The Wonderful World of an Enduring Brand: Why Disneyland Thrives at 60

Mickey and Minnie

 Four Leadership Gems from the Disney University Founder

 “I was convinced that managers and owners could come and go, but Walt’s dream would last forever.”

Van France, Disney University Founder

When perfectly combined, time, heat and extreme pressure transform a drab blob of carbon into the sparkling gemstones revered worldwide; diamonds. Companies should be so lucky. The one-two-three punches of time, competitive pressure and heat doom far too many.

  • Over time, companies can grow complacent and risk-averse. Ignoring the fundamental need to maintain people, and property, leads to organizations that are run-down … they grow tired. Employees and customers gladly abandon these companies when competitors emerge.
  • Adding heat and urgency is pressure from competitors, plus economic swings beyond anyone’s control. Some owners and managers chase after slimmer and slimmer pieces of the demographic pie as more players emerge. Finding, and then holding onto, good employees is equally vexing.

Unfortunately, the corrosive results of time, competitive pressure and heat derail most. No diamonds to be found here.

That said, Disneyland is in the midst of celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year … its “Diamond Celebration.” Despite constant bombardment by the same forces plaguing so many other organizations, Disneyland has successfully evolved into a cultural icon. How do the employees and leaders at Disneyland continue bringing to life Walt’s dream of being “The Happiest Place on Earth?” The answer lies in a rock-solid set of values and a crystal clear, yet adaptable, corporate culture. This foundation upon which The Magic Kingdom is built ensures the stability and resiliency that eludes many.

A Culture of Respect and Happiness: “You can’t have a happy show without a happy crew”

In 1955, Disney University founder Van France made a commitment to Walt Disney that influenced millions of Disneyland employees … and ultimately the experience of hundreds of millions of guests. Despite the inevitable changes he knew the company would face, Van France helped shape, and then perpetuate, a corporate culture that is both steadfast and flexible. The four corporate values Van France identified, and then brought to life through his transformative employee development initiatives, form the DNA of Disney operations worldwide; each of the eleven Disney theme parks, the resorts and cruise line reflect Van’s values (Van called them circumstances).

 Innovate             Support              Educate              Entertain

July 17, 2015 marks the 60th Anniversary of Disneyland’s grand opening. In the weeks leading up to this momentous occasion, I’ll explore in detail each of Van France’s Four Circumstances.

I encourage all readers of my blog to do more than read each posting. Please consider adding comments that:

  • Add examples of how the crystal-clear values of your company have enabled you to overcome the one-two-three punches of time, competitive pressure and “heat.”
  • Challenge each of Van France’s four circumstances. (Spirited debate is a vital learning component).

Let’s kick off this series with one of my favorite quotes from Van:

“The business we’re in, if we can’t have fun, how could we expect the public to have fun?”

This article is based on Lipp’s best-selling book, Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal and Customer-Centric Employees. Published by McGraw-Hill