When Walt Disney first sketched a mouse on a train trip back from a failed business meeting, he probably had no idea that Mickey Mouse would become the enduring icon of family entertainment and the Disney brand.
However, as he built his empire, he probably wasn’t surprised by it. The business decisions he made suggest that he understood people and what it took to attract their business. Here are some important lessons Disney can teach entrepreneurs.

It’s About the Experience

I challenge anyone to visit a Disney park and not marvel at the depth of detail in every ride, restaurant, walk-way and staff engagement. Walking into a Disney park is like walking into magic and the illusion never ends. But beyond creating an atmosphere of family, fun and good times, the experience extends to services and customer support. Don’t want to wait in line? Get a fast pass with a time to show up later and go to the head of the line. Something’s gone wrong? Disney will fix it or work to make it better. Disney understood that a good brand is built on generating positive feelings from customers, and the parks are built around that idea.

It’s Personal

Millions of people visit Disney parks and stores, and purchase Disney products every day. Even so, the company strives to make its customers feel special. Visit a park on your birthday, and every staff person will wish you a happy birthday.  Its MagicBands and cards allow visitors easy access to their rooms, enter the parks, sign in for Fast Pass, and purchase food and items. A family’s visit and the MagicBands and cards can be customized, allowing everyone to design their own Disney experience.  Successful entrepreneurs understand that part of creating an exceptional experience for customers is by giving them what they want or need and making them feel special.

Retain the Brand, Yet Change with the Times

The music industry and now the publishing industry have struggled in the digital age. Traditions and the old ways kept them from recognizing and taking advantage of change. However, Disney has kept pace with changing times. While it continues to deliver exceptional service and meet its mission of quality family entertainment, it recognizes that it’s not the 1950s anymore. Disney heroines of today are stronger and more independent than their predecessors who needed a prince to save the day. Disney has moved into the digital age with MagicBands and cards, and mobile apps that allow visitors to access more and get information faster and easier.  The Disney company recognizes that changing times requires an ability to adapt to better meet customer needs.

You don’t have to like Disney to recognize that the company does some things very well, making it a model for other entrepreneurs. By focusing on delivering a positive experience, making customers feel important and valued, and being able to keep pace with changing customer needs, you can build a successful business too… no magic required.

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