7 Things Disney World Does Really Well: And You Can Too
My wife and I took the kids to Disney World last month. I didn’t expect this, but part of the fun of being there for me was enjoying the highly manicured lawns and landscape, the clean facilities, and observing the infrastructure. As a Facility Manager, I notice these things (I can’t help it) and seeing it done at such a high level is enjoyable to me. It’s also nice to enjoy being a customer and not having to worry about how all of that stuff gets done.
While I think my team does a really good job, I know we aren’t staffed at a level that could come close to providing the care that Disney World achieves (for more on staffing levels, see here). We can not replicate Disney World landscape on our campus because we simply don’t have the time or monetary resources. That said, I did see some very simple maintenance strategies that the staff at Disney World executed well that I think we could all implement at our own institutions to increase aesthetics without a massive increase in man-hours or budget.
1. Filling Space
You simply don’t see empty bed space. Almost every bed is full of plants and uncluttered, filled with a single plant or a simple combination of plants. This results in fewer weeds, less chemical usage, simpler maintenance and easier training, less mulch, and an easy-on-the-eye approach that fills the visitor with a sense that the plantings are substantial and complete.
2. Edging/Mow Lines
This is an easy one to let slip, but makes a HUGE difference when done – edging walks and curbs. Disney takes this to another level, though, and continues their edging around light poles and other obstacles creating seamless mowing lines. I could tell their mowers didn’t need to stop and make awkward turns to get every inch of grass. While this would take some time up-front to edge these lines in, the return has to be enormous as their mowing times, string-trimming times, and accidents with mowers bumping poles and other obstacles has to drop considerably.
Edging and mulching around items like light poles has always seemed odd to me. If mulching is done to help living plants, why mulch inanimate objects? I’ve told clients they should stop mulching utility poles and simply trim around them, but Disney World may have changed my mind. The look is so clean and saves so much time it just may be worth it.
3. Trash Cans
Lots of trash cans. And they are never full. And staff is continually picking up trash off the ground. The place is clean in spite of the hoards of people moving through there all day long.
I know, your place doesn’t have the volume of Disney World, but providing enough waste receptacles and pulling the liners frequently goes a long way. It wouldn’t hurt either to have your crew do a litter check first thing in the morning. In my first grounds job, every groundskeeper (even the boss) had a zone they checked for trash before the morning meeting. It made a big difference in how the campus looked as staff and visitors arrived on campus.
4. Power Washing
Every morning I would wake up early and make the five minute walk from our room to the resort cafeteria where I would fill two mugs of coffee – one for me and one for the Mrs. It was fun to see the maintenance crew out finishing up their shift just as the resort was waking up. And every morning, without fail, they were power-washing something. Walks, patios, outdoor furniture, building exteriors, decks, anything that needed it. I went back to my campus and looked around and realized that just about everything could use a good power-washing. I’m seriously thinking of hiring a student for the summer to just power-wash all day, every day.
The late Landscape Architect Peter Schaudt helped me to understand that concrete could be used in a variety of ways to create low-cost/high-impact appeal to outdoor spaces. Using a variety of colors, shapes, and textures, concrete surfaces can generate a durable but still attractive alternative to high-maintenance pavers and stone. Imagine my children’s confusion when we returned home and began looking at vacation pictures, only to see 30-40 shots of the ground and stranger’s feet.
I’m surprising no one when I say that the staff at Disney World provided incredible service. Early one morning while running my coffee errand, I asked an employee who had obviously just arrived for work that day a very specific question. The woman sat her bag down, smiled, asked me follow up questions, and began to lead me to the area where I would find my answer. Half-way there I realized what a burden I was to her – she had barely walked through the front that morning and had left her stuff just laying there! Still, she showed no hesitation, never acted annoyed, and didn’t leave my side until I had my answer. Amazing.
Would your team do the same? Would you? Does your team feel like they are allowed to provide that kind of service?
I’m just kidding. Please do NOT do topiaries or attempt any fancy, over-the-top landscaping unless it makes sense for your institution. I’d encourage you even to avoid the ever-tempting spelling your company’s name in flowers thing. It almost always looks bad. Only commit to that kind of stuff if you can really pull it off and make it look awesome. Otherwise keep it simple and clean.
Do you focus on any of these strategies? Are you going to choose one to focus on improving? Leave a comment and let us know.
Disclaimer: Forgive me for the poor quality of these photos. I promised my wife I wouldn’t work on vacation and took most of these on my phone while I was walking from one attraction to another. After all, part of the fun of visiting Disney World is gawking at how nice everything is.