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Business Models: What Do Disney and Amazon Have In Common?

By Brian Withers and Brian Stoffel - Mar 24, 2021 at 7:40AM

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They share a common trait, but each has a different approach.

Two companies that demonstrate how a solid business model can power growth are Amazon (AMZN -7.16%) and Walt Disney (DIS -4.00%). This duo has expanded its operations significantly over decades, and its shareholders have richly benefited, too. On a Fool Live episode recorded on March 12, Fool contributors Brian Stoffel and Brian Withers discuss the different approaches these two quality operators take to build multiple revenue sources. 

Brian Withers: But I want to talk about what is a business model and what do we look for when we talk about business models? Simply, I think of a business model is a way that company makes money. But companies don't just have one way to do that and Disney is a great example. They make money from their theme parks, from movies, from TV, toys. Disney does a really good job of putting that all together so that it makes the most of its assets. Think about Buzz Lightyear as a character when it came out with the [film] Toy Story. Now, they have theme park rides with that, they certainly milk the story thing, they had a couple of movies after it. So they've done a really great job of one creating original content and two then utilizing those assets. So I would score Disney very high for their business model.

One of the other things that Brian and I look for in companies is something that's called a barbell approach. Brian, you want to take what we think about as a barbell and why that's important.

Brian Stoffel: The thing is it can be a little bit misleading because if you go to a gym and you look at a barbell, usually you have the same weights on each side. It will be a little bit weird if there's a 45-pound weight on one side and a five-pound weight on the other. But that's actually what we're looking for.

This is an idea that I first got reading the work of Nassim Taleb. The idea is that you devote 80 percent of your resources to a wide-moat business. In other words, you devote 80 percent of your resources toward something that you're pretty sure you've got a sustainable competitive advantage. But you don't rest on those laurels. What you do is, you devote 20 percent of what you are willing to spend and you put that toward high-risk, high-reward projects. No company in my opinion does it better than Amazon.

That's how they started out as a bookseller and have become so much more than that. But they did it by being willing to make mistakes. Like the Fire Phone was a huge mistake. But that was on that small side of the barbell where they were willing to lose money because it was a small amount of money. But if they were successful with something like say Amazon Web Services then the results would be through the roof.

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