Most people dream of growing up at the happiest place on Earth. I can honestly say that, professionally, I did just that.
After participating in the Walt Disney College Program during a college semester, I was lucky enough to find myself aligned with a marketer that not only shared my passion for creating a magical guest experience, but also my personal values as an individual. During my time in the college program, I participated in classes that taught me about the foundational practices of the Walt Disney Company and brought the guest service practice to action as an attractions host at was then called the MGM Studios Backlot Tour.
From there I ventured to “Africa” where I hosted guests as a Kilimanjaro Safari guide at Animal Kingdom. It was then when I realized that this was the company I wanted to be a part of – but I had my sights set on California. After my learnings in Orlando, and more than enough Midwest frigid winters, I made the trip West and snared a job at Disneyland Resort while also finishing my business degree at California State University, Fullerton.
After learning the ins and outs of guest services at the hotels of the Disneyland Resort, I became a VIP host and escorted celebrities, dignitaries, and their guests during their visits. I then found myself in an opportunity to create, manage and host exclusive guest experiences for visitors at the Resort Hotels – offering fitness walks, wine-tasting adventures, and more.
Yep, I was a virtual “Julie McCoy” of experiences at the Disneyland Resort.
I fell in love with the company’s mission and business practices and never lost sight of the role I played as an enthusiastic company brand ambassador. I elevated guest experiences and the company’s social-good initiatives when I joined the Disney Corporate Citizenship Signature Program in 2009.
Lessons learned during the 10 years I spent at Disney fuel me to this day and have played a key part of my growth at Midnight Oil.
Here are the top five:
Become laser-focused on providing unparalleled guest experiences for clients, who are also consumers. They respond to the pleasant, polite, and passionate way I embrace their brands and missions, just like guests did at Disney.
Disney tours are geared toward providing visitors with an intimate interaction with the park. They are meant to show the heart and soul of the park and spread Disney magic. I continue to encourage my teams to make relationships less transactional and more personal.
While designing highly sensitive creative content for brands is Midnight Oil’s major ask from clients, we aim to deliver work in tandem with an unparalleled level of service that leaves a lasting impression on marketers and motivates them to continue to trust us with their brands. Surpassing guest expectations was my main ambition as a VIP host and it remains a driving credo that behooves those in our service industry to follow. In this fickle industry, it’s even more paramount today.
Dream big and never stop imagining where you and the brands you steward can go. You’ve got to always wonder and innovate, just like Walter Elias Disney did. Every guest experience is unique and it’s imperative that business leaders understand the person they are trying to court. The shy and introverted need some extra care and the bold and demonstrative tend to need enthusiastic listeners. Customizing relationships that push boundaries and elevate projects is key. So is experimenting and getting out of comfort zones. Whether at Disney or in C-Suites, going above and beyond is a must.
Be a creative at heart. Yes, I’m on the client management side, but I’m also a big creative thinker. Brands don’t want to replicate what others do. They want to create new stages and wow audiences while also growing their business. Helping them deliver with a smile – while keeping them away from potential pitfalls en route – is imperative. Being creative in the ways you wow and service clients ups their loyalty. Constantly bringing new ideas and fueling their creative appetite might just bring more business into the fold.
Never lose sight of the value you bring to the brands you manage. Talent drives all industries, and continually refining your personal brand will enable you to take the brands under your purview to even greater heights. Always observe and anticipate client asks and deliver them with unexpected and added value. Partners push boundaries and are true collaborators. You might just be surprised by clients’ reception to new ideas. Some will fly, and some won’t. But, the failure is in not trying.
Passion is paramount. Be passionate about you, your clients, your consumers, your co-workers, bosses, mentors, and more. Being fully engaged and authentic while being charismatic and personable is essential. An account lead who shows up flat at meetings and void of real enthusiasm would never last a day at Disney. People want to work with people who are equally or even more passionate about their mission. Infusing authentic energy into business drives deliverables and profits.
And, of course, always pay the learnings forward, just like Walt Disney and his dedication to guest services did for me.