Episode 066 : Creating Magical Experiences by Knowing Your Purpose – Know Your Why with John Formica

John Formica, the “Ex-Disney Guy”, is a highly sought after internationally known speaker and author of the top selling book, “Making the Customer Experience Magical Now! – How to Succeed in Business and Beat Out Your Competition Today”.

John has appeared on the NBC Morning Show, ABC, CBS, FOX, Univision, numerous business journals and recently featured in the Virgin Atlantic In-flight Magazine, after completing five successful speaking tours in Australia and being named “Australia’s Best Customer Experience Coach.” John has inspired audiences with over 3,500 keynotes and seminars throughout the United States and all across the globe.

Today, John is the leading authority in the service industry, small business growth and team culture environments. He has successfully coached hundreds of small businesses, cities, tourism communities, healthcare professionals, universities, schools and teams to build customer loyalty for life, attract and keep more customers and create “Whistle While You Work” Team Environments.


  • Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey
  • In your book, you talk about the Disney philosophy of people management. Could you share with us a little bit about the philosophy and purpose.
  • Could you share with us what is Disney’s purpose statement?
  • What are some online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely cannot live without in your business?
  • We have a lot of listeners who are business owners and managers who feel they have great products and services but sometimes they lack the constantly motivated human capital. The people are just not motivated. Now, if were sitting across the table from that person, that business owner, manager, that CEO, what’s the one piece of advice that you would give them to have a successful business.
  • What is the one thing in your life right now that you are really excited about – either something that you’re working on to develop yourself or people?
  • Where can our listeners find you online?
  • What’s one quote or saying that during times of adversity or challenge you revert to this quote to kind of helps you refocus and keep you on the path?


  • John stated that he spent his entire career in the service industries. He managed hotels, resort properties and even assisted living communities and truly believed in that service mentality of really taking care of people and in hospitality field, that’s what you do, you take care of the guests and treat them just like there’re family. And he did that for many years with some pretty big companies and then he got a call from the Disney Company to help the Disney organization during their huge expansion in the resort division. And it was a dream come true because there’s no better company he thinks as far as hospitality and what they offer. And so, when he got to Disney, they had 4 hotels and a campground but there were 16 brand new hotels on the drawing board and his role was to open up each hotel, hire the staff, develop the staff, training staff, and more importantly, create a Disney Resort experience that would differentiate the Disney hotels from everybody else. And he absolutely loved that because with Disney focuses on we all know is they we provide all of us an incredible experience. So, just imagine in any business regardless of what it is, even if it’s a nonprofit organization. Could you imagine if you could go beyond just providing service and create an experience that is memorable that people will talk about, that people become loyal to in any manner, how magical could that be and that’s what Disney does, and he gets the honor of traveling around the world, sharing Disney strategy is so that any business could create that same Disney like culture and incredible magical customer experience.

Yanique reiterate that he’s doing things that people would want to be doing on a regular basis and having fun while doing it and he’s also creating value in people’s lives.

John agreed and stated that he loves helping people, he’s a server. He just wants to serve people in whatever we can help them. In his world, it’s really helping them as leaders, help them as tools, help them in their business by the result. Changing people’s lives and there’s not a noble cause in that.

  • John stated that everybody has a product or service and we all do our best to provide a very good product or service, but Walt Disney was an incredible person, an incredible leader and philosophy. You can build and create the most wonderful place in the world, but it takes people to make that dream come true. We know that in in any business, even in the great high-tech world where technology is really taking the place of many people, we are all in the people business and we will remember customers, consumers, we will remember people over a product or service. And so, we have to make sure we focus on the success in training and developing and motivating people. And one of the things that Disney does, Walt Disney created an incredible purpose statement and a purpose statement is not a mission statement because the mission statement is geared towards the company or organization of what they’re trying to accomplish, with this purpose statement it’s not what, where, how, when or who you’re going to do it to. It’s the big purpose statement of why. Why do it, if you think about it, we all should be doing things because we want to not because we have to and if you can create a culture around an organization where people believe in the purpose and they do it because their heart is in it, we all know that they’ll do a better job. And so, Disney focuses on that purpose and he shares in his seminars and in his keynotes that we really have to boil down to and make sure people know why, and once we do, now we have a better understanding and vision to where we want to accomplish.
  • When asked about Disney’s purpose statement, John stated that it’s really simple. It’s to make people happy. And you think about it, when he asked that question during his programs, he’ll ask, “What do you think Disney’s purpose is?” a lot of people say create memories, entertainment, provide quality, some people even told him to make money. And all those things are great purposes, but they are the result of making people happy because once Disney stops making people happy, you and I are not going to go there, we’re not going to buy their products and services and it will not exist. So, the focus is to make people happy. To give an example, it’s not a marketing statement, it’s not something that you’d find on a commercial or a sign in a park that says we make people happy. It’s for the internal customer, in other words, it’s the people that work there. So, they truly understand why, and he gave a great example, before you even fill out an application at Disney to work there no matter whether you are applying for a job as a manager, or bus driver, housekeeper, somebody to operator the rides or sell tickets or work in food and beverage, it doesn’t make a difference. You watch a video and, in the video, they talk about that if you are lucky enough to work for the organization, the reason why they’re going to hire you is to make people happy and you’re going to work when other people play. And then they will talk about that you’re going to work weekends and you’re going to work holidays and it’s not going to be easy what you’re doing. And they talk about the structure and some of the high grooming guidelines that they have, the strict guidelines and they’re not trying to scare anybody to apply, what they’re trying to make sure you understand that if you work there you have to believe in it because Disney doesn’t hire anybody that needs a job. They hire people that believe in what Disney believes in. And you think about it, if we believe in it, our heart’s in it and we’ll do it because we want to not because we have to. Many organizations don’t focus so much on that. And like you said, then the employee does what they’re told and nothing more. They do it 9:00 am to 5:00 pm but they won’t do it 5 minutes after 5:00 pm because they don’t understand the “Why” and all the things that we will do, the extra things we’ll just do what we do or what was supposed to do but we won’t go extra, we do the extra when our heart’s in it.

Yanique stated that in the book it also says our purpose is more important than the job and while you’re doing your job, you’re always having your radar up, looking for ways to make people happy. For example, taking a picture of a family in front of the castle. Now in a regular organization let’s say for example, a supermarket, you pack the grocery bags for the customers or you work at an automotive company that sells cars so you’re a sales representative, your purpose statement is clearly going to be different from Disney, but will you also apply that same technique with the purpose being more important than the job.

John agreed and gave an example from an auto service repair. Many of them are his clients and many of them are mom and pop establishment so he’s trying to help them to build that culture and if you ask them what their purpose is, their purpose is to fix the car or make sure the car is running properly or make sure all the maintenance is done and make sure they use quality parts and make sure of all those things. And that’s not their purpose, that’s their job, that’s what they do. But in reality, if we boil down to what’s the purpose of an auto service repair shop in reality, it’s to give him the consumer a peace of mind knowing that the vehicle is safe on the road, it’s going to be in working order, it’s going to be reliable when he has to get up to go to work in the morning or his kids’ cars are safe, his wife’s car is safe. It’s that piece of mind he’s getting. So, when you think about it, you have to do the job, you have to mechanically do all those things correctly but when he says to himself, wait a minute, he’s going to make sure that he’s going to double check to make sure those bolts tightened because he know he wants his client to have a peace of mind knowing that they did the right job, they didn’t just do it halfway, they didn’t just do a quick job, they go in, get this thing turned around, make money and move on to the next one. He wants to give them a peace of mind so when they drive off after getting their car serviced that they feel good, so, every decision is based on did that give someone a peace of mind. And that’s the decisions that they make based on that. And it’s the same thing of a grocery store, again, maybe not a piece of mind of course but it’s providing a great experience because they can go anywhere in grocery stores but knowing that that person who stacks the groceries in the bag doesn’t just throw them in there and says, “Who cares, you need the groceries in a bag, I did it for you,” but takes good care knowing that they provide a great service in the food industry for people, making and sure you continue to think that way. So, everybody believes in it whether you’re just a baggar or you’re the manager of a grocery store. Everybody’s going to do everything they can to make sure that that food is great quality it is not damaged so when they go back they can have that great experience.

Yanique stated following up on their point as it relates to the purpose, in the book it also shares that when you’re creating this magical purpose for your company you should get as many people involved in developing this statement, the owners, the managers, the supervisors, the front team, the back-office team. Don’t be afraid to also get feedback from your loyal customers, ask each other why it’s important, make it clear, short and easy, make it emotional, make it visible and memorable, reward and recognize people when it’s carried out and post those accomplishments everywhere and discuss them at meetings and also celebrate successes and have fun. Why do you think it’s important to do all these things just to create the magic in the purpose?

John stated that your purpose statement has to be an emotional connection between staff, managers, and the people that have carry it out and of course the organization. In many companies like he shared, they kind of lose sight of the why and they focus on all the other things on what, where and what he has seen many businesses small or large is that the CEO and the Presidents and executive team and the board of directors and maybe even the H.R. folks, they’re the ones that create the purpose statement and then all of a sudden it gets introduced to the entire organization and says, “By the way, this is what you’re going to do now.” And the staff sitting there going, “What was wrong with the other one that we had?” or “I’m so busy, now there’s more things you want me to do. So, if you get everybody involved, you create the buying, you get everybody’s opportunity to express their own thoughts of why they do what they do. It doesn’t mean everybody is going to have a perfect answer to all of it but at least people have ownership and then a buy in that I’ll do it because I had a part of it, when it’s just top down, it’s just becomes another thing and the interesting thing about a purpose statement, is that you’d never ever going to achieve it. So, it’s not something that, “Okay, we did it. Now what else is next?” Your purpose statement has to be something that you’re always going to be striving every single day, day in, week in, month out, year out, 10 to 15 years from now. It’s not something you change because you’re always striving to achieve it. An example of Disney making people happy. Every single cast member at Disney and there are 75,000 of them that work at the Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida alone, every single one of them know that today when they wake up, before they go to work, they got to say to myself, “Man, today I’m going to make someone happy.” And they’re always striving to do that, well guess what, “Tomorrow’s another day, I have to make someone happy again.” And there are people that have been at Disney for the first time, got to make them happy. And there are people who have been at Disney 50 times, got to make them happy too and you’ve got to make kids happy, you’ve got to make adults happy, you’re going to make seniors happy, you’ve got to make each other happy. So, it never ends, you’re always striving to reach that so when you get everybody excited about it, that’s what he wants you to post things, he wants you to talk about it, he wants you to reward and recognize people because then becomes a living thing not something that the flavor of the month or we have a new H.R. director or we have a new CEO, that’s their idea of what the vision of the company.

  • Yanique stated that it really does tie things in together. To ensuring that you’re striving to do it every day, it’s also important to ensure you have the right people. And so, one of the things that she has found over the years as a customer service trainer is that she thinks a lot of the customer service issues in organizations apart from the fact that it’s highly driven by leadership. She thinks that who you recruit and if you’re getting the right person to suit that particular role is very important. And one of the things that really struck her in his book was one of your suggestions is to get out of your office to interview and in it he gives mention to the fact that you should walk the person around, see how they interact with fellow employees and customers, do they have eye contact, do they open up doors, are they willing to stick their hand out and say, “Hi, my name is Susie, I’m applying for a job here.” Do they pick up pieces of paper, do they have energy and enthusiasm? So basically, he’s saying on the first job interview this is some of the strategies that you should employ instead of keeping them in an office and asking them the same monotone questions over and over.

John stated that what they’re trying to see if they’re a good fit and the best way to see it is to actually watch it in action rather than when they interview people in an office they say things like, are you energetic? Are you a people person? Do you like working with others? Do you have a lot of enthusiasm and energy? And what are the typical responses, “Yes” So by walking around they actually get to observe them and see are they and he always have this great saying that during an interview that’s the best the person is ever going be is during an interview, it goes downhill after that. So, if they’re not enthusiastic, if they’re not helpful, if they’re not friendly, if they’re not showing you eye contact, if they’re not enthusiastic about the possibility of working for you during that interview, you don’t think it’s going to happen once you hire them, do you, of course not. What he tries to do is get people out, some organizations are really small, there’s not any place to go, maybe a small office cubicle they’re working in but then get him outside, take them to a coffee shopp or something like that. Now, if you want somebody to punch numbers on the computer and sit in the back office and not talk to anybody, maybe that’s not exactly necessary but in the customer service world that we live in where it’s all about creating those experiences, you cannot hire somebody to change them into your culture. If you didn’t see it during the hiring process, as you should. He shared a story about his hotels, he used to get his front desk staff involved in the interviewing process. Whenever he was hiring a front desk person or a concierge guest services person, he would walk them around the hotel and do all the things you just suggested seeing how they react and he would take them to the front of the front desk at the hotel on the other side of the desk, not on the guest side but he would take them on the side that the workers are and he would all of a sudden say, “Oh, wait a minute I have to get this question. I’ll be right back.” And he would leave them with his front desk clerks and at his front desk clerks would be, “Hey, how are you? You’re looking to work here? What are you doing now?” They would go through a little mini interview, what was interesting about it was he got feedback from them, many of them said, “Oh, this girl Susie, she’s awesome. We really like her.” Or other times they would say, “I don’t know. George has a personality of a dead fish, I don’t think he’s going to work.” And he would get feedback from his own team, guess what it created. One, it was great because he got a great perspective but then they had ownership in who we were hiring, and they had ownership of what they felt was a good fit and it was remarkable when you can do those sorts of things because now you’re really seeing the person’s true colors during that interview.

  • When asked about some online resources that he use in his business, John shared that he’s like a sponge so he’s constantly learning, growing from that perspective. He’s a voracious book reader, he’ll listen to podcasts, he’ll explore the internet and webinars, he’s always striving to get better and he may not learn from everything that they say but he’s just looking for one or two great ideas that he can incorporate, that he could share, that he could fine tune to tailor to maybe a client of his that he’s working with or an upcoming speaking engagement. So there have been some great mentors in his life that he says were there physically with me. These are mentors that were his bosses or people that would help him along the way but there were also a lot of authors and people like Stephen Covey is probably one of the most original first person to affect him when he would listen to his C.Ds in a car or he would read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People or The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Stephen Covey. He kind of molded him through his career. People like Jack Canfield who wrote all the chicken soup books has a great book, The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and he would highly recommend that to help you through it. He was a big Zig Ziglar fan and Zig Ziglar was the best motivator because he made him laugh and on the things that he would talk about and John would say, “Gosh, that was so funny but had such great merit.” There is John Maxwell who is another one, but he has always thought that through networking, through masterminds, through attending conferences…..again, you can pick up a lot of gold nuggets from people that you wouldn’t think were very knowledgeable or maybe you thought they weren’t at the top, but they would just tell you some really good things and he has a lot of respect for people like Yanique and others who are there sharing their ideas. He’s a big sponge from getting it from a lot of different resources not just one.
  • John shared that as it relates to motivating people, the first thing he would tell them is to stop motivating people, stop trying to motivate them. He would look him in the eye and he would say, “Your heart is in the right place, but you cannot. I don’t care who you are, you can’t motivate anybody.”The key is to help create an environment will then motivate themselves. What he means by that is this, leaders always and he gets people all the time who come up to him, “How do I motivate my staff?” “How do I get my people to be so excited like you? I wish I had 10 people like you in my office.” “How do I get people excited?” The key is that’s really hard to do but what we have to look at whether you’re a manager or a business owner is instead of trying to figure out ways to motivate people, he wants you to think of the reverse strategy and try to figure out making sure there’s nothing going on that is demotivating your people because when you demotivate your staff that’s when people start to go in the wrong direction and there are so many things that can demotivate a staff member and everybody is demotivated differently. One person might say, “Well that’s not a big deal.” Another person might say, “That was the toughest thing I’ve ever heard, and I don’t want to work for you anymore.” And you’d go, “What’s the big deal?” Everybody is motivated differently, and everybody is demotivated differently. He gives an example, growing up in his career, he was a go getter, he wanted to be the best general manager that Hyatt Hotels ever had, and he was driven by trying to do that. What he meant by that was he didn’t want anybody to hand it to him, he wanted to earn it but to earn it he went to every single Hyatt Hotel that he worked at and he would speak to their top managers and say, “What do I need to learn? What can you do to teach me so that I can be better prepared on my journey to become a general manager?” And that’s what drove him. So, when he had opportunities to learn, when he had a mentor that would sit down once a week, they would have lunch together and that mentor would share the good, the bad and the ugly about John Formica to make John Formica better, those are the things and sent him to seminars or suggested books to read, to him that manager motivated him because he knew that that’s what he wanted. And he also worked for organizations where managers say, “You don’t need that, we don’t send you to training, we don’t send you to seminars.” And those are things that you don’t need any of that kind of stuff. That means they didn’t give him an opportunity to learn and grow, that was demotivating. You could bring balloons on his birthday, you can give him oatmeal raisin cookies every day, you could send him home early, you can give him Starbucks coupons for free coffee, you could do those things, that’s good, the intentions are good but that doesn’t motivate him. What motivates his giving him the ability to learn and grow and what demotivated him the most, when he had leaders that didn’t care about any of that stuff.

Yanique agreed and stated that especially if you know what specifically you’re looking for as an individual. You knew what your personal purpose was which kind of dovetails back into what we know when we started the interview. The purpose statement that should drive the employees but even as an individual you knew what drove you as a person and so you’re looking for characteristics and character traits of leaders that would be able to basically mold and drive that purpose for yourself.

John shared that as a manager and a business owner, the best way to find out what’s demotivating your staff is not looking at it as a general statement but it’s a one on one. He used to always have one on ones with every single one of his direct reports and they just talked about the good, the bad, the ugly, what is it that they like what he’s doing, what is it that they want him to stop doing and what is it that they want him to continue doing and they talk about it. Sometimes he got some brutal honest input from a co-worker that said, “John you’re try to micromanage us. We can do it, or I can do it.” And he would say, “But you haven’t shown me. Every time I’ve asked you to do it and I let you go, you didn’t take it seriously enough or you didn’t follow up.” But that was good it made him think, “Okay, am I micromanaging and maybe I shouldn’t micromanage.” So then micromanaging was a demotivating thing for this particular staff member or maybe he didn’t appreciate them, maybe he thought he said thank you, but he really didn’t say thank you one on one, he kind of thanked the whole team. Again, find out one on one what motivates and what demotivates individuals. He loves this statement and knows the familiarity with it, “There’s no I in team.” Guess what, teams are made up of a bunch of I’s, individuals, so we have to take care of individuals as well not just looking at the team’s perspective.

  • John shared that he’s really fired up about a new coaching program that he developed in partner with a writer in Australia. He gets a lot of people where he speaks at events and then people ask him to come in at events and speak, whether it’s training, whether it’s leadership or hoping to create a better experience or hiring and all those things. He loves to do that but they know that not everybody has the resources whether it’s financially or time to do that, so they put together and it’s not finished yet but we put together their great online coaching program where you will be able to get twelve webinars once a month, you’re going to get unlimited access to both himself and his partner to help you not only market, to attract customers that you’ll have more customers than you can ever dream of but then he’s going to help you keep the ones you have. It’s a great combination because it’s going to be able to help the “ma and pa” business owner and those are the ones that we all know need a lot of help, we want them to be successful. They don’t have a lot of resources, don’t even have a lot of knowledge, there jumping into their business with good faith hoping that it will work, he wants to do everything he can to help them work. So, he’s really fired up about that but he’s also doing a lot of international work as well. He shared earlier that he just got back from Romania helping their small businesses at an incredible global summit. He thinks his messages can be used in lots of different organizations and he just want to do whatever he can to help.
  • John shared listeners can find him at –


John shared that you can sign up and get my new training videos for free. You can download them, it’s just his way of giving back. They are only about eight minutes long but it’s a good understanding of the philosophy of what they talk about. But the neat thing is you get every week a newsletter which is basically a tip to help you create more magic in your business and it could be a leadership tip, it could be a relationship tip, hiring, it could be the customer experience and it’s a great way of staying in touch with him and you will have all the contact information as well but you will also have access to his library of other articles that he has posted over 100 articles that you’ll be able to use but that’s a great way of becoming part of his membership free, it doesn’t cost anything. But then you’ll get access when they’re ready to roll that out, they will send everybody that information, so if it’s something of interest, it will be extremely affordable, and you’ll be able to use that. He suggests that’s probably the best way to be in contact, all his contact information is on that so if they want to reach out to him for a speaking event or perhaps helping their team, they can just go to his contact page and start that process. But he does a lot of free discovery calls just to see if he’s a good fit and see what if they can do anything they can to help you out.

  • John shared that he has a couple of quotes, there is one, it’s a Zig Ziglar quote and he thinks this is just a great quote in life as well as in business and he said, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” And in leadership, help your staff achieve the success they want and of course as a leader your success that you want in your career or in business. And he thinks if we just treat people like that, we do whatever we can as givers and serve others in and even just making someone smile today that might not be a big deal, but it could be a big deal to them. It will come around, you don’t worry about the results, we all want things instantaneously, we want to be successful right now, it’s a journey but it’s a great journey that he thinks that if you’re a giver like, you’ll get the reward.


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