Here are the three lessons worth learning from Disney, no matter what your business might be:
Remember that details matter -- Most people don't notice the character popcorn turners at the carts, or the Mickey Mouse manhole covers, or any of the other tiny, thematic details that can be found in every corner of the park. From a business perspective, they seem like a bad idea -- there's no ROI! Why not use that money for another ride or another big event? Simple -- because even when you don't know exactly what's special about Disneyland or Disney World, you sense that someone (or really, many someones) has put a great deal of thought into making your experience perfect. And that leads us to the next lesson...
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer -- Know why the trash cans are 45 steps away from the concession stands at Disneyland? When Walt Disney ate a hot dog, he was able to walk 45 steps before he was finished. Don't assume you know what your customer needs -- really think about his or her business and the problems, obstacles and concerns he or she faces. Then, figure out how you can help.
Make sure everyone -- from your employees to your customer -- is getting their needs met -- There are dedicated Disney fans who go to the parks on a weekly, if not monthly, basis. There are plenty of reasons for this, but one of them has to be the positive interactions they have with the "cast members," or Disney employees. At Disney, everyone from the janitorial staff to the ride operators to the people in furry costumes has detailed rules to follow in order to make sure every attendee feels like a treasured guest. Plenty of companies demand their workers give service with a smile, but anyone who's ever had a bag of French fries shoved at them by a surly fast food employee knows that there's a big difference between saying the words and meaning them.
Disney knows that, and makes sure that employees are not only well-compensated, but have ample perks. Disgruntled employees can do a great deal of damage to a business before they go, and while no company has a magic formula for making sure everyone is happy all the time, Disney has an impressively comprehensive approach to making their parks the Happiest Places on Earth.
So next time you find yourself faced with a tough customer or a taxing job, go ahead and ask yourself, "What would Disney do?"