Disney’s story of success begins with spectacular failure. Prior to starting the Walt Disney Company with his brother, Disney had been part of two failed start-ups in the 1920s. But instead of being defined by his mistakes he learnt from them and turned it all around with a talking mouse.
Walt Disney may be the exception when it comes to the complete package of creativity, visionary and leader, but his skills have their place in every business today, and in perhaps his most pertinent quote of all:
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing”.