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Disney seminar could provide “shot in the arm” to local businesses

SALISBURY — After several difficult months, Rowan County Chamber of Commerce President Elaine Spalding thinks that area businesses could use a little Disney magic.

“We thought in October it’d be back to normal,” Spalding said. “I can hear the exhaustion in so many of our business leaders’ voices in our Zoom calls. This is the perfect time for a pick-me-up.”

Spalding said that a remedy could come in the form of the Chamber of Commerce’s upcoming Disney Institute online course. The two-hour live video course will feature speakers from Disney who will be presenting on the billion-dollar company’s “approach to business excellence.”

“It can give our local business community a shot in the arm to get through the next few months,” Spalding said.

This will be the second time that the chamber has hosted a Disney Institute class. The first was in May 2019 and the sequel was scheduled for spring of this year, but was postponed due to COVID-19. Spalding said that the 2019 event was a major success, with representatives from businesses outside of Rowan County flocking to the West End Plaza to learn some of Disney’s tips and tricks to improve customer service.

“When we did the in-person event in May of 2019, we had people from all over North Carolina and South Carolina participating in it,” Spalding said. “They saw that the Disney Institute was hosting a seminar in Salisbury, North Carolina, and several of them had said that they were thinking about sending their folks to Orlando but that this was great because they didn’t have to do that.”

Spalding said that the event is open to people from outside the county, but that priority will be given to Rowan County businesses. Since this seminar will be held online, capacity is limited to 250 guests. Spalding said that she anticipates that the event will be well attended.

“I fully anticipate us selling out,” Spalding said. “We did sell out when we did the in-person event.”

Spalding said that now is the perfect time to host an event, not only because it could give a jolt of inspiration to area businesses that need it, but also because the information could be helpful to companies as they prepare for the holiday season and the new year.

“With this being on Oct. 22, it gives businesses some time to think about creative things they might want to do for holiday shoppers,” Spalding said. “It gives businesses that are working on their 2021 action plan time to make some adjustments and sit down with their teammates with the Disney program and talk about what they learned from that.”

Nick Means, F&M Bank’s training and development officer, attended the Disney seminar in May 2019 and called the event “phenomenal.” Means said that the event inspired him to talk to F&M Bank CEO and Chairman Steve Fisher about creating a new position within the company. That new position was the customer experience manager, whose job is to promote the company’s culture in each of its branches.

It takes one of our best employees and has them working in all of our branches to create some consistency,” Means said.

Kristin Dillard, president of Team Automotive Group, said that the information her company’s employees learned at a Disney business seminar nearly a decade ago still permeates through their approach to everyday operations, including the name tags clipped to salespeople’s shirts. Instead of having just the salesperson’s name, the tags also feature that person’s hometown — a technique taken right out of the Disney playbook.

“It creates a lot of conversation between our customers and team members because someone always knows someone from your hometown. It’s a great way to make friends with someone you’re working with, whether it be the consumer or team member,” Dillard said. “That’s definitely a Disney carry over.”

Dillard said that other takeaways from the seminar included information on how to better handle communicating with employees to ensure that information is absorbed and that everyone is on the same page.

The Disney Institute seminar will be held virtually on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 9 a.m. and costs $199 for non-chamber members and $179 for chamber alumni, government workers, military members, non-profit and tax exempt organizations, teachers and students. More information can be found by visiting www.rowanchamber.com.

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