A Mickey Mouse Way to Run Companies

The next time a friend or relative asks you for a loan to help start a business, try not to make the same mistake Walt Disney's uncle made. When young Walt was struggling to launch his first film-making company in1923, his uncle thought an enterprise based on animated creatures was so unpromising that he insisted his $500 in seed capital be repaid in cash rather than in shares of the company. Had he taken a stake instead, his heirs would be $1 billion richer. Colorful bits of Disney lore like this one make The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company a breezy read, but authors Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson are out to do much more than just entertain, and they succeed. If you ever wondered exactly how a cartoon rodent spawned a media empire -and whether your company could learn anything from Disney's methods -here's your chance to find out. Capodagli and Jackson have built a busy consulting practice advising clients like Whirlpool, British Petroleum, and Motorola on how to apply Disney's ten basic management principles to their own operations, and vivid case studies from those companies are included here too.

Fans though they are, the authors are refreshingly frank about Disney's fumbles -including the woefully common error of asking for suggestions from employees who dealt directly with customers, and then ignoring what they said. (This nearly caused EuroDisney's downfall, although the park, renamed Disneyland Paris, is on the mend.) Want to encourage creativity at all levels of your company? Try something like the Gong Show, a thrice-yearly in-house meeting where anyone who thinks he or she has a good idea can run it past top management, live and in person. No mere window-dressing, these bull sessions give workers a chance to propose whole new businesses, like the now 600-store chain of Disney retail shops. The brainchild of an employee named Steve Burke, the stores today bring in more than $100 million a year - not bad for an idea that skeptical Michael Eisner had to be talked into.

The Lowdown: so useful you may whistle while you work. -Anne Fisher


The Disney Way features some of our finest clients:

  • Abbey Press
  • AT&T Solutions
  • Bristol Myers-Squibb
  • British Petroleum
  • CMA Canada
  • Creatividad Y Promocion - Mexico
  • Dischinger Orthodontics
  • Drexel University
  • Emmis Communications
  • First Union Direct
  • Illinois Power
  • Indiana University Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • Massachusetts Credit Union League
  • Mead Johnson - Canada
  • Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association
  • SOS Staffing
  • Vitromatic - Mexico
  • Whirlpool
  • Wild Birds Unlimited
  • YMCA - Camp Kern


Fortune Magazine reviewed the book in the "Best Business Books" section as "a breezy read, but authors Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson are out to do much more than entertain and they succeed...   The Lowdown: so useful you may whistle while you work."

Through their extensive research of the Disney organization, Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson have written The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company, an exciting story about Disney’s success principles. The best part of the book provides tips on how other organizations can capture this "magic." The book was released by McGraw-Hill in December 1998. The Disney Way features a forward written by Fred Wiersema, best selling author of Customer Intimacy and co-author of The Discipline of Market Leaders, and is endorsed by Ken Blanchard of One Minute Manager fame.


"The Disney Way: Harnessing the Magic of Disney in Your Organization" is all about real magic: stimulating and harmonizing the collective energy of people. Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson will help you discover that what works for the world’s most famous mouse can work for you."

Ken Blanchard, author of the famed book, The One Minute Manager


"In The Disney Way, Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson take you on a fascinating trip through the wonderful world of Disney, both yesterday and today. The company’s model of management remains as fresh and effective today as it was at its inception 75 years ago. And, as Bill and Lynn’s string of successful clients attest, those principles of good management that form The Disney Way can work their magic on any organization, including yours."

Fred Wiersema, best selling author of Customer Intimacy and co-author of The Discipline if Market Leaders


"Bill Capodagli is a walking, talking encyclopedia when it comes to the management practices that have propelled the Walt Disney Company to legendary stature in areas such as employee motivation, customer service, family entertainment and shareholder performance."

Tim A. Rutherfod, Business Editor, Evansville Courier News, May 20, 1998


"With their breadth of topics and depth of knowledge, Bill and Lynn helped my team to operate at true peak performance."

Jerry McColgin, former director of Whirlpool Global No Frost Team, now independent consultant providing a balanced approach to product development combining teaming skills with best practices.


"Bill and Lynn are fantastic. I could not ask for more professional and competent partners for our public programming offerings. It was a pleasure to work with them and their support staff in providing such a high quality, hands-on, learning experience for our constituents. We continue to receive positive comments on The Disney Way – Dream, Believe, Dare, Do program nearly three months after delivery. Their program is exciting, fresh, new, thought –provoking, and entertaining. Are you tired of offering just another lecture? Bill and Lynn will put your constituents to work in a seminar they will not forget. This may be just what your clients are looking for when it comes to needing a new method for instilling creativity in their workplace…a full day’s work and their phenomenal book to support the learning."

Brian Vollmert, Director, College of Business, Northern Illinois University


The Disney Way program addresses universal business issues and therefore is appealing to those in virtually every profession. Most leaders are intrigued with Disney’s so-called "secret recipe" for success and are enthusiastic to learn practical methods for adapting the ingredients into their own organizations. Here are some actual reactions from our audience:

  • "Outstanding presentation! This presentation gave me some great ideas that I will bring back to my company."
  • "Great antidotes, powerful images"
  • "Great discussion on teams and the people side within Disney"
  • "Excellent and applicable. Very inspiring."

Based on the experience of The Management Roundtable, I believe you will find that the innovative Dream, Believe, Dare, Do process will captivate your audiences and provide a solid foundation to restructuring their organizations in "The Disney Way."

Kimberly Weir, Conference Director, Management Roundtable, Inc.


"If you change something in the planning phase, it costs you a dollar; if you change something after the plant is built, it costs you a hundred dollars. The time we spent getting our team organized was necessary. Bill and Lynn broke down barriers and rooted out any hidden problems in the group quickly. By the end, we were all able to communicate openly and that was critical to the plant being completed on time and on budget."

Brian Hartke, Manager, Mead Johnson Nutritional Products, leader of the Zeeland Infant Powder Production Construction Project, Zeeland, Michigan


"We have a little saying at Abbey Press that we have picked up from Bill and Lynn, ‘None of us is as smart as all of us.’ Bill and Lynn got to know the people in our company and were able to create the spark that helped people change their behavior. Now we have been able to transform the organization and actively seek out ways to improve our critical business processes. We embrace change - and its fun, not painful."

Father Carl Dietchmann, former General Manager, Abbey Press


"Both long and short-term employees were impressed with this high quality and informative session."

Pam Osik-Sewell, Program Director, New York State Governor's Office of Employee Relations (George E. Pataki, Governor)


"Our team will be implementing the plans that Bill and Lynn helped us create for the growth of our organization."

Jim Carpenter, President, Wild Birds Unlimited


"The Holiday Inn corporate folks were so impressed that our people clearly knew our mission and codes of conduct. Bill and Lynn helped us define a culture to keep on a fast-track of success."

John Dunn, Founder and President, Dunn Hospitality


"This was the most inspiration[al] and informational speaker. I could listen to him all day and take a new charge into the office tomorrow!"

Anonymous attendee at Boston Roundtable Seminar by Bill Capodagli, April 16, 1998


Executive Book Summaries says: "Empowerment and attention to details are among the ten principles and practices that guide The Walt Disney Company today.  They reflect Disney's personal values.  To him, business was personal.  And that's the essence of The Disney Way."

Audio-Tech Business Book Summaries says:   "The Disney Way can... produce excellent results for other businesses that adopt his management principles, as the authors have proven through their consulting work with such clients as British Petroleum, Whirlpool, Illinois Power, and Bristol Myers-Squibb."

The Evansville Courier says: "... The Disney Way is not meant to be imitated but innovated.  As important as adopting its tenants is knowing how to carefully fold them, with modifications, into your own corporate culture....  The volume has the makings of a bookshelf must."

Soundview New and Noteworthy says: "The Disney Way Fieldbook contains many valuable lessons for managers who want their employees to learn to rethink accepted ideas and solutions."

Chicago Business - The University of Chicago says: "In Leading at the Speed of Change, Capodagli and Jackson chart the course for what they term, New Economy Rules: provide limitless access to information; utilize improved voice and data communications technology; exceed heightened customer service expectations; and provide and exploit self-service 24-by-7 environment."