Imagine being able to sit down with more than two dozen of Utah's top business leaders to talk about their secrets of success, including their philosophies on ethics and business. That's exactly what University of Utah finance professor Cal Boardman had the opportunity to do. Over the course of two years, Boardman interviewed such Utah business luminaries as Jon Huntsman, Ezekiel Dumke, Jr., Robert Garff and 23 other Utah executives to learn firsthand their approaches to doing business. Utah has been ranked number one for business by Forbes Magazine the last two years in a row.
Boardman's 40 hours of videotaped conversations have been distilled into a one-hour documentary presenting personal stories that are insightful, inspiring, candid and unexpectedly moving. Ethically Speaking: Perspectives From Utah Business Leaders airs Thursday, February 16 at 7:00 p.m.
KUED's Erik Nielson used Boardman's interviews as the basis of the documentary, which includes additional interviews with Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School Professor and author of The Innovator's Dilemma; Carl Richards, Certified Financial Planner, illustrator and author of The Behavior Gap who blogs for the NY Times; Donald Herrin, U of U Professor of Family and Consumer Studies; and Kristina Diekmann, U of U Professor of Business Ethics.
As Nielsen watched the interviews, he saw some common themes. In "Crucible Stories," business leaders talk about transformational moments in their lives. For Rodney Brady, past President of Weber State University, it was a teacher who told him to list everything he wanted to achieve in life. For Ezekiel Dumke, Jr. (pictured above) it was a visit to the Hoover Dam, which his father built. For Marilyn Tang, Founder/Owner of Certified Handling Systems, it was getting a loan from her then boyfriend when banks refused to give her a loan to start a business because she was a woman.
"Philosopher's Dilemma" includes an interview with the late Obert C. Tanner, who spent his mornings teaching philosophy at the University of Utah and his afternoons at his jewelry plant. His successful O.C. Tanner Company sprang from his desire in 1927 to give his students more than a piece of paper when they graduated. He had pins made for them. "As my business grew," he says, "I found myself being a capitalist."
He had to reconcile that with being a philosopher, which he did by maintaining a profound respect for his employees, according to former O.C. Tanner Company CEO Kent Murdock. "He believed in sharing and give-ability."
A classic sociological study that followed four generations of men, found that the way they treat people and their sense of altruism carried over from one generation to the next. In the film's segment on "Fathers," Robert Garff called his father, who was the founder of Ken Garff Automotive Group, "my hero. He was always helping the underdog and was very compassionate."
Rob Campbell of Wheeler Machinery Co. recalls an important lesson he learned from his father. "I wasn't going on vacation because I said I'd be missed. Dad filled a bucket of water and said, 'Put your hand in it. Pull it out. See a hole? They'll be fine without you.'"
Heidi Redd, owner of the Dugout Ranch (pictured on cover), credits her father with allowing her to "pursue my adventures" while Barbara Zimonja, former president/CEO of Premier Resorts International, says she was influenced by her grandfather telling her, "You may get married, but you'll always have your own checking account."
In the "Money for Giving" segment, Jon Huntsman, founder/CEO of Huntsman Corporation, reveals a difficult childhood marked by poverty, hardship, his mother's illness and death and his father's toughness. At age 13, he helped support his family who sometimes lived on scraps from the meat market. He paid for transportation and all family medical costs, in addition to his own costs. He described his upbringing as "pathetically harrowing and difficult and sad."
Huntsman's official biographer Jay Shelledy calls him a remarkable individual, "driven by family, his religion and giving back." When he was first married and still struggling, he would take $50 out of his $300 paycheck to help families less privileged.
"Many men and women build businesses and enterprises for the sake of enriching themselves," says Huntsman. "That's never been of great interest to me. My greatest interest has been helping the needy and those who suffer, the homeless, abused women and children, underserved young men and women who need scholarships, of course cancer victims."
Many of those interviewed focused on the importance of integrity, with Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People calling it "the source of your security." Peter Freed, owner of Lagoon, integrated the amusement park in the late 1940s, long before integration was common, simply because he saw it as "the right thing to do."
The "Empowerment Through Innovation" segment looks at those who found a new way of doing business. Jet Blue Co-Founder David Neeleman created the first ticketless airline with agents working from home, which saved the company a huge amount of money.
What makes a successful business? Fred Tannenbaum, former president of Steel Encounters, claims it's by "doing more than you have to." For William Mouskondis of Nicholas & Company, "the secret of success is passion;" for Jim Loveland of Xactware, the secret is to "balance business life with family life;" and Rob Campbell sums it up with, "I want this place to be better because I was here."
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