Prior to making the movie, Disney pursued P.L. for 18 years, asking permission to convert her books into a movie. She eventually relented and the movie, Saving Mr. Banks is the story of the clash of wills between these two.
The reason why this took 18 years was almost unavoidable back then and it is a mistake that should not occur today.
The mistake was that Disney did not know anything about P.L. Travers, including that this was a pen name. Her real name was Helen Goff. She was the daughter of Travers Goff, the inspiration behind her pen name.
Finally in 1961, P.L. comes to California and begins to interact with the Disney creative team. She becomes exasperated, abruptly leaves and returns home to London. In reviewing the receipts for the various things Disney paid for, Walt discovers her real name and asks, “Have I been talking to the wrong person?”
He then flies to London and for the first time converses not with P.L Travers, but with Helen Goff. It is a completely different kind of conversation. He finally conversed on her level, in her terms and not on his.
Back then it is understandable that Disney knew very little about Helen Goff and P.L. Travers. And Disney could be excused for thinking that his reputation and track record would be all that any writer could possible want.
But in today’s internet dominated world, the mistake of not knowing your prospect should not happen.
Today the internet provides the information that was not available to Disney then. Today, if and when we know the customer with whom we really and truly would like to do business — you know the kind that we might continually pursue for 18 years (or months, or days) — we would be very well served to take the time to know the person we are about to meet and take some time in getting to know them.