First let’s look at the numbers. Since 2006, Walt Disney has increased its annual revenues from $60 billion per year to over $88 billion per year.
What has Disney been doing to post such surprising year over year revenue growth through a period that was deadly on other businesses due to a so called “global recession?” Princesses aside, Disney has widened their entertainment offerings to include a lot of other hot properties you may or may not be aware of. Disney has entered the world of the “Super Heros”, “Sports” and “Space Operas” and the world can’t seem to get enough of it. Here is a select list of acquisitions that have completely changed the face of The Walt Disney Company:
- Lucasfilm: In late 2012, The Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm for over $4 billion. The release of “Star Wars, The Force Awakens” broke all previous box office records for the franchise.
- Marvel: In late 2009, Disney purchased Marvel for $4 billion. The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool are a few of the most notable titles to hit the big-screen since the buy. Other titles like Agent Carter, Tron Legacy and Daredevil have also done well very well for Disney.
- ESPN/ABC: The parent company “Capital Cities/ABC” was purchased in 1995 for a whopping $19 billion.
Clearly these acquisitions have worked as their record $88 billion in revenues for 2015 would support. These acquisitions have done right by Disney and I would guess they are only getting started. With the success of films like The Avengers, Star Wars and Deadpool these numbers are set to grow significantly higher in 2016.
This kind of growth wasn’t achieved with fairy tales and pixie dust but rather with smart decisions on where and how to invest. What are the lessons for us? We can all learn from what The Walt Disney Company did very, very right:
1. Maintained the core: Princesses or robots, Disney is still an “Entertainment” company. The company knows who they are and have made investments that fit with their main areas of expertise.
2. Diversified into adjacent markets: There was a time when “geek cred” meant you were bullied at recess. Not anymore. The age of the “Super hero” has arrived and everybody wants a piece. Walt Disney invested in these adjacent entertainment spaces and invested big.
3. Took chances, some of which failed. Not all of Walt Disney’s attempts at change worked out so well. John Carter anybody? How about Johnny Depp in the reboot of The Lone Ranger? There were a host of projects that never even made it to the big screen which you can see HERE. The point is, no risk, no reward. Growth involves taking measured chances.
Let’s pause and take a moment to look at our own businesses. In my particular vertical that means the office equipment and imaging channels. Think “paper” and lots of it. The company I work for, Print Audit, was a pioneer in moving this vertical from a commodity-based industry into one that is much more services led. Here are some examples of what Print Audit has done in the Disney spirit:
1. Maintained our core: Our main mission is to “make office equipment dealers more money”. Every decision we make to diversify or grow has to be measured against this.
2. Diversified into adjacent markets: With the introduction of our SBB (Seat Based Billing) model for managed print, we have given our dealer partners the opportunity to take more share of the offices they are already selling in to. Grabbing more than the printed page will be important for growth in 2016 and beyond. SBB will allow them to explore new revenue streams within existing accounts.
3. Took chances, some of which failed: Many years ago, Print Audit realized that “selling” software wasn’t going to cut it. The company had some deep soul searching to do about their traditional unit-based software sales model. We were smart enough to switch to a “recurring revenue model” and times have never been so good. Our revenues are stronger than ever before and our growth rates have exceeded our predictions. The Force has become very strong with us.
Walt Disney didn’t take over the entertainment world by sitting back and enjoying its early wins and neither should we. Let’s turn the magic mirror around and take a long hard look. Are we working on our Deadpool and Star Wars moments? Are we exploring options that are different than what we do today while maintaining our core? Are we investing in the future or hoping Prince Charming will save the day? I look forward to hearing some of your stories of professional change and growth so please share in the comments section!