[Other posts in this series can be found here.]
One aspect of my mission, purpose, and motivation in writing The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success, a book about the business success of Walt Disney, was for it to be an inspiring case study about entrepreneurship. I wanted the book in part to serve as a counterpoint against the misguided perception, prejudice, and error in the thinking many people have that CEOs and leaders of corporations are paid millions of dollars to sit around all day doing nothing of importance to advance the betterment of our lives and our world, while their employees do all the work.
Walt Disney was in many ways was both typical and atypical of entrepreneurial CEOs past and present. Most entrepreneurs work long hours under severe stress to keep their businesses vital for consumers and prevent them from running out of cash and going bankrupt. Walt’s story exemplifies this. We see his business and his thinking about his business evolve through small successes and failures, then through innovation and adaptation, to bigger successes and bigger failures.
Walt Disney understood and embraced the need and responsibility to constantly rethink and identify a path that would combine available human knowledge, skill, resources, and worker motivation and imagination to create value for customers, employees, and owners. He did so with no certainty of success and his own career and the economic wellbeing of his employees and their families hanging in the balance.
This is an immense responsibility of all leaders, but especially entrepreneurial CEOs, that is too often overlooked and not well understood by those harbouring an anti-free-enterprise, anti-business mentality. In a free-market of voluntary exchange and competition, consumer choices determine where the money goes, and thus also who prospers and who is penalized by their errors in judgement.
For years the working title for the book was Thinking Like Disney: The Nine Principles of Walt Disney’s Business Success.
I still like the title Thinking Like Disney and think it’s a catchy title, but right from the start it never felt quite right. For one thing, the book was about Walt Disney the man, and “Disney” more often than not no longer refers to a flesh-and-blood Walt Disney but connotes a business empire that bears his name. It conjures images of a prosperous and powerful global corporation. Most books and articles on “Disney” are no longer about Walt Disney.
As Walt observed later in his life, in many ways he was no longer Walt Disney. Over time, the public had come to identify Walt Disney with a brand abstraction built by a public relations and marketing machine rather than the real person that he was. The real person was much more interesting and important than the two-dimensional portrayal.
In the end I decided to call the book what it was, and the title reflects both parts of the book: a business biography of Walt Disney, and the nine principles that define his business and personal success. Contained in these principles are lessons from which we can all learn from.
© 2019, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.
Barry Linetsky is the author of the acclaimed book The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success (Theme Park Press), and an Honorary Disney History Institute Historian. Barry is a writer, photographer, researcher, and business strategy enabler.