The Ride of a Lifetime

It all started with a mouse. Imagination huh!

Regardless of age, everybody loves Disney or a Disney character. In my case, many Marvel superheroes have been an inspiration. Very recently, I was reading about the Mickey Mouse patent that will turn to public domain soon and Disney as a company caught my attention, I had listened that Disney announced the streaming platform Disney+ and knew that Disney had bought Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars not so much ago, as I saw a pattern of important acquisitions I started doing my research about Bob Iger, the CEO, and found out that he had a book about his experience as CEO of the Walt Disney Company.

I read the book and I liked it a lot, it is a different narrative than Howard Schultz, Donald Trump or Phil Knight. Howard was more of a dreamer and perfectionist entrepreneur; Donald was as aggressive as he could possibly be and smart enough to build and motivate teams to deliver extraordinary results; I don’t even know how to describe Phil Knight, there were many times that he could have had it wrong but he was there in the exact place at the exact time, I totally recommend reading his memoir to anyone. But with Bob Iger, his personality was different, he never thought he would end up being CEO of Disney, I would like to think that he got up to that position because he learned early in his career that you don’t need to be best one or with the most technical knowledge for a position but rather be able to delegate and let creativity and teamwork flow effectively in a team whilst working hard on cost reduction or new endeavours.

Bob worked since he was a kid as his father had bipolarity issues and had difficulties maintaining the household, for some time removing the gum out of the back of desks in his school. As he grew up he started working in a set of ABC, where he put the cameras on place and pretty much did everything they asked him to do. He once even met Frank Sinatra while working, in this video he recalls that anecdote:

Then he worked as ABC’s division of sports, which was the “cool” part of ABC, he was bold and did an amazing job covering some olympic games and was asked to run the division. He then was asked by two of his greatest mentors to run the entertainment division, while leading that division he showed that he could manage people to be creative whilst keeping costs low, that attitude helped  him made his way to the top in the new company ABC/Capital Cities and likewise endorsed him when the company was bought by Disney leaving him as Chief Operating Officer and best option to be the next in line as CEO of Disney. He was friend to Steve Jobs and confessed that a merger with Apple might have been possible if Steve were alive.

What comes for Disney

Just yesterday, (as I write) in the report of the Q12020 Disney reported that its streaming service Disney Plus had surpassed 50 million subscribers, what took Netflix 7 years Disney could do it in less than a year. This milestone comes with the tactical acquisition of India’s biggest streaming service, and the recent start in some countries of Europe. Even though the Coronavirus has shut down parks worldwide and the world will be different than it was before the pandemic, Disney has such a strong brand-equity and loyalty from their customers that the dream of going to Disneyworld will likely prevail and now more than ever the company knows the importance of empowering the streaming platform in order to win the streaming wars.

Having  ownership of the top grossing films like Star Wars, Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Avatar, as well as an incredible cartoon animation studio like Pixar will likely empower the growth of the streaming platform by squeezing the characters in TV Series and spinoffs. The gaming industry is one that has not seem very profitable for Disney, as it has licensed characters for production of videogames, none of them really proving successful, not even Club Penguin. I believe that with all of the growth that the gaming industry has faced in recent years with the rise of e-sports (and an specially right now with the stay-home policies that we are facing with the pandemic) and a lot of kids that watch Youtube and love to play videogames rather than watch TV cartoons, Disney’s next acquisition could be related to this industry.

Bob’s advice

To tell great stories you need great talent. Innovate or die. Relentless pursuit of perfection can only come with an environment/culture of quality where people seek to do more, innovate and win.

Take responsibility when you screw up. You will not only be more respected but also will actually learn a lesson. Pass page quickly. And create an environment where people don’t feel guilty for honest mistakes, a lot of ideas can vanish if your people are afraid to get it wrong.

Be decent to people. Excellence and fairness don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Care about the people just as much as you care about the product, they will be thankful. Value ability more than experience, put people in roles where they can challenge themselves and grow. When giving feedback or notes, be mindful of how much of themselves the person you speak has poured into the project and how much is at stake for them.

Ask the questions you need to ask, admit without apology what you don’t understand do the work to learn as quickly as you can.

Don’t start negatively, petty or small. People will always focus on small details and will not acknowledge the complete project. Not to invest on projects that don’t have bigger turnovers.

Be self aware that you are not the only person that can do that job, so do it in the best way possible. Being a leader is not only about managing and being the most prepared person, but to grow talent so they can step up in any situation, finding and developing the niches that need to be filled from your team.

The reputation of your company is the sum of the actions of your people plus the quality of your products. Demand integrity for your people and products at all times.

Micromanagement can reinforce the feeling that you don’t trust your team. Try delegating effectively, it will change your life.

You can’t communicate pessimism, nobody wants to follow a pessimist. Pessimism leads to Paranoia, Paranoia leads to defensiveness. Which leads to risk aversion. Optimism emerges from faith in yourself and in the people that work for you. It’s not about saying things are good when things are not but rather when you believe in the abilities of the team.

You have to convey your priorities clearly and repeatedly. Time energy and capital get wasted when people around you don’t understand their priorities.

You can’t make an acquisition without a fundamental metric/research, even though there is always risk in acquisitions you have to mitigate risk as much as possible.

When firing, be honest to the person will obviously don’t like the idea but the least you can do is being honest on what was not achieved so it doesn’t happen again for them. And when hiring look for people that are good at what they do and that they are decent nice people that share the values of the Corporation, you should as well nurture those values.

In any negotiation DON’T show your best alternative, most of the times deals are personal, specially for people that made what you are trying to buy. Think of many alternatives and pay attention to what they might give more importance to.

Have genuine humility, hold on to your word. The moment you see yourself in the mirror and see a title on your head, you have lost your way.

Angel Escamilla Rdz

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