Sunday, June 22, 2014

Price & Fowler - Walt's Kind of Employees

One of the things I've noticed in my reading about Walt is the type of people he would hire. Particularly in the early days, he seemed to be looking for potential more than skills.  I suspect that part of the reason for that came from the fact that Disney was doing things which had never been done before, so looking for someone with experience was a waste of time. As far back as Laugh-O-Grams Walt would hire people and then train them. In those days, he was probably learning how to do what he wanted at nearly the same time.

Walt, Buzz and C. V. Wood
There are stories which come to mind which illustrate this. The first has to do with Harrison (Buzz) Price of SRI, who was frequently asked to evaluate the viability of ideas and projects.  Buzz had an approach that suited Walt and Roy’s needs perfectly. When answering one of Walt's frequent questions, Buzz would reply; “Yes, if...”  Regarding this Price said; “Yes if…" is the approach of a deal maker.  It points to what needs to be done to make the possible plausible. ‘No because…" is the language of a deal killer. Creative people thrive on ‘Yes if.” To which Buzz added; “Walt liked this language.”

Fowler points out details of Disneyland to King Hussein
Two other examples of this are told by Harry Wessel of The Orlando Sentinel in Joe Fowler's Obituary;

''Can do'' was both Fowler's trademark attribute and his favorite expression. When he was directing construction of Disney World, The last thing he'd always say is 'Can do.' Frank Hubbard, retired president of Hubbard Construction Co., recalled; That meant, 'Get out, I've got somebody else to see. Get this done as soon as you can.'

Bob Matheison
Disney Vice President Bob Matheison, vividly recalled a conversation between Joe and Walt in the early days of Disneyland. They were looking at a performing stage that featured a waterfall, with a dressing room off to the side. ''Walt turned to Joe and said, 'I'd like to part the water and let the entertainers come out, and then have the waterfall close behind them.' ''Joe never batted an eye,'' Matheison recounted. ''He just said, 'Can do, can do.' I know he had no idea how he was going to part the water, but he said it without hesitation - 'Can do.' And, by golly, he went ahead and did it. He parted the water and closed it back up again.'' In a later interview Fowler recalled; ''Walt said to me a couple of days after I was hired, 'Now look, I will try to have the ideas, and you make the engineering realities of them.' ''

Walt, Joe and a Curtain Waterfall (Mashup)
Can Do!
I'm pretty sure that was the same attitude Walt had when he was dealing with Arrow. He trusted them to deliver on what he wanted, and as long as he was happy with your work, he let you do it.

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