Monthly Archives: February 2021

Random Insights into “Walt Disney”

I loved the book “Walt Disney” by Neal Galber and highly recommend it.

Disney was a fascinating person who captured the imagination of the world.  

Two random insights from the book that are a bit non-obvious:

Disney was ALWAYS out of money

Much of the book is about how Walt Disney (and his brother Roy) were constantly searching for money.  Everything they did was in the lens of needing capital.  100 years ago (when Disney started), it was REALLY hard to get capital.  And capital providers were extremely controlling.  And capital was really expensive.

The Disney biography kept bringing me back to Shoe Dog — which is the amazing autobiography by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike.  Like Disney, Nike was constantly searching for money (Nike almost went bankrupt, every year, for its first 20 years).  

Today, Walt Disney would have been able to easily raise tons of money at good terms.  People would be lining up to throw money at him.  We entrepreneurs today have no idea how hard it was for many of the early pioneers.  Many of them had to get personal bank loans to keep their companies afloat.  We have it soooooo much easier today.

Roy Disney made Walt Disney possible

Walt Disney’s older brother Roy was the steady hand at the company.  While Walt was the creative genius, Roy was the person who made sure the company was operating.  The brothers had a tenuous relationship and Roy is not given enough credit.  

Reading the book, I kept thinking about Steve Jobs’s partnership with Tim Cook.  Steve Jobs no doubt revered Walt Disney (he even sold his other company, Pixar, to Disney Inc).  But to really make Apple shine, Jobs needed to rely on people like Tim Cook.  

But while Cook will forever have a special place in history (Cook has become a great CEO in his own right), Roy Disney has been seen as more of an asterisk (possibly because there is a cult and mystique of the founder).  

Why start-ups can win: the key metric is raw number of employees that care about the long-term company

number of employees of a well-run 100-person start-up that care about the long-term company: 60

number employees of a 10,000-person company that care about the long-term company: 6

this is why start-ups can win.

This is why they do win.

The biggest predictor of whether a company will be an important company in the next ten years is the raw number of employees that really want that company to win. Not the percentage of employees, but the actual raw number.

This is why organizations with a large shared mission do so well. Some large organizations that will certainly still be important in the future include Apple, Esri, and the U.S. Military. These large organizations are the exceptions as they have a true share mission.

But most 10,000 person organizations have, at most, a handful of people who truly care about the long-term outlook of the organization.

Would love your comments.