As a start-up company, Kavaliro Staffing Services enlisted the aid of Disney Institute to help build its business foundations using Disney’s time-tested best practices. At a custom-designed, multi-day engagement, the company’s management and employees came together to decide how to apply and adapt Disney principles to their own operations. Management credits the company’s soaring revenues, which have more than doubled in the last year, and its client and employee-friendly company culture, in part to its work with Disney Institute.
"We Want To Be The Best"
After going through a merger and acquisition, the owners of Orlando-based Kavaliro Staffing Services were about to launch their newly rebranded company in the summer of 2010. As Bill Peppler, one of the firm’s founders, remembers, "We were excited to be building our new company from the ground up. Everywhere we looked there were opportunities as well as challenges."
As a small, 20-person company in the massive $200 billion temporary and project staffing industry, Kavaliro needed to develop a unique brand from day one. "We knew we required more than a snappy logo and a new coat of paint to set us apart from the competition," says Peppler, the company’s managing partner. Adds Mark Moore, the company’s president, "All of us felt the best place to begin was with establishing a positive company culture. We knew our employees would be the key to our success."
Although Kavaliro was starting small, its founders were thinking big. Their business plan envisioned rapid staff and revenue expansion. But they needed help. After a brief introduction to the Disney Institute approach, Peppler, Moore, CEO Diane Mahony and COO John Mahony realized expert help was right in their own backyard.
"The chance to apply Disney best practices to our young company was a no-brainer," remembers Diane Mahony. "We had all been to Disney Parks and had witnessed first hand that the company has built a rich company culture and excels at customer service, employee empowerment and more." Adds Peppler, "Partnering with a company like Disney would send a message to all our employees: We want to be the best."
A Customized Program
The first step in working with Disney Institute was collaborating with facilitator Sara Jones to design a customized session that addressed Kavaliro’s specific needs. Based on her meetings with the founders, Jones drew from Disney best practices in Leadership Excellence, Quality Service, Loyalty, Creativity, and Selection, Training & Engagement to produce a one-and-a-half day session.
"Disney may be a lot bigger than Kavaliro but our business strategies and practices are easily transferable, and applicable, to them," explains Jones. Her session, entitled "Fueling Success and Finding Leadership and Service Excellence," offered the startup a blueprint for growth. Indeed, its goal was: "To be best in class."
Over two days Jones presented a comprehensive engagement of time-tested Disney strategies to Kavaliro’s entire staff. Using a combination of talks, teambuilding exercises and a site visit to the Magic Kingdom, she helped the young company discover how they could adapt Disney business strategies to their own workplace.
"We also explored Kavaliro’s vision and mission and what they meant to each employee," says Jones. Explains Peppler, "I’ve been to other seminars and presentations where you get talked to. This was different. The Disney Institute approach was much more hands on; everyone was involved. Everyone had the ability to make his or her views known. That reinforced the importance we place on employee empowerment."
The site visit to Walt Disney World allowed Kavaliro employees to see first hand Disney best practices at work in the field. After a guided tour to the "onstage," or public portion of the Magic Kingdom, everyone went "backstage" to the park’s "utilidors" where they saw the facilities that support the park and Cast Members (Disney-speak for employees). "This showed us that leadership is necessary to support the needs and wants of both employees and clients," says Mark Moore. "That really resonated with us."
Paid High Dividends
Applying the principles they learned from Disney Institute has paid high dividends for Kavaliro. "The time at Disney was invaluable to us," says Diane Mahony. "It got our entire company off on the right foot and helped us establish our corporate culture from day one." Mahony and her partners are quick to credit Disney Institute training for helping inspire their dramatic growth and recognition:
Revenues topped $11.8 million in 2011 and are on track to more than double in 2012.
- The company has added 10 internal employees to the original 20 and now boasts 200 external contract staff in 25 states, up from 90 original staffers.
- In less than one year, Kavaliro was ranked 1145 on the 2011 Inc. magazine 5000 list.
- Kavaliro was named one of the "Best Places to Work" and "An Outstanding Small Business" by the Orlando Business Journal.
While awards and increasing revenues are gratifying, the Kavaliro founders are even more proud of how their employees have put many Disney business principles into practice. Recently, a staff member in the Orlando office received a call from a temporary worker in the field who, because of a mix-up, hadn’t received a paycheck.
"None of us were in the office, but our employee had been empowered to make his own decision," explains Peppler. "So, knowing we would reimburse him, he wrote a check from his own personal checking account and immediately sent it out to the field worker. That’s an example of employee empowerment straight out of Disney practices. It’s also proof that our investment in Disney Institute continues to pay dividends."