Be Our Guest – The Book That Can Change Your Business

Be Our Guest - both the original and updated / revised edition
Be Our Guest – both the original and updated / revised edition

If one book can change the way you operate your business, Be Our Guest is likely that book.  Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service was written and published by The Disney Institute with Theodore Kinni and describes for the reader the “magic” behind Disney’s success.   Tom Staggs, then chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and now Chief Operating Officer of the Walt Disney Company, wrote in his introduction to the book people want to know how Disney is so successful.  When he tells them it’s “magic” they press him for more.

They want to know exactly, step by step, what we do to make each person feel special throughout a Disney vacation.  They want to know why our cast members are always smiling – how they maintain the enthusiasm, creativity, and ability to transport guests to a place of fantasy and adventure while simultaneously making them feel right at home.

Most are quite shocked when I tell them that it isn’t a secret at all.  In fact, we publish a book – this book – describing precisely how we create and deliver a world-class guest experience. (p.x).

And it’s true.  Within the covers of this book are all of Disney’s secrets to success.  The only question is, will you implement them? Too often people believe that Disney’s recipe is only good for Disney, for it’s unique situation as the leader in family entertainment.  But that’s not true.  The key aspects of Disney’s success are values and principles that can be applied to any business.  Overall, it all boils down to one statement I learned from the Disney Institute: Exceed guest expectations. Pay attention to details.

Horse-drawn trolleys - a prime example of Walt Disney's commitment to detail
Horse-drawn trolleys – a prime example of Walt Disney’s commitment to detail

And boy, do they ever.  Walt, of course, was the forerunner of all of these philosophies.  He believed strongly in “plussing” the guest experience – never being satisfied with the way things were and instead doing what was necessary to exceed them.  When Disneyland was being built, Walt’s accountants told him they didn’t have enough for the horse-drawn trolleys that made their way down Main Street USA.  He told them to go back and find the money.  But they kept coming back and told him it couldn’t be done.  So Walt dipped into his own pocket and bought it himself.  He believed so much in the details and he was right.  The book tells us, “The importance of managing the effect of setting on the guest experience can be summed up in two words: Everything speaks (p.22-23).”  Walt once told John Hench, one of the first Imagineers, about why he wanted to change the texture of the pavement as you went from one land to the next, “You can get information about a changing environment through the soles of your feet (p.23).” Amazing.

Disney research is so thorough they discovered the maximum distance people would travel without dumping their trash - 27 feet. Look down most walkways in the theme parks and see how often you find one
Disney research is so thorough they discovered the maximum distance people would travel without dumping their trash – 27 feet. Look down most walkways in the theme parks and see how often you find one

Title: Be Our Guest
Author: The Disney Institute with Theodore Kinni
Cost: $24.99
Age: Adult
Publisher: Disney Editions
Genre: non-fiction, business

This book has it all.  For the Disney fan, there is so much information about the company and its foundations, stories about its development and about Walt that by itself it is a treasure for those reasons.  But if you’re hoping to make your business a success, you can’t afford to miss out on this book.  Be Our Guest is one of the best books I’ve ever read and one I often refer to in helping me to determine how best to lead a church.  No matter what business you run or are a part of, this book will help you succeed.

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