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Using Professional Development to Improve an Operation

Good leadership requires constant individual growth. That’s why Brian Kabat, owner of Kabat’s Ace Hardware in Arizona, considers ongoing professional development to be an important part of his career. 

Kabat has stepped away from daily operations at his five stores in the Phoenix area to give his managers the space to flourish, and he is constantly working on the business behind the scenes. He participated in Disney Institute training at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, to learn best practices for imitating the entertainment company’s employee culture and service. 

The employee engagement training he attended in 2019 gave him insight into how Disney operates before and after making hiring choices and sent him back to his own business eager to make changes. 

Disney resorts and parks offer experiences that spark emotional memories for their customers—and the company has intentional business practices, an expert staff that pays close attention to tiny details and consistent customer service that drive results, Kabat says. 

The Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement class Kabat attended focused on employees’ experiences with the company before they are hired and during their employment. He learned about the company’s interviewing, onboarding and training processes. 

“They believe it’s possible to hire a workforce that produces desired behaviors on a consistent basis,” Kabat says. 

Disney’s onboarding process starts with teaching new hires the company’s history and engaging them in a carefully designed culture that allows employees to build lifelong careers. 

Disney Institute Takeaways

Disney Institute Takeaways

Notice Details
“Disney has consistent results because they pay particular attention to details. We have learned to be intentional where other businesses may have learned to be careless. I created new normals in a lot of areas. We now call our associates team members. We train them to say when customers enter, ‘What can I help you find today?’ and ‘Thank you for choosing us’ as they exit. We also audited all staff uniforms, and we’re getting rid of the ones that don’t meet our standards.” 

Hire Carefully 
“Disney has a carefully designed culture that creates an environment in which every employee has the opportunity to be fully engaged and build a career for a lifetime. We raised our standards. At Kabat’s Ace, we look at having a certain quality of team members instead of a certain quantity of team members. I increased wages. I would rather pay someone double than have someone at minimum wage acting like they make minimum wage.” 

Listen Well
“Disney strives for continuous improvement and feedback to achieve sustained results. Disney employees give tons of feedback, and they’re heard. I recently hired someone just to focus on employee engagement. I’m paying him to listen. We just finished anonymous employee engagement surveys, which allow employees to give feedback on managers. We are creating a safer atmosphere for feedback, and we listen better than we did before.”

About Kate Klein

Kate is profiles editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. She reports on news and industry events and writes about retailers' unique contributions to the independent home improvement sector. She graduated from Cedarville University in her home state of Ohio, where she earned a bachelor's degree in English and minored in creative writing. She loves being an aunt, teaching writing to kids, running, reading, farm living and, as Walt Whitman says, traveling the open road, “healthy, free, the world before me.”

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