I learned a valuable lesson while at Disney and I like to pass it along to my audience in every program I lead. ’Unless we continually strive to improve our products, service or leadership style, we automatically concede defeat to the competition; no one is ever too good to stop improving.” – Doug Lipp, Disney and Business Keynote Speaker
Doug enjoyed a unique career with Disney, beginning in 1978. He achieved recognition as a college intern in the Disneyland Marketing Department in Anaheim, where his natural speaking and leadership skills caught the eye of Disney’s executive leadership. After graduate school, he was fast-tracked into an exclusive Disney management-training program, where he was quickly promoted to a leadership role in the prestigious Disney University..
During this time,Tokyo Disneyland (TDL) was in its initial stages of development. It was vital that the “Disney Way” be implemented in its first theme park overseas. Doug was selected to help train visiting Japanese executives in this philosophy before TDL opened. His success and acute sensitivity to intercultural management issues earned Doug a position on the team of American executives assigned to build and open TDL. For two years, Doug helped manage both the construction and operations phases of TDL, including hiring and training more than 4,000 Japanese employees. Doug later penned the first of eight books titled The Success of Tokyo Disneyland. This highly acclaimed book is one of the first to address the effects of culture on business.
After completion of TDL in 1983, Doug returned to Disney’s headquarters to lead corporate training initiatives. At the time, Disney was undergoing tumultuous change. Not only was the company preparing to release its first-ever PG-rated movie, but it was also experiencing a change in leadership, away from a family-led business. Disney was threatened by hostile corporate raiders and the leadership team was under constant attack. Eventually, Michael Eisner stepped in as CEO, joined by COO Frank Wells. A modern era of a Walt and Roy Disney-like partnership was ushered in.
Doug continued to work at Disney’s corporate office during this period of new leadership and strategic growth. The new Disney strove to cater to a broader audience, developing a product line to appeal to both youngsters and adults—from The Little Mermaid and Toy Story to Pretty Woman and ESPN. Eisner and Wells demonstrated an ability to respect the company legacy and brand, while also creating new markets. Doug worked alongside Disney’s leadership team, where he witnessed these strategic developments first-hand. When Doug is hired to speak about “Disney,” “customer service,” and “change,” he brings an intimate perspective from a time of historical significance at Disney. This is also where he met his wife, Pam.
After heartfelt soul-searching, Doug decided to leave the Walt Disney Company to pursue his passion for researching and analyzing successful global corporations. Doug’s fluency in Japanese, combined with his recent experience at Tokyo Disneyland, fueled his decision to go independent. After experiencing first-hand the successes and frustrations faced by international teams with the TDL project, Doug wanted to help other multinational organizations struggling with issues related to international teamwork.
With a professor from Stanford University (and co-author of Doug’s second book), Doug helped lead a private, Palo Alto-based, consulting firm and think-tank called the Intercultural Relations Institute (IRI). Through IRI, Doug worked with international corporations based in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the U.S. Doug taught IRI’s clients, such as Procter & Gamble and Intel, how to develop and implement strategies for better leadership and management of diverse teams of professionals in the growing global business arena.
After years of consulting Fortune 500 clients, Doug joined NEC, a major Japanese corporation. For the next seven years, Doug consulted NEC’s multinational executives at their newly constructed semiconductor plant in Northern California.
During this time, Doug also worked extensively with a local economic development group called SACTO (Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization). As Chair of SACTO’s Pacific Rim Committee, Doug served as an ambassador for the Sacramento region and helped the organization fulfill its mission of recruiting international companies to the Sacramento area. Doug traveled to Japan a dozen times on this mission, often accompanied by city mayors and university presidents. Doug and the SACTO teams helped attract such companies as Kikkoman Soy Sauce, Gekkeikan Sake and Mitsubishi Rayon to Sacramento, resulting in millions of direct investment dollars and hundreds of jobs for the region’s economy.
In 1993, Doug’s life-long, entrepreneurial spirit took hold yet again! At the time, the Pebble Beach Company had recruited Doug to lead a 30-day “Disney-esque” customer service training initiative. After successfully completing this assignment, Doug established his own training and consulting firm, and within one day (okay, less!), he was off and running with his usual gusto! G. Douglas Lipp & Associates was born.
Doug and his wife, Pam, have been actively growing the Company for more than 20 years. Pam oversees marketing and administration, while Doug hits the road on consulting and speaking engagements as a business keynote speaker and leadership speaker.
In the early years, G. Douglas Lipp & Associates primarily provided corporate training programs for long-term service and leadership projects for several large U.S., Canadian and Japanese clients. It was during these early years that Doug became intrigued by how many “experts” spoke and wrote about Disney and its culture … many of whom had never worked for the company, nor could match Doug’s professional background and intimate, first-hand working experience at Disney. In 1994 and 1995, Doug tested the public’s interest in his wealth of Disney and Corporate knowledge by conducting a series of public customer service and leadership speaking seminars. This success, along with two books on service excellence and leadership, led to a large-scale demand for keynote speeches driven by his unique stage presence and compelling message among the other business keynote speakers.
Since 1995, Doug has delivered many thousands of keynote presentations to well over one million attendees around the world. He is a passionate champion for building great and enduring organizations through the development of loyal, engaged and customer-focused employees. He feels fortunate to be represented by the most prestigious speaking bureaus in the world, as well as the opportunity to share his message with an impressive client list in countries around the globe. Doug is also a prolific author, penning eight books. His most recent is the best-selling, Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees. And the world has taken a keen interest in its message … Disney U has been translated into Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Korean!
G. Douglas Lipp & Associates was launched the same year as Doug and Pam’s third child! They sometimes wonder, “What were we thinking?”. Pam and Doug learned to juggle family and business, stick to their dreams, and dig deep! The three Lipp kids all enjoy career interests that focus on speaking. Allison, a Fulbright Scholar UCLA, and Teach for America graduate, is completing her third year as a math teacher in Denver. She was recently accepted into the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she will pursue a Master’s Degree in Technology, Innovation and Education.
Amanda earned a B.S. in Human Development at UC Davis. In addition to a full-time job at California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), Amanda serves on the California Board of Directors for NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness). She speaks at schools and conferences about mental health awareness.
Keith, a UC Berkeley political science and legal studies major was a Sacramento Area Moot Court Champion and MVP and wants to work in law enforcement. He has spent the last 3 summers working and managing Cal’s infamous Alumni camp Lair of the Bear – Grrr!
And let’s not forget how Doug met Pam! It is only fitting that the couple met at the “Happiest Place on Earth”—Disney! They actually met while working at Disney Studios, where Pam (a former tour guide and candy maker) was managing the Mickey Mouse Cast Activity Center. One of their favorite stories is this:
Pam had just been assigned to organize Disney’s corporate-wide cast member Donald Duck 50th Birthday Bash. She wanted to celebrate with a “Quack-Off” to spotlight apprentice “quackers” and honor Clarence Nash, the voice of Donald for over 50 years. Sign-ups began but Pam needed more contestants. Doug, a closet quacker, offered to help. The contest was emceed by Clarence and Wayne Allwyne (the voice of Mickey). Doug won the contest in an infamous run-off between himself and Tony Anselmo, an animator who is the current voice of Donald.
1. What was Disney’s first PG-rated film? (Hint – made by Disney-owned Touchstone Pictures)
2. What was Disney’s first R-rated film? (Hint – made by Disney-owned Hollywood Pictures)
3. What are the terms Disney uses for “employees, uniforms, rides, work location?”
4. Who was the voice of Donald Duck for 50 years? Who is the current voice of Donald Duck?
5. What is the term Disney coined that is now the standard for product branding?
6. What is the name of the corporate raider who almost bought and broke up Disney?
7. What was name of the group that saved Disney from a hostile takeover?
8. What is Disney’s infamous training division, a name now copied throughout corporate America?
9. Which Disney attraction housed the main costume area for Disney cast members?
10. Which two Disney animators were the subject of a well-known movie?
Bonus Question What product is made by Disneyland’s main street candy palace that sells out in minutes during the holiday season?