I’m here this week to share some of the best business advice I have ever been given: ‘Don’t micro-manage, over-manage.’

While these two concepts may sound similar, they actually sit at polar opposite ends of the business productivity scale. 

Micro-management, as we all know, is destined to see employees ditch you like rats from a sinking ship. Over-management, on the other hand, is an empowering way to ensure your strategy and team are set up to focus fully on all the areas that really matter to your business and its bottom line.

And if you don’t want to take it from me, just ask Mr Disney.

C’mon mouseketeers, it’s time to get growing.

The Walt Disney Way

I have been very lucky in my career. Lucky to have clocked up more than 25 years of corporate experience, including 22 years with global giant, General Electric, which exposed me to invaluable experiences which I’ve used to help many kiwi business owners over the years. And lucky also to have been invited to learn some of the inner workings of Disney, some of which I want to share with you today. 

Some years ago,  I was lucky enough to be invited to the Disney Institute in Florida to complete the ‘Disney’s Approach to Business Excellence’ course. As well as being a terrific networking opportunity and an amazing opportunity to see what made Disney tick, the hosts shared some powerful lessons, developed by Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, in the continual pursuit of excellence with regard to the customer experience and, make no mistake about it, profitability. 

I learnt that leadership and employee excellence, exceptional customer experiences and sustainable business results are the universal pillars of the Disney way, but the real surprise for me lay in what Disney chose to ‘over- manage’, or in other words, drive with unrelenting focus.

Here are the top three in order of priority.

  1. Guest Safety

This one was not obvious to me at the time but, with hindsight, it makes total sense. A serious injury or death(s) would severely damage Disney’s reputation and dramatically reduce consideration from the target audience.  Sadly, here is proof from another theme park. Every employee in the Disney organisation is given the authority and responsibility for guest safety.

2. Park Cleanliness

The importance of park cleanliness was deeply embedded within Disney’s company culture. Everyone, at all times, was charged with park cleanliness. Walking down the path with Snow White, she sees a piece of paper, stops and makes a comment along the lines of “let’s just pop this in the bin.” We saw the exact same behaviour from a Disney executive whilst on a guided tour.  A culture of cleanliness is very deliberately ingrained into the organisation. And why? Because Walt Disney himself knew this was one of his key points of difference.

“When I started on Disneyland, my wife used to say, ‘But why do you want to build an amusement park? They’re so dirty.’ I told her that was just the point — mine wouldn’t be.” – Walt Disney

And again, make no mistake, this focus was tied directly to the businesses bottom line. The correlation between repeat visits and cleanliness was a key financial driver.

3. Always being on show

Employees are called “cast” at Disney and spend hours perfecting their roles. This is as true for Mickey Mouse as it is for ride attendants and cleaning staff. Disney Florida is actually made up of two distinct areas; one above the ground, being the theme parks etc. and the other below the ground, where there is an amazing underground city for staff, production, supply chain.

It is continually reinforced that once cast go ‘above ground’, they are on show, and there is a little girl or a mum or a dad or a teenage boy who may have travelled from halfway around the world to be there that day.

Disney understands that ensuring the Disney magic occurs without exception leads to word-of-mouth referrals. I am sure we all have this perception of Disney being a magic place that would be great to visit – and it is – it is as magical as it is deliberate.  

What we all need to over-manage

Regardless of what business you are in, I can guarantee one of your areas for over-management should be digital. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the value and importance of digital for us all and our member, Robert Watt at The Source Bulk Foods, reminded us in last week’s newsletter, just how critical over-managing this area can be to a business’ survival. 

But how exactly do you over-manage digital when ‘digital’ means different things to different businesses? The key is to ensure your digital approach aligns both with your business goals and the customer journeys your target market takes. 

But watch out…

While the options for how you execute your digital strategy are truly endless, the availability of expertise with the breadth of experience and knowledge to achieve the success you seek is, sadly, not. 

A common example of a trap many fall into is engaging so-called ‘expert web developers’. Many web developers in New Zealand are technically sound, but lack knowledge with customer journey mapping, SEO, eCommerce, CRM, content creation and so on. And many use cheap servers that deliver poor performance that results in lost sales. As well as poor visibility, these cheap servers can also be much easier to hack – and eCommerce fraud can be a death-nail for a small business. More on this in later newsletters.

For starters, we recommend you take this simple, online test to see how your current website is performing.

If you need help over-managing digital for your business, we can help via our Grow NZ Marketing Strategy  –  your business may be eligible for a 50% subsidy too.


Be deliberate in what you over-manage. Ensure your areas of focus align directly to your goal and to your target customer segment. And, bear in mind that, just like with Disney, the most important thing for your business to over-manage may not be the most obvious one.