When you think Disney, you likely think not only of magic carpets, pixie dust and a menagerie of colorful characters, but of success. This is understandable, as the House of Mouse recently reported $59.4 billion in revenue for the fiscal year 2018. Nearly $20.3 billion of that came from its parks and resorts alone, no doubt attributable, at least in part, to Disney’s steady increase of park ticket prices over the years.
The company’s lasting success is largely credited to creator Walt Disney, who had the vision, fortitude and financial know-how to turn his business into an empire. So, it’s safe to say any words of wisdom from the entrepreneur are worth heeding. If you’re looking to reach a financial goal — perhaps starting a business of your own — take this essential money advice from Walt Disney himself.
Money Is a Necessity
Money doesn’t buy happiness, sure, but it did buy the “Happiest Place on Earth.” It cost Disney a lot of money to create its parks and it costs an even crazier amount to run Disneyland for a single day.
According to Pat Williams’ book “How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Magic Every Day of Your Life,” Disney once said, “Honestly, my fun has never been in having money. That’s the last thing I think about. I just know you have to make dough in order to do things.”
Whether you’re starting a business, trying to pay down debt or make a major purchase — it’s going to take money.
Big Risks Can Mean Big Reward
In “The Unofficial Disneyland 1955 Companion,” Jim Korkis writes that Disney, who was trying to get his first park off the ground, said, “I borrowed on the insurance I’d been paying on for thirty years, and sold my house in Palm Springs to get Disneyland to a point where I could show people what it would be. My wife complained that if anything happened to me, I would have spent all the family money.”
If you want a big reward, sometimes you have to take a big risk — just make sure your spouse is on board first if you decide to sell the family home.
Sometimes the Necessity Entrepreneur Is the Most Successful
Many profitable businesses, such as Spanx, Ritual and Airborne, arose because entrepreneurs couldn’t find something they wanted, and thus created it for themselves. It would seem that necessity is the mother of invention, and those inventions can lead to major success.
This was certainly the case for Disney, who spent countless hours on a park bench, while his kids enjoyed a carousel without him. “ … [Disneyland] all started from a Daddy with two daughters wondering where he could take them where he could have a little fun with them, too,” he said, according to Korkis’ book.
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Setting an “Impossible” Money Goal Can Be Good
Not one to follow the crowd, financial advice from Walt Disney can be a bit contrarian. For instance, Disney once said, “Actually, it’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
Setting a seemingly impossible goal for yourself might seem silly — like you’re setting yourself up for failure — but there’s something to be said for aiming high. In fact, one budgeting pro swears by it.
There’s No Such Thing as 'Getting Rich Quick'
If it sounds too good to be true — like getting rich overnight — it probably is. Real success takes hard work.
According to Korkis’ book, Disney once said, “When we opened Disneyland, a lot of people got the impression that it was a get-rich-quick thing, but they didn’t realize that behind Disneyland was this great organization that I built here at the Studio, and they all got into it and we were doing it because we loved to do it.”
You Have to Be a Salesman
Disney Animator Wolfgang Reitherman once said, “Walt was the best salesman in the world because he felt he wasn’t selling.” Sometimes, however, even the world’s best salesman has to give a hard sell.
Disney struggled to convince his stockholders that the company should venture beyond the world of television to build an amusement park. In an address to them, he said, “I don’t want to stand still. We have prospered before when we have taken chances and tried new things. This is our golden opportunity — a chance to move into an entirely new field.”
Disney not only had to sell people on the idea of Disneyland but on himself. It’s a skill you should learn for job interviews, salary negotiations and any number of other business meetings — you are your best advocate.
Don’t Focus on Money -- Focus on Work
In Williams’ book, Disney is quoted as saying, “Do a good job. You don’t have to worry about the money; it will take care of itself. Just do your best work — then try to trump it.”
Though you should by no means stop pursuing raises and promotions, there is also value in focusing on your job. If you do it well, others tend to take notice and money can certainly follow.
Leverage and Negotiate
Television networks were interested in Disney’s shows, but not in his amusement park idea. He didn’t give them a choice and sold them as a bundle offer. “ABC needed the television show so damned bad that they bought the amusement park,” said Disney to a gathering of park employees on the 10th anniversary of Disneyland’s opening.
Sometimes you have to use the leverage that is available to you, and don’t hesitate to negotiate. If a company really wants to hire you but can’t give you a better salary offer, ask for more vacation days or opportunities for education. Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst anyone can say is “no,” and that leaves you exactly where you started.
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Achieving Your Money and Career Goals Takes Time
Whether your goal is to have a successful business or get a promotion at work, it’s going to take time and hard work.
Disneyland certainly didn’t happen overnight, nor did it come easily. In Korkis’ book, Disney is quoted as saying, “Well, it took many years. It was a period of maybe 15 years developing. I started with many ideas, threw them away, started all over again. And, eventually, it evolved into what you see today at Disneyland.”
Keep Track of Your Finances
Ever avoided checking your bank balance because you just didn’t want to know how much money you really had? Turns out Disney had the same problem. “We started the business here in 1923, and if it hadn’t been for my big brother, Roy, I swear I’d have been in jail several times for bouncing checks. I never knew what was in the bank. Roy kept me on the straight and narrow,” he said.
Though partnerships are wonderful things, it’s best not to rely on anyone when it comes to your finances. You never know when death, divorce or some other curveball could happen. And you don’t want to be left looking at your bank statements and scratching your head.
Remember Your Priorities
If you’re going to take away one piece of advice from Walt Disney, it should probably be about the importance of family. Disney was fully invested in his projects, even building an apartment on Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. so he could live on-site during construction of his park. But he also believed that family was the most important thing in a person’s life. “A man should never neglect his family for business,” said the entrepreneur, according to Williams’ book.
It is very easy to stay late at work or bring work home with you. Sometimes it is a necessity — especially if you own your own business. But making time for loved ones and for yourself is important for your health and happiness.
Click through to read about old school money advice you shouldn’t follow anymore.
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