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The Business Side of Disney by Matt Emerson


5 Business Tips from the House of the Mouse




Matt-Emerson-Wandering-But-Not-Lost-WBNL-Enterprises-WBNL-Coaching-150x150I had the privilege of being a part of the leadership team in Theme Park Operations at Disneyland for over 5 years.  The practical experiences I encountered have proven to be more valuable than any class, book, or video that I have ever been exposed to.  The sheer volume of everything; people, processes, policies, paperwork, food, and merchandise is mind-blowing.  Keeping the cast and the guests happy while watching out for potential safety and health incidents and ensuring an efficient operation at the same time could be a daunting task.  The Management Training Program that was in place at the time was rough by the standards of the day, however, we were exposed to all sides of the business, and although we certainly didn’t appreciate it at the time, it has proven to have been a powerful skill building experience.

Business basics are always the key to a successful path.  Here are 5 things that were ingrained in me while at the Magic Kingdom which you can easily assimilate into your own career.

1 - Communication is Key
Professional, clear, and concise, communication will allow you to proceed efficiently and effectively.  Always think about how your message will be interpreted by others.

On an average day at Disneyland, I interacted with several dozen members of the leadership team, hundreds of cast members and had access to thousands of guests.  We were taught that the first and most important step of communication was to listen.  Once you have a clear idea of what is being asked, and only then, can you provide a solution.  In any business it always goes back to the golden rule - ‘Do unto others…”

2 - Present when Possible
Although you may not like to speak in front of a group - never turn down the opportunity.  You will grow because of it and your confidence just might go through the roof.

During the Management Intern Program, we were assigned a group presentation to pitch new ideas for possible implementation into the resort.  We were presenting to upper management along with invited guests from the Studio.  The pressure to perform was on and that one anxiety-filled exercise allowed me to be able to face just about any crowd

3 - Plan Ahead
In order to thrive, you need to know your goals and have a plan.  At WBNL Coaching, we talk about this all the time.  The business planning process doesn’t need to be a chore, after all, it’s your roadmap to financial freedom.

Every company handles budgeting differently.  Budgeting at Disneyland was challenging because the business relies so highly on factors that can change daily; tourism, the local economy, the weather (the list goes on), however, you can glean a good idea of where to start from the prior year and then factor in the current realities.  I always looked at budgets as sort of a game and that if you budget it, you can build it!  While in one department, I was able to increase year-over-year income150% by implementing new programs and processes.  You would have a hard time doing that without a plan!

4 - Watch your Dailies
Once you have a plan in place you need to monitor it or it will be useless.

There was a time when the belt was being tightened by Burbank and we had to provide a daily breakdown of our actuals vs. plan.  Yes daily!  This went on for about a month and we all hated it at the time, however, it was probably the best training I ever received on watching a plan to ensure efficiency.  Little things are easy to overlook but in the big picture they add up.

5 - Amuse Me
Enjoying what you do is paramount in the game of life.  You are more productive and pleasant when you are having fun while getting the job done.  Hitting goals, meeting deadlines, and being serious about your business is important, however, one can take it too far sometimes.

This one wasn’t taught to us in class, you need to learn this one on your own, I suppose.  My future wife, who I met during my Disney tenure, and I had a saying when things got rough and people started taking themselves a little too seriously, “This is an amusement park, Amuse me!”.  At the end of the day, that's what it's all about!  



Management Training Program - Theme Park Operations Interns (for a little historical perspective, Splash Mountain opened that year! HA)



Real Estate and Reality meet as co-hosts, Jan O’Brien and Matt Emerson bring you Tips, Tools, & Topics to supercharge your business. They'll share their insights along with interviews with industry thought leaders. The ethos of WBNL Coaching is helping you to align and connect so that you can prosper. The Wandering Zen segment will offer you some inspiration so that you can disconnect and recharge.

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