John Formica still has the book he read in middle school about Walt Disney. When he wrote a report on the book, he had no idea his childhood idol would have such a great influence on his adult life.
For the young Formica, Sunday nights meant television and “The Wonderful World of Disney.” He found Disney’s introductions at the beginning of each show fascinating. “He saw things ahead of everybody else,” Formica says.
Disney created Disneyland in 1955 but had a dream for something more. Plans for The Magic Kingdom and Epcot in Orlando were underway when Disney died in 1966. “People say it’s a shame Walt didn’t see it, but he saw it before we did,” Formica says.
Years after being introduced to Disney through television, Formica saw the result of Disney’s vision firsthand. Formica managed the company’s top luxury resort properties for 10 years. And he implemented Disney’s philosophy to create a superior customer experience.
Formica worked in the service industry for 25 years and now shares the magic he learned through the Disney model with others as a nationally known speaker and business consultant. As a leading authority on tourism, hospitality and service industries, he shows others how to create a Disney-like culture. He explains how to transform existing services into a magical customer experience.
His principles can be applied to any industry. He will speak and lead a workshop at the 2018 StoryConnect conference in Huntsville, Alabama. “I ask people, if Disney ran your business what would it look like,” he says.
It’s important to create loyalty from existing customers. “If a customer is just satisfied, they might say, ‘Let me try somebody else for my TV service.’ They will switch because all they care about is price. But you have to focus on how to create a great place to want to do business. You can create a brand and you have loyalty for life.”
Formica says the key is having good employees. “Some ways to wow are to differentiate yourself from everyone else and to create a ‘whistle while you work’ environment,” Formica says. “Disney’s philosophy is believe employees will make a difference, and they will.”
Living the dream
Formica grew up in Long Island, New York. He had a dream to play soccer in college and to be a park ranger. He received a soccer scholarship to West Virginia University.
But in 1979, he found out there were no vacancies with the park service and none expected. He went to work as a front desk clerk at a hotel. That’s where a career in the hospitality and service industry was born. Formica was later hired to create magic at Walt Disney World Resorts.
In the early days, there were four hotels and a campground. Soon there were 16 new hotels and the resort was more than a place to stay. “We were creating a magical experience,” he says.
He was recruited to leave Disney to manage the largest convention hotel in North Carolina. He worked in management positions with service industry leaders like Hyatt Hotels, Hilton, Adams Mark and Sunrise Senior Living.
After much success, he chose to help others learn how to create magic in their own businesses.
He will focus on the the telecommunications and electric industries in his presentation at StoryConnect. “I’m looking forward to creating some magic,” he says.
For more about StoryConnect, visit storyconnect.com.