Luke continues to speed toward the day he'll take over.
|The Monday following the opening of Guardians and my engagement to Stephanie, Uncle Dan told me he had something very important to tell me as we met first thing that morning.
“So, what’s the big news this time?” I asked.
“I have noticed that you have been making a lot of rapid progress since you’ve been apprenticing full time.” He started.
“Oh, thank you.” I said, wondering where he was going with this.
“So, I have decided that I am going to officially retire at the end of the year.” He told me.
Talk about having a bomb dropped on you. All of a sudden, I only had like six months until I was taking full control of this massive corporation. I just sat there stunned for a moment before I said anything.
“Wow. You really think I’m already ready to take over?” I asked.
“Look Luke, you’ll never feel 100% ready. I can’t take you through every possible scenario you’ll encounter.”
“Um, ok. I’ll just soak up everything I can for the remaining months.”
“I know it’s not a ton of time, but you can do it.”
That stressed me out like crazy during the rest of the day and I knew I would need to make a stop somewhere before I went home. I texted Stephanie at lunch to let her know I would be home late.
I managed to make it through the rest of the day and somewhat function. As soon as I left work, I drove to Disneyland. I had a man I needed to see.
“Hey Walt? Are you here?” I asked as I walked in.
“Hey there Luke, it’s been a while.” He said as he walked around the corner. “What’s on your mind?”
“Dan told me today that he’s going to retire at the end of the year, so now I only have a few months before I assume actual control of the company.” I explained.
“You’ve learned a lot from him already, haven’t you?” Walt asked.
“I mean, yea.”
“And you still have the rest of the year to keep learning, right?” He continued.
“Right. I know I’m learning a lot and will probably be ready when the time comes. But, I can’t shake the fear that I’m going to screw it all up once January rolls around.” I rambled to him.
“I know you’ve heard a thousand times that you’re going to fail, and you can’t be afraid of that. But, what you really need to know is that whenever you fail, you’ll have another good idea right after it. There’s basically nothing that’ll happen to kill the company while you’re in charge.” He assured me.
“What was your secret errand that made you late?” Stephanie asked when she got to our apartment after I got home.
“I was really stressed out and needed to get some advice from Walt.” I told her.
“Wait, what’s stressing you out so much?” She asked.
“Um, Dan told me today that he’s decided to retire at the end of the year. So, I’ve got like six months before the company is all mine.” I explained.
“Six months?” She repeated. “Are you going to be ok?”
“I guess so.” I said. “Dan and Walt sure seem confident that I can do it.”
Stephanie and I wound up going for dinner and a movie that night. It was her idea more than mine, she figured I needed to keep my mind off things for a little while. I mean, now I had an impending wedding and I also had to get ready for my new position.
By the end of that week, an official statement had been released to the press. That was it. The announcement had been made and the world had been informed. I couldn’t back out now without some serious embarrassment.
“So, Luke, I want to talk to you about your board of directors.” Dan told me during our mentoring session the Monday after the statement had been made.
“Sure. What about it?” I asked. I had gotten to know Dan’s board of directors during the time he’d been mentoring me. They were cool people and I got along well with them.
“When you take over, you have the option to create a new board from scratch if you want. You’re also welcome to keep any you choose. But, there are a few that have decided to retire with me. So, you do have a few spots to fill no matter what.” He explained.
“So, I can choose whoever I want?” I asked.
“Yes. But, remember that you are running a company now.” He reminded me.
“Right.” I agreed.
“So, what bomb got dropped on you today?” Stephanie asked when I got home. She meant it as a joke, but she was fairly accurate.
“I have kind of a tough decision to make, actually.” I told her.
“What kind of a decision?” She asked.
“Dan was talking to me about my board of directors today and told me I can either fill just the spots of the few people retiring with him or create a whole new executive board from scratch and oust everybody in those positions under Dan.”
“So, what do you want to do?” She asked.
“I don’t know yet. I mean, I know the people on Dan’s board and I like them, but I also like the idea of starting fresh and establishing myself.” I explained.
“Maybe you should talk to Walt about it.” She suggested.
“Yea. That’s probably a good idea.” I agreed.
“Why don’t you stop by after work tomorrow?” She suggested.
I kept the two options in the back of my mind then next day as I went through the workday. It wasn’t quite as distracting as some of the other bombs Dan had dropped on me, so I managed to stay productive. But, once the day was done, I drove straight to Disneyland. This time, it was as if Walt knew I was coming.
“Hey there Luke.” He greeted me, already in the living room.
“Hey Walt.” I returned.
“Have a seat!” He offered jovially. “What’s on your mind?”
“Did you have a board of directors?” I asked.
“Well, yes and no.” He said. “I appointed new executives as departments were created. Each new department needed a department head. So, I built the board as the company grew. Why do you ask?”
“Dan brought up the board yesterday and gave me a difficult decision. I can either replace a few people who are retiring along with him or get rid of everybody and create a new board from scratch.” I explained.
“I can see why that’s a tough choice. It feels like you’re firing people for no reason, doesn’t it?” He asked.
“Exactly. I don’t want to fire a bunch of people just because I want to bring in my own guys if they’re doing a good job.” I said.
“Here’s what you need to know about a board of directors, Luke.” Walt explained. “Most, if not all, people appointed to a board like that will have no trouble at all getting work somewhere else. So, if you want to create a new board from scratch and do your own thing, I say go for it.”
“Thanks, Walt. That helped a lot.” I said as I got up to go.
“Say hi to Stephanie for me.” He said as I walked out the door.
I went home after my talk with Walt that evening. I had a long conversation with Eric and Stephanie about the matter. It was such a huge decision to make. After taking in the advice of Dan, Walt, Eric and Stephanie I slept on the decision and was pretty sure I had my mind made up in the morning.
“So, dude, are you any closer to making your decision?” Eric asked as I ate breakfast.
“You know, I think I’m there.” I told him between bites.
“Yea. I’m going to create an entirely new board.” I announced.
“Wow. Really shaking things up.” He commented.
“I feel like it’s what I need to do. I really want to create a younger company. I want to bring the company back to Walt-era imagination and innovation and I feel like I need peers my own age to be able to do that.”
“I respect that.” He said. “That’s pretty ambitious.”
“It is.” I agreed. “So, can I ask you something?”
“What?” He asked suspiciously.
“Do you want to be my number 2?”
“Me? Your number 2? Are you serious?” He fired back.
“Yea, dude. You’re smart, we work well together. Think about what we could do!” I told him.
“Do I have to answer right now?” He asked.
“Well, I have to go to work right now. Why don’t you think it over today and tell me when I get home?” I suggested.
“Ugh. Fine. I will try to think about it today.” He begrudgingly agreed.
“It would come with a sweet pay raise.” I added.
Of course, Dan wanted to know my decision as soon as I saw him that morning.
“So, have you figured out what you want to do?” Those were literally the first words out of his mouth.
“Good morning to you too.” I responded. “Yes, I have made a decision.”
“Great! What is it?” He asked eagerly.
“I want to create my own board from scratch.” I told him nervously.
“Alright. That might stir the pot a little bit, but you need to do what’s best for you.” He responded.
“So, it’s a bad idea?” I asked.
“No, that’s not what I said.” He defended. “Some people will criticize your choice, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing.”
“Yea, you’re right.” I agreed.
“Do you have any ideas on who you want?” He asked.
“I asked Eric this morning to be my number 2, he’s thinking about it.” I told him.
“Anyone else?” He continued.
“Not specifically.” I admitted. “But, I want to bring a younger vibe back to the company. I want people closer to my age.”
“I respect that. I think that’s a smart way to usher in a new era in the company.” He told me.
I was eager to get home that night and pester Eric about an answer. I was going crazy waiting to find out his thoughts.
“Soooooo?” I bugged him.
“So, what?” He started. “I give up the good job I have right now to help you run a multi-billion company as two twenty-somethings?”
“You do realize that I’m taking the bigger risk here, right?” I asked him. “I’m the one to blame if things go south and I want you to come on board. Plus, you’ll get at least a six-figure salary.”
“You really want me to do this?” He asked.
“Heck yea I do!” I exclaimed.
“Fine, you talked me into it.” He relented.
“Yes! One down, eight to go.” I said.
Anytime I wasn’t at work for the rest of that week was either spent wedding planning or thinking about who else I wanted for my board of directors. Stephanie was being really great about everything. She was trying to spare me as much as possible from the wedding planning so that I could focus on work. Wednesday night, while I was trying to help Stephanie compile a preliminary list of people to invite to the wedding, I thought of two more people I wanted to get.
“Oh! I know!” I shouted.
“What?” Steph asked.
“Aaron and Will!” I told her.
“Sweetheart, they’re already on the list.” She replied, referring to the invitations.
“Oh, sorry. Not for that.” I told her. “I want to try to get them on my board.”
“I thought they didn’t want to work in the company.” Eric said, overhearing our conversation.
“That’s what Dan said. But this isn’t their dad’s company anymore.” I said. “There might be a chance.”
“So, what are you going to do?” Eric asked.
“I’ll get them to Disneyland with us this weekend and ambush them there with it.” I said.
“That’s the spirit, use Disneyland for all your manipulative needs.” Stephanie sarcastically added.
That Saturday, I lured Aaron and Will to the parks. I held off for the first part of the day. I had to maintain their false sense of security. I let the whole morning go as if it were just any other day at Disneyland. Then, I struck at lunch.
“So, how’s work been for you guys?” I asked. I knew they both had jobs that they weren’t exactly thrilled with.
“Oh, you know, it pays the bills.” Will lamented.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t keep one eye on lookout for other openings.” Aaron added.
“Is that so?” I asked with a smile creeping onto my face. Then they knew something was up. “Would you guys like a new job?”
“Oh boy, what do you want?” Aaron asked.
“I’m filling out my board of directors and want young people like me on it and I think you guys would be great for it.” I rambled off.
“I don’t know dude.” Aaron said hesitantly. “I’ve always tried to stay out of that business.”
“But, is that not because it was your dad’s company and you didn’t want to work for your dad?” I asked.
“I guess you have a point there.” He admitted.
“So, do you want in?” I asked.
“Alright. What the heck?” Aaron accepted.
“Will?” I asked.
“Fine, I’m in.” He said.
“Yes!” I exclaimed. “We’re going to do such awesome things.”
Just like that, I had three spots filled on the board. I was feeling so good about things. At this point, my board was shaping up to be a huge support for me.
Dan checked in with me, naturally, the following Monday to see how things were going with my search.
“So, I’ve gotten all the people that I know that I want for my board. What methods should I use to get resumes for others?” I asked Dan.
“I’m not sure I have the info you need on that one.” He said after some thought.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“The resources I use bring me established older executives in other companies.” He said. “You want younger people trying to break into the biz.”
“So, where should I look?” I asked.
“I don’t know Luke. I don’t have the answers on this one.”
“What about business students?” I asked.
“Maybe. You’d want to be careful there, they’ll have little to no experience.” He warned.
“Like me?” I joked.
“I guess so.” He chuckled. “But, in all seriousness, if you want to try looking at business students, I think you have good instincts.”
I took some time during the day to draft up an ad to send around to universities around the area. I was looking for business students nearing the end of their graduate studies. Extensive Disney knowledge would be a plus, imagination and creativity a must. I put together a short application for potential candidates to send in with their resumes.
In a matter of days, I had received dozens of applications from students all over Southern California and I needed to whittle that down to 6. That Friday night, I started sifting through all the applications while Stephanie, Eric and I watched TV. By the end of the weekend, I had about twenty applicants that I wanted to interview. I made the calls on Monday to schedule them and conducted the interviews over the course of the week. The Monday after that, I called with job offers. It was a three-week venture, but I was happy with the team I had built. In addition to Eric, Aaron and Will; I had gotten Johnny, an ambitious Disney superfan; Carly, super nice and a very creative spirit; Mike, top of his class and rivals me for Disney knowledge; Lilly, dedicated and hungry for a shot; Daniel, business savvy and an optimism superpower; and Marcus, a Disney parks expert and well versed in the business of the guest experience. Now, I had nine people under 30 years old, plus myself, lined up to run one of the world’s largest companies. I was crazy, right?