Disney World as business school

Some time ago, our family visited Walt Disney World in Florida. It was around this time of year and we all enjoyed the experience quite a lot. We found the resort stimulating for everyone, children and adults. We especially enjoyed Epcot . (The acronym used to stand for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, but Disney has since dropped that. Some people on the web also jokingly point out that the acronym also stands for Every Person Comes Out Tired, but that's another story!)

Disney World is really a marvel of logistical organization and customer care. Slate.com's business reporter Daniel Gross recently visited the resort and writes that it should be seen as a business model for many companies. In his article, entitled "The Mickey Mouse MBA: What We Can All Learn From Disney World," Gross points out that restaurants and airlines could use some of the innovations introduced at the resort to manage line-ups and schedules. He also shows how the simple approach of "under-promising and over-delivering" is key to enhancing the visitor's experience.

Last year, Disney World saw 49 million people move through it's turnstiles. That is a number of people larger than the population of many countries. The safe and orderly processing of so many people offers key lessons for government border controls, Slate says. Disney World combines the latest available technology, including biometric scans, with "old-fashioned humanity."

MSN Money reports that in the last five years, the Walt Disney Company's growth in net income has been in the order of 30.5%, and revenue this year have been 35.5 billion dollars. Its theme parks represent only about a quarter of its operating income. The rest comes from its media networks (ABC, ESPN, etc.) at 56%, its studio entertainment division at 11% and its consumer products division at 9% . In short, a formidable company. And still a company that seems to take care of the small details when it comes to the interactions with its customers.

The company also runs a consulting business called the "Disney Institute" . It focuses on leadership development, service, customer loyalty, team building and creativity.

In his article, Gross suggests CEOs should buy a three-day pass to Disney World and spend some time observing. He particularly recommends Epcot for American companies that do any business overseas:

"Finally, every CEO should take at least three or four rides on It's a Small World and then spend the rest of the day in Epcot. For years, the United States has been shrinking as a global economic force, a trend that is accelerating with the continuing boom in Asia and the domestic slowdown. For more and more companies, future growth and prosperity will depend on penetrating foreign markets. But Americans aren't so much innocents abroad as ignoramuses abroad. A day at Disney can remedy all that. It's a Small World is like an animated version of Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat. Epcot allows visitors to immerse themselves in the cultures and cuisines of 11 countries, from Mexico to Norway, in 40 compact acres."

Gross may be exaggerating just a little about American business savvy abroad, but the references to the Epcot experience are apt, I think.

For the rest of us looking for an interesting time on vacation, it's still a fun place to visit.

For more information on the Walt Disney Company's corporate structure, investor relations and environmental efforts, see:
Photos courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/

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