Thursday, January 24, 2013

Five Key Points to Success From Disney's CEO Bob Iger

It pays to be honest

When Iger took over from Michael Eisner in 2005, one of the first things he knew he needed to do was fix Disney’s relationship with Steve Jobs. The tech legend’s Pixar had provided several hits for Disney but under Eisner, the working relationship had fallen apart. Jobs was one of the first people Iger called when he was promoted to CEO.

After smoothing the road a bit, Iger finally approached Jobs about Disney buying Pixar.
“In negotiations you have to make a decision about how much interest you’re going to show,” says Iger. “I put my cards on the table and they were turned up. Why not be honest? I needed to buy Pixar.”

Iger ended up getting the company for $7.4 billion and Jobs became Disney’s biggest shareholder, a win for both parties. Jobs later said he appreciated how upfront Iger had been with him.

Believe in Brands

Under Iger, Disney has made three huge acquisitions, Pixar, Marvel in 2010 for $4 billion, and recently LucasFilm and the Star Wars brand for $4 billion. What do all of those buys have in common? They are strong brands. It’s easy to get overwhelmed today with the amount of choice we have when it comes to entertainment. That’s where brands give companies like Disney an advantage. Iger says it gives the company properties it can leverage across businesses, territories and time.  Cinderella and Iron Man will go on and on and on.

Respect, but don’t revere the past

Iger is the head of a company that has been around since 1923. That’s quite a legacy. And while he’ll happily listen to 22 hours of Walt himself sitting for an interview, he tries not to hold onto the past and instead, keeps his focus on moving the company forward.

“There’s a lot that happened in the past and there are values that can be carried forward,” says Iger. “But I’m trying to pull from that a formula that can be applied to the future.”

Trust people until proven otherwise

Disney’s announcement late last year that it was buying LucasFilm came as a shock to most people in Hollywood but it turns out Iger had told all of the people who report directly to him, months before, that an acquisition was in the works. Iger trusted that the secret wouldn’t get out and it didn’t.

“I like being direct and I like people knowing what I’m thinking about where the company is going so I end up sharing a lot,” Iger told Grazer. He trusts the people who work for him to make 90% of the decisions at the company and so far, that’s clearly been working out well for him.

Be competitive, but don’t focus on your competition

Iger remembered being head of ABC and sitting on stage at another luncheon with the heads of NBC, CBS and FOX and thinking about what tough competitors they were. In today’s world of hundreds of cable stations and online entertainment options, it’s sometimes hard to even know who your competitors are.

So instead of obsessing about what different TV stations are doing to try and compete with Disney or ESPN, he tries to make great shows, embrace new technology and not get too hung up on what other people are doing.

“If you’re obsessed with what everyone else is doing then you’re not obsessed with what you’re doing.”


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