Episode #49 - Interview with former Disney Executive Lee Cockerell

Lee Cockerell is the former Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World® Resort. "As the Senior Operating Executive for ten years Lee led a team of 40,000 Cast Members and was responsible for the operations of 20 resort hotels, four theme parks, two water parks, a shopping & entertainment village and the ESPN sports and recreation complex in addition to the ancillary operations which supported the number one vacation destination in the world."

One of Lee's major and lasting legacies was the creation of Disney Great Leader Strategies, which was used to train and develop the 7000 leaders at Walt Disney World. Lee has held various executive positions in the hospitality and entertainment business with Hilton Hotels for 8 years and the Marriott Corporation for 17 years before joining Disney in 1990 to open the Disneyland Paris project.

Lee has served as Chairman of the Board of Heart of Florida United Way, the Board of Trustees for The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the board of the Production and Operations Management Society and the board of Reptilia a Canadian attractions and entertainment company. In 2005 Governor Bush appointed Lee to the Governor's Commission on Volunteerism and Public Service for the state of Florida where he served as Chairman of the Board.

He is now dedicating his time to public speaking, authoring a book on leadership, management and service excellence titled, Creating Magic…10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney, which is now available in 13 languages and his latest book, The Customer Rules…The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service. Lee also performs leadership and service excellence workshops and consulting for organizations around the world as well as for the Disney Institute. Lee has received the following awards: 

  •                 Golden Chain Award for Outstanding leadership and business performance from the Multi-Unit Foodservice Operations Association (MUFSO).
  •                Silver Plate Award for Outstanding Operator in the foodservice industry from the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA).
  •                Excellence In Production Operations Management and Leadership (POMS) from the Productions and Operations.
  •                Grandfather of the year from his three grandchildren, Jullian, Margot and Tristan.

Lee and his wife Priscilla live in Orlando Florida.

Topics discussed with Lee

1.    Ever meet J.W. Marriott? Yes.

2.    Joined Disney 1990, to open Disneyland Paris? (Euro Disney), which in the early days lost $1 million per day.

3.   Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney (2008) 

The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service (2013)

Time Management Magic (Jan 2015)

4.    Walt Disney World = size of San Francisco, or 2x Manhattan, 59,000 Cast Members

a.    Mickey = Teamster (13 or 14 unions in WDW)

b.    70% return rate

c.     Lowest turnover in hospitality industry

5.    Formula: Committed, responsible, inspiring leadership create a culture of care, which leads to quality service, which leads to Guest satisfaction, which leads to measurable business results and a strong competitive advantage.

6.    “Because all business problems boil down to leadership problems. The soft stuff is actually the hard stuff."

7.    Strategy #1: Remember, everyone is important: Cast was given freedom to set it’s own productivity targets. They set them very high!

8.    Feelings are never translated or passed on properly in a command chain

9.   No micromanagement = Trust!

10. Disney Institute Definition of Culture: “The system of values and beliefs an organization holds that drives actions and behaviors and influences relationships.” Established by design, not chance.

11.  You mentioned no price consistency at Disney’s food and beverage, because no one person in charge. How has pricing improved?

12.  What do you think of Disney’s new surge-pricing scheme?

13.  Your response to 9/11: evacuate 50,000 from theme parks; free hotel rooms; food vouchers; suspend charges for phone calls anywhere in world; costumed entertainers to occupy frightened children.

14.  Structured interviews by psychologists over the phone, create detailed profiles, powerful tool 1994?

15.    ¼ of the 25,000 Sommeliers work at WDW, sells more wine than any single site in the world (Vegas)

16.    Magical Moments and Take 5

17.    25 steps between trash containers!

18.  Sacrifice efficiency for safety and security (or Take 5, and MOMs). Snow White and Four Dwarfs

19.  Customers are human beings = Guestology

20.  Trading Pins! Two guys got idea at Olympics = millions dollar business!

21.   20% = active change agents; 30% = resist change; 50% on fence

Thanks to Lee for sharing how Disney spreads Pixie Dust, and how your organization can do it, too. 

Episode #48 - Interview with Kevin Mitchell, President PPS

Note: We had some technical difficulties during this show due to the State Wide Fiber Optic Network outage in Arizona, where Voice America is located. Thus, we go to the first break very soon, and the sound quality isn’t very good since we were on mobile phones. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Ed and I were honored to interview Kevin Mitchell, president of Professional Pricing Society (PPS), which is the premiere pricing organization in the world.

PPS was founded by Kevin’s father, Eric Mitchell, in 1984. Eric was a pioneer in the pricing field, having worked at Xerox, Intel, and Ford in the 1970s as a pricer, became a consultant in the field, then launched PPS.

Kevin recounted his work experience, including Colgate-Palmolive and General Electric, and how he returned to the family business of PPS in 2007. He has BA degrees in Economics and English from Duke University and an MBA in Marketing from The William E. Simon Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester. Kevin lives in Atlanta, Georgia, USA and his hobbies include music, cooking, and sports.

He discussed the growth of the pricing field, not only in organizations, but also more women in the field (25% of PPS members are women, and between 30-40% of younger pricers are now women). Pricing has grown within academia as well. It’s much easier now to earn a degree in pricing, including an MBA in pricing at Kevin’s alma mater, University of Rochester.

I asked Kevin if he thought pricing is now a profession, and like Reed Holden, he thinks it is. We discussed how multi-disciplinary pricing is, and Kevin think an effective pricer has to be part artist and part scientist (this is also the view of Robert Cross).

Kevin also gave some of the demographics of PPS’s 5,000 members worldwide: North America comprises approximately 60% of members, with western and northern Europe comprising approximately 18%, 5% from Latin America, 5% Asia Pacific, and the rest from Australia, Africa, Middle East and other regions.

There’s no dominate industry among the memberships. Members come from these various industries:

  •             Heavy goods
  •             Industrial concerns
  •             Hi-tech
  •             Telecom
  •             Retail
  •             Life Sciences
  •             Chemicals
  •             Energy

Ed asked Kevin how organizations make the transition to value pricing, and discussed the 1% Windfall: how a 1% price increase, with no change in demand, can have more impact on profit than any other lever a business can pull, such as increasing efficiency, cutting costs, or even new customers.

Ed then asked Kevin about “charm pricing” (odd-number pricing) and how it applies to small business. Even-numbered pricing does send a signal that this is higher quality, such as Apple’s $17,000 watch. But why does Apple use charm pricing on its other products? Perhaps to convey a best of both worlds: you get Apple’s prestige and you’re also getting a deal.

And finally, Ron asked Kevin which industry he thought were the best pricers. Airlines and hospitality was his answer, along with heavy goods (Caterpillar is known for its pricing competence), and electronics. Robert Cross answered hotels.

We recommend you become a member of Professional Pricing Society, attend their conferences and webinars, and become a Certified Professional Pricer. It’s a fantastic organization, and thank you Kevin for being a guest on The Soul of Enterprise.

Episode #25 - Interview with Dr. Thomas Sowell

Ed and I were absolutely honored to interview Dr. Thomas Sowell, certainly one of the world's greatest living economists, on The Soul of Enterprise: Business in the Knowledge Economy. Dr. Sowell is currently Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Sowell was born in North Carolina, but grew up in Harlem, New York. He dropped out of high school and served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War. He received a Bachelor's degree, graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1958 and a Master's degree from Columbia University in 1959. In 1968, he earned his Doctorate in Economics from the University of Chicago.

Dr. Sowell has served on the faculties of several universities, including Cornell University and University of California, Los Angeles. He has also worked for think tanks such as the Urban Institute. Since 1980, he has worked at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He writes from a conservative and classical liberal perspective, advocating free market economics and has written more than thirty books. He is a National Humanities Medal winner.

The new edition of his international best seller on economics, Basic Economics – 5th Edition (Basic Books, December 2015), was the focal point of our discussion.

Basic Economics is the best single volume primer on economics ever written. There are no graphs or equations, and the writing is clear, uncomplicated, eye-opening, and cogent. Ron has recommended this book to hundreds of people, most have thanked him profusely.

We discussed Dr. Sowell's early years as a Marxist, his definition of an economy and economics, early baseball tryout, the notion of a "fair" price, the illogic of the "trade deficit," his views on immigration, Thomas Pikkety's book and income inequality, and why there are only "non-economic values."

We also asked Dr. Sowell during the break what he thought of President Obama's recent policy on easing restrictions on Cuba. He was adamantly against it, and hopefully he will be writing on this topic for his syndicated column.

It's difficult to suggest one of Thomas Sowell's books over another. Be sure to read Basic Economics, 5th Edition, but if you want to venture beyond that (and you will), we've listed Dr. Sowell's books below, though not all of them. He's written two on late-talking children as well, which I hear are excellent.

Ron's favorites are: Knowledge and Decisions; A Conflict of Visions; and Intellectuals and Race.

Other Resources

Dr. Sowell's Wikipedia page.

Fred Barnes interview with Dr. Sowell.

Article by Jay Nordlinger, of National Review, on Thomas Sowell.

Follow Dr. Sowell's syndicated newspaper column on Twitter @sowellcolumn

Books by Thomas Sowell (partial list)

Say’s Law: An Historical Analysis, 1972

Classical Economics Reconsidered, 1974

Knowledge and Decisions, 1980

Markets and Minorities, 1981

Ethnic America: A History, 1981

The Economics and Politics of Race, 1983

Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality, 1984

Marxism: Philosophy and Economics, 1985

Education: Assumptions Versus History, 1986

A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, 1987 

Compassion Versus Guilt and Other Essays, 1987

Preferential Policies: An International Perspective, 1990

Inside American Education: The Decline, the Deception, the Dogmas, 1993

Race and Culture: A World View (Part I of a trilogy), 1994

The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy, 1995

Knowledge and Decisions, 1996 (1980 original)

Migrations and Cultures: A World View (Part II of a trilogy), 1996

Conquests and Cultures: An International History (Part III of a trilogy), 1998

The Quest for Cosmic Justice, 1999

A Personal Odyssey, 2000

Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy, 2004

Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One, 2004

Black Rednecks and White Liberals, 2005

Every Wonder Why (collection of columns), 2006

A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, revised and expanded 2007

A Man of Letters, 2007

The Housing Boom and Bust, 2009

Intellectuals and Society, 2009

Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One, Revised and Enlarged Edition, 2009

Dismantling America (collection of columns), 2010

The Thomas Sowell Reader (collection of columns, essays, etc.), 2011

“Trickle Down” Theory and “Tax Cuts for the Rich,” (essay), 2012

Intellectuals and Race, 2013

Basic Economics: A Citizens Guide to the Economy, 5th Edition, 2015