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How do i prepare for the first meeting?

by | Nov 2, 2022 | Business Studies | 0 comments

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Dennis Hightower and the Walt Disney Company in Europe
Harvard Business School Case
The Disney Organization in Europe 1938-1987
Europe was the first area outside the US for the marketing of Disney consumer product other than film. In 1938, Walt Disney personally visited Italy to initiate a licensing business with a major Italian publishing company. After the war, Walt Disney hired his first country manager, for France: the French manager hired all subsequent country managers. By 1987, there were eight wholly owned business subsidiaries: Denmark, UK, Belgium, Spain, France, West Germany, and Italy. These subsidiaries operated in 26 different markets and together employed about 102 people. Easy subsidiary and marketing licenses representative reported individually to Barton K. (Bo) Boyd in Burbank California, Disney’s world headquarters; country managers submitted budgets and indicated their expected profits.
The Country Managers
By 1987, all eight country managers had spent substantial time in their positions. The French manager, personally hired by Walt Disney, was 70 and had been in his role for nearly 40 years. He was considered a “living legend,” being credited with having essentially built Disney’s European business since WW2. He was also considered titular head of Europe, although this status had never been formally acknowledged by Burbank.
The Danish country manager was 61 and had worked for Disney for 24 years; the German country manager also in his sixties, had held is position for 30 years. Likewise, each of the other managers also had at least 10 years of experience in their roles. All the longer tenured country managers knew the Disney family personally. Perceived as “senior senators,” the country managers for all practical purposes were Disney Europe. They were proudly independent, having effectively built a level of awareness of the company that was critical throughout Western Europe.
Book and magazine publishing and full range of merchandise licensing of apparel, toys, housewares, and stationary and the like had all been developed. Special events related to the Disney characters’ birthdays and animated film releases were also staged. As a licensing-driven business, little investment had been made in hard assets. Hence, it was an extremely high-margin and profitable enterprise, with the rate structure based on the properties involved or the product category.
Preparing for 1992
In late 1986, the Disney organization was negotiating to build a Euro-Disneyland; an agreement was ultimately reached with the French government to build the theme park outside of Paris, to be opened in 1992. The recognition that both the park and the European markets were schedule dot “open” in 1992 was a catalyst for rethinking Disney European operations. Opportunities would undoubtedly be tremendous. It was also felt that European market penetration had lagged behind the US penetration, due to a lack of coordination among the country subsidiaries.
As a first step toward taking advantage of perceived marketing opportunities, Disney management decided to establish a European headquarters in Paris. A newly created position, vice president of consumer products for Europe and the Middle East, would head the office; duties would include profit and loss responsibility, marketing and business development, responsibility for salaries and bonuses, and instituting performance measures. The country managers had been consulted on this decision. The sentiment was that the new European head should not be a European; the notion of an American who could “relate” to the studio (as the Burbank headquarters was called) and build credibility locally was much more appealing. This would mean that what was once run by Burbank would now be run by Paris.
The New Position is Filled
A search firm (Russell Reynolds) hired Dennis Hightower in 1987. The three country managers (Italy, Germany and France) had approved the choice. Dennis Hightower, 45, brought a varied background to his new job. After college, he served eight years as an intelligence officer in the Army, with assignments in Southeast Asia and a specialty in Eastern Europe. He subsequently earned his MBA at Harvard and worked at McKinsey during four years. He then joined GE, becoming a country manager in Mexico. Recruited by Mattel as the vice president of corporate planning, he was involved in the company’s expansion in Europe.
Accepting the Challenge
As Hightower contemplated his newly created job, he thought to himself, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there!” His task was to figure out where Disney would be in 1992. What role should Disney play in Europe? What changes would that entail? He mused:
These European managers have been running themselves for years. They have been very successful; it is a very profitable business for Disney. It could have been more profitable, but things were fine as they were.
So what do I bring to the party? Not only am I an outsider, I am a boss they never had before and probably don’t want to matter how much they intellectually agree to the need for one.
How am I going to develop a strategy that will unify Europe, grow the business beyond any one individual area, and introduce critical thinking and creative approaches all in three months? Where do I begin? How do I prepare for the first meeting? How do I structure the first meeting with the groups? How do I use technology to bring people from very different cultural backgrounds together?
Questions to answer:
In your groups, use a theory of leadership and practices of leading virtual teams to outline how Dennis Hightower should prepare for and structure his first meeting with the country managers.
THEORY USED: Time-Sensitive Model Theory

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