Walt & Roy

One of my favorite business books is Me, Myself and Bob. This hilarious book is the story of the rise and collapse of Veggie Tales as told by its founder, Phil Vischer. Throughout the book you learn that Phil’s childhood hero was Walt Disney – to the point that Phil wanted to create a Veggie Tales theme park like Walt did. It was not to be and it all fell apart due to some bad business decisions. Toward the end of the book, Phil has a chapter called “Lessons” in which he very openly shares what he learned from the experience and that will help him in the future.

One of his critical lessons was that while Walt was the innovative genius, his brother Roy was a fiscal sage. Orignally it was called Disney Brothers’ Studios before Walt bought out Roy. One of the advantages that Roy had over anyone else was that he was Walt’s brother. As such, he had the ability and power to confront Walt and tell him, as no one else could, whether one of Walt’s ideas was crazy or not. Roy could get in Walt’s face and tell him the honest truth. Walt had to accept it – it was coming from his partner who had as much to lose as he did. Roy’s motives were honest – he wanted success. Roy was responsible for counting the money (Roy’s Boys were the Disney beancounters!) while Walt’s guys were the creative thinkers. It took both of them to come up with the American success story that is the Disney empire. However, none of this could have happened if Walt didn’t have a Roy and if Roy didn’t have a Walt.

Phil continues in this chapter with a personal lesson that he learned the hard way – he was a Walt without a Roy. He never gave anyone the authority to confront him with the cold, hard financial facts. Instead, Phil figured he could “create” his way to financial success. I especially like how Phil ends the chapter. He tells the reader that if you are a Walt, find yourself a Roy and give him the responsibility, authority, and trust to tell you the hard financial picture. And if you are a Roy, then wait for your Walt and don’t sell yourself short. Phil acknowledges that as a Walt or a Roy you may never find your counterpart, but always keep looking.

My take-away from this is to encourage pastors, CEOs, and other visionary leaders to intentionally find a Roy. Leaders absolutely need an equally visionary beancounter (that is not an oxymoron, they do exist!). And what’s more, leaders need to very clearly tell the financial guru that the leader depends on getting good, accurate, and even scary financial figures. The financial status of the organization is not the fault of the CFO/messenger, but that if the CEO does not heed the financial advice, the fiscal failure of the organization will rest on the CEO.

Lead On!