Credit: PHOTO BY KP PHOTOGRAPHY
Debra LeClerc loves Walt Disney World.
The Magic Kingdom provides her and her husband Ron, co-owners of
The Pool Doctor of Rhode Island, a refuge of sorts, a place where
the cares of the day-to-day seem to just melt away.
“It’s tough to say what exactly Disney does for me
— we just love the experience so much,” says LeClerc,
who is also vice president of the Coventry, R.I.-based pool and spa
But LeClerc doesn’t simply talk the talk of a Disney
aficionado. Nor is she merely a casual admirer. In fact, over the
years she’s studied the concepts and business strategies
espoused by the company, both through observation on her visits and
as a pupil of the Disney Institute.
A professional development and training program, the institute was
originally established in 1986 as part-resort, part-education
center. It has evolved into a de facto idea factory, where
attendees can learn about “the business behind the
magic” through workshops, seminars, behind-the-scenes tours
of Disney facilities, Webcasts and more.
Participants then return to their own companies and apply what
they’ve learned, often with positive results.
“In today’s ‘new normal,’ consumers are
choosing to spend their hard-earned dollars with organizations that
make them feel as though they are VIPs,” says Bruce Jones,
programming director at the Disney Institute. “Walt
Disney’s philosophy of treating people as though they are
guests in our own home has been a hallmark of [the company] and
something Disney Institute is uniquely qualified to share with
organizations in any industry.”
Today, the institute encompasses five distinct pillars of business
practice: Leadership Excellence, People Management, Quality
Service, Brand Loyalty and Inspiring Creativity.
When LeClerc attended in the mid- to late ’90s, she zeroed in
on customer service. Having come most recently from the healthcare
field, there was much to learn, she recalls.
“I loved that stuff,” she says, “because when I
started [at the Pool Doctor], I had no retail experience
whatsoever. Maybe a few jobs at the mall in college, but I had no
expertise, no knowledge of how to run a retail store.”
LeClerc seized on a number of basics presented at the institute,
like the importance of phone etiquette. But she also embraced the
overall philosophy of a tightly run, highly proficient operation
whose primary business was, essentially, delivering fun.
Today, LecLerc uses those ideals in her own company by establishing
a culture that pays precise attention to detail — a tidy
store, neatly attired service technicians, a polite manner with
The Pool Doctor, she decided, would provide a superior experience
focused on creating smiles, laughter and memories.
“It’s about the overall feel,” she says.
“How does my store fit into that fun, family-filled
atmosphere while at the same time being infused with
professionalism? It has to be that right blend. And sometimes that
blend changes, especially according to the customer.
“Some are very technical,” she explains of her
clientele, “so subliminally they may like the atmosphere, but
they’re going to be more interested in your expertise than
the fact that you seem to be a family-oriented business. You just
have to gauge it.”
In considering her feelings about Disney, LeClerc uses the analogy
of a fine restaurant. Some patrons choose to eat and leave, while
others linger, acquiring an appreciation for the atmosphere, the
service, and the ingredients that go into each course.
“Look, I’m not trying to create a vacation property
here at my store,” she says, “but I think a lot of
their business practices are very good. And if more of the world
paid attention to that, it would be a happier place to live, to
work and to shop in.”