Bill Capodagli on “The Disney Way”: An interview by Bob Morris

Capodagli-161x200Bill Capodagli (pronounced Cap o die) co-authored one of Fortune magazine’s “Best Business Books of 1999,”The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company. Prior to co-founding Capodagli Jackson Consulting in 1993, Bill held managerial positions at the consulting firms of AT Kearney and Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst and Young). From 1991-1993, Bill launched the University of Southern Indiana’s business consulting initiative and began teaching The Disney Way principles to an international client base. His popular speaking engagements on the topics of Disney/Pixar leadership, Pixar innovation, and Disney customer service, are transforming both entrepreneurial and Fortune 500 companies alike.

The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company, Third Edition, was published by McGraw-Hill Education (April 2016).

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Bill.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide on a 3rd Edition?

Capodagli: Our executive editor at McGraw-Hill told us that she regretted not publishing the 2nd edition in hard cover and asked if we were interested in writing a 3rd edition. So, we began planning the book to feature new organizations, including several of our clients, and also a chapter that details a roadmap to implementing a Disney Way culture.

That same week, we received an email from a small startup company in LA explaining that their CEO had read our book  times and was using it as a model for their new company. And, if I would find an opening in my schedule to discuss the book with them, they would love it. At the time I was out of town with various clients, but when I returned to my office, I said to Lynn, “Wasn’t that a flattering email we received from that little west coast company?” She gave me a look of utter disbelief and said, “Are you kidding me? Don’t you know who Tyra Banks is?” When I saw her picture, of course I knew who she was. I think that most Millennials know Tyra is the creator of America’s Next Top Model, but they might not know that she is now the CEO of TYRA Beauty. TYRA Beauty is a cosmetics company that provides an opportunity for independent sales associates called Beautytainers (Tyra is a master at creating new words: Beautytainment is “where beauty and entertainment collide”) to gain financial freedom and self-esteem.

I flew to LA to work with Tyra and her team, and she was impressive beyond what you would imagine a supermodel would be. After spending several days with her, I came to believe that many CEOs could learn a lesson from Tyra on focus and commitment. Like her favorite hero of all time, Walt Disney, she is not interested in popularity, but rather in creating a legacy.

Including TYRA Beauty along with a host of other outstanding clients – Ottawa County, Michigan, Grand Lake, Colorado, Science Center of Iowa, ACTS Retirement-Life Communities and others – was both an honor and a privilege. We continue to receive feedback from our Disney Way readers who are being inspired by these role model organizations.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing The Disney Way? Please explain.

Capodagli: Even before we began writing the 3rd edition, I was contemplating the reasons why organizations that follow the same process and use the same tools to implement a new culture can have dramatically different outcomes. Some can claim good or average results while others sore above the competition. Consider the difference between Universal Studios and Walt Disney World in Orlando. Why is it that Universal Studios, seven miles from Walt Disney World, has only 1/3 the attendance of the Magic Kingdom alone!

I came to the conclusion that it was all about “love” – the subject of Chapter 12: Love – the Real Pixie Dust. Love for coworkers, love for customers, love for the product and love for self. Walt Disney instilled all of these “loves” in his company. Each of these factors is critical to achieving success in any organization.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the new edition differ from the previous editions?

Capodagli: Even though Fortune magazine named The Disney Way as a “best business book”, some critics claimed that Walt’s Dream, Believe, Dare, Do principles work for our clients because of our involvement and assistance. So, in the 2nd edition, we featured several organizations who were not our clients, but that were very successful over the long-term by embracing one or more of Walt’s Dream, Believe, Dare, Do principles. Many have become industry giants – Ernst & Young, The Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, The Cheesecake Factory, Men’s Wearhouse and others.

In our new edition, we featured organizations that are either startups or those that have significantly transformed their customer-centric cultures. We have also included a new section called Putting it Together. One of the chapters documents the customer-centric journey of Ottawa County, Michigan, and their phenomenal achievements. A recent government official, outside of Michigan, said to me, “If you can make this work in government, you can make this work anywhere.” There is also a chapter called Producing a Customer-Centric Culture – An Implementation Strategy that will help any organization achieve results.

Morris: The Disney Way is largely based on the principles and values of one person, Walt Disney. Who and what had the greatest influence on his development of those principles and values?

Capodagli: From various historical accounts, three people had the greatest influence on Walt: his mother, Leonardo Da Vinci and Charlie Chaplin. Walt’s mother and Leonardo Da Vinci inspired Walt’s “displayed” thinking which he named “storyboarding.” His mother was constantly posting notes on the refrigerator door to remind her of appointments and groceries she needed to purchase. On a wall, Leonardo Da Vinci posted drawings of a person or animal in different positions that would simulate movement.

Walt’s storyboarding allowed him to see a story unfold before he began the costly effort of cell animation.

Walt said everything he had ever accomplished was a result of Mickey Mouse. Mickey was Walt’s alter ego and he was originally modeled after Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp character. So without Chaplin, who knows what Mickey would have become!

My father was a senior partner of Cosgrove & Company (later merged into Marsh & McLennan) and principal “architect” of the multidimensional insurance coverage that Disneyland required. He and the Disney brothers became close friends and he always spoke highly of Walt’s lively imagination and Roy Disney’s struggles to “keep the lights on” and “the howling dogs away from the front door.” Is that a fair assessment? Please explain.

Capodagli: That is a very fair assessment. Walt said he would provide the Dream and his brother Roy would have to figure out how to pay for it. It is interesting that many of Walt’s initial animated feature film releases barely broke even or lost money. But part of Walt and Roy’s long-term genius was they assessed that they had a new market every seven years. So every seven years, they would re-release one of their films to a new generation of seven to ten-year-olds and the revenues were nearly all pure profit.

Morris: In your opinion, to what extent (if any) would Walt Disney disapprove of anything and/or anyone associated with
his company after his illness and death?

Capodagli: I don’t know if Walt would have approved of the proliferation of kiosk merchandising that sometimes compromises the natural beauty of the Parks. On the other hand, I think Walt would be proud of the fact that he inspired the leaders of Pixar to create their iconic studio and most of all, that they are now a valuable part of his namesake organization.

Morris: In your opinion, what is Walt’s legacy?

Capodagli: One of the reasons for The Walt Disney Company’s long- term success is really the first of Dr. Deming’s famous points, “create constancy of purpose.” In his professional career, Walt’s major passion was to provide the finest in family entertainment. For the most part, for nearly a century, the Company has stayed true to that legacy, and has set the standard for the entire entertainment industry.

* * *

Here is a direct link to all of Part 2.

To check out Part 1, please click here.

Bill cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His firm’s website link

Amazon link

Bill Capodagli on The Disney Way: YouTube video link

LinkedIn link

National Seminars Training link

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