Purpose of Disneyland

The purpose story of Disneyland goes like this. In 1955 Van Arsdale France founded the University of Disneyland with the job of developing a training program.

Van believed that his goal was, in his own words, “to get everyone [they] hired to share in an intangible dream, and not just working for a paycheck.” He pitched what would become the purpose of Walt and Roy Disney. He recounted the experience:

And here were top executives, all of them right there, and I had to get up and say “And now our theme: the purpose of Disneyland is to create happiness for others.” And you see, the beautiful thing about saying, “We’re going to create happiness” was then I could say, “Look, you may park cars, clean up the place, sweep the place, work graveyard and everything else, but whatever you do is contributing to creating happiness for others.”

This story is from a blog post over at the Disney Institute Blog and it’s an insightful read about the difference between mission and purpose.

How Disneyland came about

Yes. Disneyland was once just an idea. In this post from Disney Institute’s blog, here’s how Walt Disney came up with the idea:

When Walt’s daughters were young he would take them out on Saturday afternoons to do fun things together – to visit merry-go-rounds and amusement parks. Walt would sit on a bench nearby while he watched his daughters ride the attractions. As he sat there, he noticed that the other parents had nothing to do either and were anxious to get home. This sparked an idea – what if he created an amusement park where the entire family could have fun together?

And a witty quote from Walt himself on how he wanted to change the game:

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.

Pitch-documents to raise money for Disneyland

The original Disneyland pitch-documents are available over at Boing Boing. Lots of interesting, fun, and inspiring stuff in there. I especially love how it introduces the Disneyland story:

The idea of Disneyland is a simple one. It will be a place for people to find happiness and knowledge.

Walt Disney’s vision of Disneyland

Finally, let’s end our discussion of Disneyland with one of my favorite quotes about Walt Disney’s vision:

Disneyland will never be completed, as long as there is imagination left in the world.

How Chick-fil-A discovered their purpose

In fall 2015 at the corner of 37th and Sixth Avenue in New York, a long line formed halfway down the block. If you’d lined up, you’d be greeted by a young employee with an iPad at the entrance.

Nope, it was not the launch of a new iPhone at an Apple Store. It was the first Chick-fil-A restaurant opening in Manhattan.

Previously I did a purpose discovery case study for pizza and what better way to follow up with a company that makes delicious chicken sandwiches!

You probably have heard great things about Chick-fil-A. As a great company as they are, Chick-fil-A did not have a purpose statement when they were founded. They clarified and discovered it during tough times.

Finding purpose in the midst of a crisis

In the early 1980s, Chick-fil-A was having a tough time. Rising interest costs slowed down their growth because it meant borrowing money costed more. On top of that, Wendy’s and McDonald’s came in the chicken market with chicken sandwiches and nuggets. As the two hamburger giants fought for market share, they bought up lots of chicken. The increased demand drove prices of chicken up, which meant Chick-fil-A’s ingredients’ cost rose as well. Things were so tough that the founder and former CEO Truett Cathy took no salary for a year.

To deal with the situation, Chick-fil-A scheduled a two-day offsite meeting with its leadership team to formulate a battle plan. They put their heads together, but eventually hit a wall. That is when Truett’s older son, Dan, shifted the conversation by asking basic and fundamental questions: “Why are we in business? Why are we here? Why are we alive?”

As Truett explains in his book, Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People (a wonderful book title!):

[Dan] really wanted us to consider the purpose of Chick-fil-A, and he believed the answers to his questions might lead us to solutions to our more immediate problems as well. So the eight of us began something of a brainstorming session, putting ideas on a blackboard as we went.

The following discussions would focus on what each team member thought was important. Eventually, they unanimously settled on two things that would become Chick-fil-A’s official Corporate Purpose:

“To glorify God by being faithful stewards of all that is entrusted to us.” and “To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

The Corporate Purpose would be inscribed on a plaque and placed by the front door of their headquarters welcoming visitors and reminding its employees of their purpose even to today.

Wonderful things happened after they adopted their Corporate Purpose, but I’ll leave those stories for you to read in his book.

What we can learn from Chick-fil-A about discovering purpose

  • Go offsite. If you’re going to talk about your purpose, make sure you do it offsite. Your team will be less distracted so they can focus on discovering purpose. By stepping away from the workspace, you’ll have a fresh and more objective point of view. Plus, the change of pace helps with coming up with ideas.
  • Use tools to brainstorms. Don’t just sit around the table and discuss. Chick-fil-A’s team used a blackboard to brainstorm. So make sure you get those whiteboards and markers out. Post-its are great too.
  • Reach an unanimous agreement. Make sure everyone on the team agrees and resonates with the purpose statement. Treat it as if it you are all jury members of a trial that requires an unanimous verdict.

How Nick’s Pizza & Pub discovered their purpose

There's a misconception that purpose is only for big companies. Nick's Pizza & Pub is among the busiest independent pizza company in the US. But that's not what impressed me. It's the fact that a thousand dollar tips has shown up four different times!

The owner Nick Sarillo said this in one of his TEDx talks:

What's the amazing stuff that goes on inside those big companies like Google? We can have a world-class culture in small business too! We can either let culture just happen, which happens mostly. Or we can be explicit and create the culture we want to be a part of. That's what I decided to do. So my approach to doing this is: the first step in building trust at work is starting with purpose.

Small businesses and small teams too can harness purpose.

How Nick's Pizza & Pub discovered their purpose

When Nick wanted to to grow his company, he turned to cultivating a culture around purpose. Before his team could proceed, they needed to discover their purpose first.

In his book, Nick explains their discovery process. They organized an off-site 2-day retreat gathering select team members to put the company's purpose in writing. Here's Nick's initial thoughts about the retreat:

The idea seemed strange, even a little frightening: two long days of sitting in a circle and talking honestly about our business, even the bad stuff. There would be flip charts, creative projects with Play-Doh and markers, meditations, and, of course, that all-too-scary things: emotions.

Selecting the purpose discovery team

The team included servers, bartenders, cooks, busboys, two people from every work group, a newbie, a veteran, as well as the entire management team.

Questions to ask

At the retreat the team explored these questions:

  • What are we doing right?
  • What value are we adding?
  • What are the contributions we make to our customers?
  • What is the need we fill in the community?
  • What part of work makes us feel good?
  • What are we individually most passionate about?
  • How do we define ourselves?

Process and tools

Day 1: Use flip boards to brainstorm ideas including:

  • list of words describing what the company means to the team
  • phrases describing positive elements of the company

Day 2: Turning all the ideas into a purpose statement over several hours

  • start with a series of paragraphs
  • summarize into one-page document
  • edit down to a single sentence in the present tense

Purpose discovery is a life- and business- altering experience

Nick's Pizza & Pub is one of my favorite case studies. I hope it inspires you to do a purpose discovery session with your team. Because as Nick puts it, it's a life- and business- altering experience.

RIMOWA's Mission

From the overview of RIMOWA in their job description:

Welcome to RIMOWA, the first German Maison of the LVMH Group. We are a global lifestyle brand with a mission to create the essential tools for a lifetime of travel. For more than 120 years, we've dedicated ourselves to develop unique products where function coexists with luxury, heritage with innovation, and craftsmanship with design.

At RIMOWA we believe that great ambitions demand resilient companions. It's why our tools are created with longevity in mind. Because the most meaningful journeys last more than a trip, they last a lifetime.

What The Container Store Stands For

This week we’re taking a look at a unique retail company where organization is at the heart of its organization.

Founded in 1978 The Container Store is an American retail company based in Texas that provides storage and organization products. It is listed as one of the Firms of Endearment, companies that outperform the S&P 500 companies by 14 times through a relentless focus on a higher purpose.

What The Container Store Stands For

To help our customers accomplish projects, maximize their space, and make the most of their home.

To be a beloved brand and the first choice for customized organization solutions and services.

Foundation Principles

  1. 1 Great Person = 3 Good People
  2. Communication IS Leadership
  3. Fill the other guy’s basket to the brim. Making money then becomes an easy proposition.
  4. The Best Selection, Service & Price.
  5. Intuition does not come to an unprepared mind. You need to train before it happens.
  6. Man in the Desert Selling
  7. Air of Excitement!


According to the letter from the current CEO, Melissa Reiff, she explains they have four pillars - their strongest differentiators - that support their vision and purpose. Here they are:

Pillar #1: To Own Custom Closets - We are working to improve the customer experience, with enhanced in-store and online merchandising, digital tool improvements, and product innovation.

Pillar #2: Deliver on “Accomplishing Projects” across all customer touchpoints.

For our existing customers and new customers, we are updating our marketing efforts to better communicate our brand purpose of Accomplishing Projects and Maximizing Space. We are updating our visual merchandising to make it easier and clearer to our customers exactly how to accomplish their projects.

Pillar #3: Leverage digital and data insights to enable omni-channel growth.

We are developing digital content and tools to support our brand position online and in-store, driving more traffic to our website, and optimizing for conversion.

Pillar #4: To close the gap on value for the money.

We carry an unparalleled assortment of high-quality products and solutions with competitive pricing. We are working on our price and value perception gap with new pricing, signage, promotion and offer strategies.

Further Reading

Start with Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitlism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives, a book by their former CEO, to learn more about their values-based approach to business management.

Also do check out Conscious Capitalism, which The Container Store is a strong advocate of. In fact, former CEO of The Container Store was a college roommate of one of the authors of Conscious Capitalism, John Mackey, who also happens to be Whole Foods Market’s founder.

You can also find an interview over at Inc. with the former CEO about how they grew and benefits of conscious capitalism. For fun, you can also take a look his colorful workspace.

The purposeful ads of Super Bowl
In case you missed it, here are some of the purposeful ads aired at Super Bowl this year.

How Ford rediscovered its purpose

In 2008 three American companies were fighting for their lives.

Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, the Big Three of the automotive industry in US, were running out of cash. To bail them out of the crisis, the government offered them a huge loan. While GM and Chrysler took the offer, Ford declined and bounced back into profitability pulling off a great comeback. This all happened under the leadership of Alan Mulally, a former Boeing executive who stepped in as CEO.

The key to the successful turnaround
Mulally believed “the key to Ford’s future was a return to the principles that had made it so successful in the early days, when Henry Ford was still sitting in the chair he now occupied.”

He dug through Ford’s archives “like a miner convinced that gold was close at hand.” And one day he found an old newspaper ad from 1925.

The ad featured a painting illustrating the original vision of Henry Ford. In the painting, you see a family with their Model T on a hill, and from the hill you could see roads running across the countryside with all kinds of cars on it. Below the painting was the headline — Opening the Highways to All Mankind. Anchored at the bottom was a statement of what Ford stood for.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Take a look at the ad here for yourself.

Lastly, I’d like to share a snippet about purpose from the ad:

An organization, to render any service so widely useful, must be large in scope as well as great in purpose. To conquer the high cost of motoring and to stabilize the factors of production — this is a great purpose.

The language may feel a bit old, but the spirit is still relevant. This document would serve as a polestar to guide Ford’s transformation; it would also be a touchstone to fall back on in times of doubt.

What can we learn from Ford about discovering purpose
Ford’s case study highlights that purpose is vital to success. To discover this purpose, look to the past and revisit your heritage. You’ll likely find important links to (re)connect you to purpose.

Books About Purpose

Books about Purpose-driven Companies