Ball State entrepreneurs write best-selling book on Walt Disney

<p>Mickey, Goofy and Pluto are among the topiaries that welcome guests at the entrance of the 2018 Epcot International Flower &amp; Garden Festival, March 2018. “Entrepreneurship A Disney Way” was written by Michael Goldsby and Rob Matthews, directors at the institute for entrepreneurship and free enterprise at Ball State. <strong>Joe Burbank, TNS PHOTO</strong></p>

Mickey, Goofy and Pluto are among the topiaries that welcome guests at the entrance of the 2018 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, March 2018. “Entrepreneurship A Disney Way” was written by Michael Goldsby and Rob Matthews, directors at the institute for entrepreneurship and free enterprise at Ball State. Joe Burbank, TNS PHOTO

Ball State’s Michael Goldsby and Rob Mathews never expected their book on the life and business of Walt Disney to become a bestseller on Amazon, but that’s exactly what it did after four months on shelves.

The book, titled “Entrepreneurship the Disney Way,” was published by Goldsby Nov. 22, 2018, chief entrepreneurship officer and executive director, and Mathews, director and operations manager, both from the institute for entrepreneurship and free enterprise. It quickly climbed Amazon’s entrepreneurial book list, reaching No. 1 on March 13.

This was the first collaborative book effort between Goldsby and Mathews, a project that took 10 years of research and revisions featuring rewrites, interviews with Disney executives and an estimated 10-15 trips to Disney Parks to reach publication.

The book’s material was split between the two entrepreneurial educators, with Goldsby handling part one — the Walt Disney story — and Mathews focusing on part two — the modern day entrepreneurial practices of the Walt Disney Company.

“We wanted to respect the reader. We wanted to give them the best book we could give them,” Goldsby said. “If someone is going to take the time to read your book, and if they’re going to buy the book, you really need to respect them and give all the quality you can give it.”

Mathews said there are lessons that can be learned from the modern company since leaders after Walt brought their own styles which separated each leader from their predecessors.

“There’s a lot of different ways to accomplish the same things or to have good results,” Mathews said. “You really should own your style and your talents and your perspectives, not someone else’s or what someone else thinks you should be.”

Goldsby and Mathews attributed much of Disney’s success to his commitment to taking risks during periods of both success and failure. Mathews cited his advances in animation technology like the multiplane camera, while Goldsby said creative ventures like the Disney Parks exemplified his most ambitious risks.

Those risks and investments built the modern Disney business model, which still employs many of Disney’s original philosophies about entrepreneurship’s role in business.

“Walt was the entrepreneur who founded it, but today [Disney executives] consider themselves ‘corporate entrepreneurs’ because they say they have to be entrepreneurial to stay relevant and innovative,” Goldsby said.

When Disney died in 1966, Goldsby said the company lost much of the Disney entrepreneurial spirit that drove them to take risks. 

That period, which is often referred to as Disney’s “dark” or “bronze” age, was defined by average critical and commercial receptions to Disney films and a lack of expansion of the Disney brand between the early 70s and 80s.

“I often wonder, ‘What if Walt had lived 20 more years?’” Goldsby said. “It’s a fascinating thought experiment, and I believe that if Walt Disney was alive today, he’d be up there with Elon Musk and [Jeff] Bezos, talking about to figure out how to put a resort on the Moon.”

The authors believe future entrepreneurs can learn from the successes Disney experienced that they outlined in the book.

“I believe strongly in what we wrote,” Goldsby said. “I’m proud of it, and there’s 10 years of hard work and love in it.”

Contact John Lynch with comments at jplynch@bsu.edu.

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