Craig Durosko: How a Disney cruise helped improve my remodeling business

Take a vacation, run your business better ...

March 05, 2012

Take a vacation, run your business better…

I had never taken a cruise before. Our friends asked if we wanted to go on the new Disney Dream Cruise with their family. Since we have kids about the same age, we thought it would be a good time to try it.

Not knowing what to expect, it helped to go with someone to “guide” us through the planning. They knew when to fly, to board, activities to sign up for in advance, and helped set expectations.

Lessons I learned: With referrals, price becomes much less of an issue. I let my friends’ recommendation guide the process. (Note to self: Increase referrals, increase our raving fans, let them sell for us)

The time had arrived for our trip; first the flight to Florida, then we jumped on a Disney shuttle and off we went to the ship. It was a 30-minute drive. Traveling with four little children, my first reaction was how to entertain them?

Disney had thought of that already. As soon as we left, Disney had a pre-recorded animated video that was entertaining for the kids, and informational for the parents. It talked about what you were going to experience, and it built anticipation for both the parents and children. The entire bus was engaged; as soon as it ended, we arrived at port.

Lessons I learned: Create anticipation; minimize surprises.

After boarding, eating lunch, and checking into our room, there was a mandatory fire drill. Four thousand guests lined up perfectly by family, tallest to shortest, around the boat, under the smaller rescue boats. All 1,500 crew members (Disney calls them “Cast Members”) assisted us in lining up. Three times, the lines were adjusted and straightened. Before even being asked why, a cast member offered, “The more organized we are, the safer we are.”

All of this was performed in about 15 minutes and we were off to our activities. This happened to be a great experience to witness from an employer perspective.

Lessons I learned: Anticipate FAQs and answer them before a client asks.

I couldn’t help but notice that every cast member we walked by would stop what they were doing, look you in the eyes and ask how you were doing. A little thing, yet it kept happening.

Lessons I learned: Train on the basics … eye contact, address clients every time you see them; the little things matter.

Upon checking into the room, we found there were two phones. Disney provides them so your family can be in constant contact with each other at all times at sea and on land.

Lessons I learned: Think of things that people haven’t even asked for yet. Go above and beyond what people expect.

So after checking our kids into the kids club, it was time for our formal dinner of the cruise. It is there I learned a few more things that impressed me about Disney. They have a “Take Five” policy: take five minutes out of your regular duties to do something special for a guest each day. An example from our server was that a few minutes earlier he had overheard parents of a special needs child say the child really liked a character from Toy Story. He had just made arrangements for the character to stop by his room that night for a personal visit.

Lessons I learned: Take five minutes each day and do something special for an employee and/or a client. It often isn’t what you did; it is how you made them feel.

I asked him about how Disney does on-boarding after hiring a new cast member. He said the company flies them to the Disney Institute for three days of training on culture and the basics, and then they “shadow” someone for one week on the ship before they are able to be a cast member on the ship.

Another interesting thing I noticed is that a few commented that they wanted to work on the next, newer ship that was going to set sail. I asked them how that worked. Only the “best of the best” were selected to work on each new ship. That is how Disney could assure an excellent experience, even on the first time the ship leaves port.

Lessons I learned: You and all your employees are on stage when you are at work and in the client’s home, so focus on the client.(I never saw one of the 1,500 crew members having a “bad” day.)

Craig Durosko is the founder of Sun Design, an award-winning Burke, Va.-based design/build firm. He can be reached at


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