Monday, October 13, 2008

How Walt Looked At Things

I am currently rereading Pat Williams' (with Jim Denny) book titled How To Be Like Walt, and something I read in the chapter titled "The Plus Factor" struck me as I was reading other blogs and articles over the last couple of weeks. In the section subtitled "Walt and the Capitalist Bosses", Williams tells a story about Roy Disney pestering Walt to attend a stockholder meeting. Walt always refused to go, but Roy kept after him and finally Walt relented.

At the meeting, Walt took the podium and opened a letter from a man in Florida who owned a few shares of Disney stock. He read the letter to the assembled stockholders, which ended with this sentiment: "I don't care if I ever get any dividends. You just keep up the good work and keep making good pictures."

Walt then added "I wish this company had more shareholders like that one. He understands what Disney is all about." (Roy apparently never asked Walt to attend another stockholder meeting.)

That sums up Walts attitude about his business. It was about doing things right. When he and his employees did things right, they got a very good return on the investment, even if it didn't add up in advance to the beancounters, including Roy. The difference is that Roy understood and trusted Walt, and believed in him.

A huge problem with not only Disney today, but with many large corporations, is not only that there is no Walt running things, there is no Roy to figure out how to accomplish the things that made Disney special.

Does it make Disney special that they still make quality films? I believe it does. Does it make Disney special that they run the most unique theme parks in the world? I believe it does. Does it make Disney special that they run a timeshare business that is, at the moment, hugely profitable? I do NOT think it does. I like the idea of running a profitable DVC operation; I just wish that it could be a supporting part of the resort business instead of the main thrust.

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