Everything I Know About Business I Learned from Disneyland

Everything I know about Business I Learned from Disneyland

Some women marry into a family of sailors or charade-players. I instead married into a family of Disneyland aficionados. On our most recent trip to the happiest place on earth, I couldn’t help but notice how skillfully Disney creates a complete family experience. My entrepreneurial antennae went up and I couldn’t help but note what you too can learn from Disney’s expertise.

An Entrepreneurial Crash Course From Disneyland:

1) Have a clear value proposition – Disneyland knows it wants to be the “happiest place on earth” and everything about Disneyland conveys this goal. From parades to characters with perpetually smiling faces who will sign autographs, hug and high five all day long, Disney understands every family should leave there having had a “fun and magical day.” What main take-away do you want your customers to have from interacting with your company?

2) Don’t Skimp on the Details – Not only are the rides in Disney carefully designed and orchestrated but even the waiting lines are filled with ride-specific designs and jokes. On the few rides where we zipped through to the main attraction, I was sad to miss the lead-up to the ride which is often just as fun. Make sure that your customer’s full experience is well designed and consistent, from your first contact through buying your product, even ending your contact. Take a step back and consider what you would experience and feel as your customers.

3) Set Expectations Accurately – Desperate to entertain my antsy sons on one of the longer Disney lines, I came up with a competition to see who could most accurately guess the wait-time from where we were standing to board the ride. Everyone guessed and then watched our watch timer to determine who the “winner” and “losers” were of my oh-so-innovative game (Note: The game succeeded and winning became a point of pride with my sons.) Although my guesses were often wildly optimistic, Disney wasn’t; if you bet the time on the ride sign telling you the wait time “from this point,” you were usually within a few minutes of the true time. Keep your promise to your customers on timing, money, and everything else, that’s the foundation of repeat business and referrals.

4) Don’t Be Afraid To Innovate – A few years ago Disney introduced Single Rider Lines. This allows the lone traveler, or a group willing to split up, the chance to board a ride more quickly depending on how many empty seats there are as the cars fill up. What Disney has created is a win-win option. For people whose biggest priority is the ride more quickly, they can sit with random strangers but wait less time. For everyone else, there’s no disadvantage to having a fuller car. Are there ways that your business can easily serve more customers without changing the service level offered to your current clients? It’s something to always be mindful of.

5) Make Magic – I’ve been to many theme parks and amusement parks (what can I say, I love rides!) And many of them are really well done. But for me none of them packs that same magical feeling as Disney. From the parades with the music and dancing, to the fireworks, to the stylized shops on Main St., Disney creates an experience for my family that feels very all-encompassing and special. What’s truly exceptional about your business? What would your customers say?

While I know that most of you do not aspire to own and operate the behemoth machine that is Disney, it’s still worth reflecting how your business is truly special and how you can do even better.

Your Homework Exercise This Week: Ask 3-5 customers or clients “What stands out for you about my company X?”

Not only will you learn if your customers see the same value proposition you do in your business, but you are likely initiating great conversations and feedback that can energize your business building efforts.

Now please comment below to let me know what you find magical in either your business or someone else’s you’ve come into contact with.

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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