Our childhood would have been dreary without this genius of a man. Walt Disney was also another boy brought up in a farm – and used to draw pictures for his neighbours for money. He used to be the cartoonist for the school newspaper, Disney went through the jobless phase where no one hired him, and his brother had to help him out with his job search. He went from rags to riches by starting out with advertisements and going on to animating his own cartoons.
The Walt Disney Company is a multinational mass media corporation valued at $45.429 Billion. It is the second largest broadcasting and cable company in the world and it has shaped the childhoods and pop culture of millions, probably billions of people. Quite simply it is the most well known company in the history of the world. Few people have changed this world to the magnitude that Walt Disney has.
Here are the 10 success lessons from Walt Disney – “From Rags to Riches” for entrepreneurs,
1. Stay in control
The first thing that we can learn from Disney as an entrepreneur is his love for drawing. He devoted most of his life to his art that he was even willing to work other jobs just to fund his passion.
Disney went through a series of odd jobs and even became an ambulance driver in the army during World War I along with his friend Ray Kroc (the man who made McDonalds what it is today); and throughout this journey, Disney found his love for drawing.
2. You must be a salesman
Sales gets a bad reputation, but make no mistake, selling is the most important skill you can master. And as Walt said, dreams take money and money comes from selling. Walt believed in himself and his dreams and could therefore convince others to believe in him too.
Halfway through making Snow White, Disney ran out of money to finish the film that was termed “Disney’s Folly.” Even his own family begged him to give it up, but Disney was undeterred. He personally traveled to different producers and showed them the raw footage and convinced them to finish financing the film. Snow White became an instant success and ushered in the Golden Age of Animation.
3. Leadership is inspiration, innovation and focus
The key to Walt Disney’s leadership is that he was an incredible storyteller. It’s one thing to tell your employees to do something, it’s another to inspire them to action. Walt would tell them a story. He would go into extreme detail and make it come alive for them. He would inspire his workers and make them a part of that story and as a result he would get more from them.
When he was first pitching his animators on the story of Snow White, he went through the entire story, acting out the characters, even doing their different voices and movements. Walt had a unique ability to hire people more talented than he was and to focus and coordinate their attention towards a common goal.
4. Embrace new technology
The 1920s and ’30s were a much more low-tech age, but they were also a time of innovations: New inventions like Technicolor and sound were seen as daring risks for filmmakers. Actors, directors and even some audiences vehemently disliked talking pictures. However, as Wesley Stout of the Saturday Evening Post predicted, people eventually adapted their ears — and their eyes — and Disney cashed in.
He also created the first full-length animated movie (“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”), and, according to Entrepreneur, was the first Hollywood studio head to get on board with television, which turned out to be quite lucrative, as the famous “Mickey Mouse Club” enthralled kids everywhere while providing advertising for the Disney brand.
5. Develop a high tolerance for risk
Walt took a lot of risks in his career. Several times the future of the entire Disney company hung on whether a venture was a success or failure. A few times Walt even had to mortgage or sell his personal possessions. He never did this lightly. He would carefully weigh out both sides and make a decision for bold action and, once decided, never wavered.
In 1955, Disneyland was the biggest gamble in the history of American business. Walt struggled to find financing and his own family, including business partner Roy Disney, begged him to give it up. If Disneyland had failed, it would have bankrupted the company. Today, the Disney theme parks bring in BILLIONS of revenue and millions of visitors each year.
6. Change your attitude towards failure
Walt Disney failed, a lot. His first studio, Laugh O’ Grams never made a profit. But the most notable is the fiasco of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. He lost everything, his studio, his equipment, his animators and his creations. But from the ashes of that immense failure rose one of the most beloved characters ever created. On the train home from learning he had lost Oswald, Walt created Mickey Mouse.
7. Believe in yourself
Walt Disney had a unique relationship with his brother, Roy Disney. Walt would pitch an idea to Roy. Roy would say no and try to talk him out of it. Walt would continue anyway, and Roy would eventually give in and get the project financed. Throughout his entire career Walt was told what couldn’t be done. He was told no one would sit through an animated feature film. He was told you couldn’t mix animation with real life actors. He was told his idea for a theme park would fail miserably. Someone even told him that Mickey Mouse was a bad idea because a mouse would frighten women.
He proved that just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t make it impossible. Impossible is a word of a small minded person and Walt Disney dreamed big. He had an unshakable belief in himself and what he was doing; that was all that mattered.
8. Build an empire
After Disneyland came Disney World, and with those ventures came several Disney-centric TV shows used to promote the theme parks. Shows like “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color,” originally called “Disneyland,” made kids fall in love with the Disney brand and demand trips to Disneyland — and the only reason they were put on the air was because Disney had made a deal with television studios in which they financed Disneyland in exchange for original Disney programming. One thing built upon another, and the Disney empire began to grow.
9. Resiliency is an entrepreneur’s best friend
It took Walt 16 years to get the rights to make Mary Poppins, now considered one of the best films of that time. The problems he faced with author P.L Travers are so infamous it has been made into its own movie. He was turned down 302 times when trying to find financing for Disneyland before striking a deal with the television studios.
And in the most unbelievable story, he was fired from his first job ever at a newspaper for not being creative and innovative enough! He went on to own that same company. Resiliency is the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult circumstances.
10. Look for inspiration in unexpected places
When Disney was penniless and living out of his office in Kansas City, while working for an animated advertising company, he encountered a lot of mice. He got the idea for Steamboat Willie from the mice that used to gather in his trashcan; one of them was his “particular friend.”
Disney used a seemingly hopeless time in his life for inspiration and went on to wild success with Steamboat Willie, proving that good ideas can be found even in the trash.