Sunday, October 6, 2013

President's Weekly Letters #51


In the fall of 1981, I moved my family back to an unincorporated community west of Fillmore, Utah (called Flowell) where I grew up.  Being a registered engineer, I partnered in business with Jim Cox, a man who did land surveys plus odd jobs in the winter, but he also had a contract with Millard County to redraw the plat maps and to do some surveyed section corner restoration.  In the winter of 1982 we began Sunrise Engineering, Inc. in Fillmore, Utah.  We set out to seek our fortunes in the engineering and land survey business with a survey crew of 2 men plus a drafter.

Business was very difficult.  We were experienced, skilled and licensed an engineer and a surveyor but needed to find work.  Every business effort we engaged in fell under one of 4 basic activities:  1. Marketing and Sales, 2. Production of Deliverables, 3. Business Administration, 4. Employee Development.  In missionary work this is equivalent to: 1. Finding/Referrals, 2. Teaching/Conversion, 3. Living the missionary protocol, schedule, transfers, joint teach, etc, 4. Conferences and Trainings.  Just like missionary work, nothing much happened until we found work, a contract to perform.  We were blessed with the floods of 1983 and 84 in Utah.   Sorry to say, but one man’s loss is another man’s gain.  Those floods destroyed nearly all water conveyance structures in the State when the 100 year flood happened 2 years in a row.  We found work that helped us get our little company started.

Stress was high.  By day I did the work to produce contract deliverables.  And, I spent hours in evenings and nights each week, selling engineering business in the homes of City Council members and water company leaders; meeting them and discussing their needs and our capabilities.  On one occasion I attended a seminar that changed my life forever.  I realized that regardless of the amount of cement and pipe we put in the ground on projects, I was still in the people business.  I stopped selling engineering services and started selling relationships.  It made all the difference in the world.  We suddenly found a lot of work and Sunrise Engineering started to grow and has never looked back.  Sunrise now has 160 employees, 15 diverse business units and subsidiaries and operates 10 offices through the western USA.  It is built to last with continuous influx of young, aggressive and highly motivated owners. 

Principles of leadership I learned that grew the business were simple.  I surrounded myself with good people and worked harder that my competitors.  Potential of failure loomed out there but I had faith to proceed with steady, consistent work.  My greatest satisfaction came from seeing people I supervised excel.  I really wanted to see them become better at the business than I ever hoped to be.  This did not threaten me; I loved seeing them rise to great heights above me.  I had a gift to be able to give them a project, delegate responsibility to them and step back and allow them to perform while supporting and coaching them.  I did not step in and do the work for them but they knew I would back their decisions. Thus, I had to give up control and the need to do it myself.  I did not feel threatened to see them achieve.  I realized many small companies never grow past 15-20 people because the boss has to have his hand on everything that is produced.  This is the hour glass affect and eventually the limit is reached where it is humanly impossible for the boss to do more so the company stops growing.  I was involved to some degree in much of our work but trusted my people to run their own area of responsibility without my direct involvement.  They did not let me down.

We developed a Policy and Procedures Manual which identified company policy and outlined steps to follow to maintain corporate standards.  We prepared a Share Holders Agreement which stabilized dealings between owners.  So good were the people I mentored, during the last few years before I became Mission President, very few corporate decisions were made that I had to be there to make.  This freed more of my time to do things I really loved such as business development and more involvement in special challenging projects.

The Law of Diminishing Returns states that the combined output of the leader and workers of a group decrease if the leader quits spending time mentoring but simply spends his time doing the work.  This is very true in missionary work.  If you lead 4 companionships, your combined success will be less if you do your own work and ignore the rest of the group.  Imagine you are a District Leader who works hard in your own area and average baptizing twice per month while your District does not baptize.  Your District then averages 2 baptisms per month.  If you sacrifice personal performance by spending time mentoring and baptize none yourself, but your District all baptize 1 per month, your District averages 4 baptisms per month.

I realized that people do not limit themselves by helping others succeed.  In the process of assisting others they also raise their own horizons.  For example, imagine you are given a project to manage and you do it by training and assisting your team members to do their jobs very well.  You train them so well, many of them could to do your own job and become better than you ever hoped to be at your own job (train your replacement).  Because they are so good, a number of them advance in the Company and are eventually assigned by the Company to manage their own divisions.  They manage other people like you managed them which provides more good business growth for the Company.  Who do you imagine the Company will select to be the new regional manager to direct the new divisions?  Bingo.  You have proven yourself and the company knows if it puts you in that position, you will create more regions.  You will be a fortunate new region manager too, because all those division managers who you trained and who are so good at what they do, who have excelled and broken barriers are now producing for you.  Guess who will be your greatest fan club?  You guessed it, those region managers that you mentored.  Why should their success threaten you?  They will follow and love you to the grave.  As you continue the cycle of assisting others to rise to great heights and train your replacement, guess who the company will offer the next CEO position to?  In short, assisting others to be their best is called “Leadership.”  Your horizons just go up.

The great CEO of GE, Jack Welch and President James E. Faust said it best:

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” (Jack Welch)

“Those who are called to lead in the ministry of the Master are not called to be chiefs or dictators. They are called to be good shepherds. They are to be constantly training others to take their place and become greater leaders than their teachers. A good leader expects much, inspires greatly, and sets on fire those he is called to lead.”  (James E. Faust, Oct. 1980)

Every missionary is a leader.  He leads his investigators, his junior companion and other missionaries. At the end of the day, the 4 basic leadership characteristics for missionaries and for life are:

            LEADERSHIP 101
1.     Always be training your replacement
2.     Your satisfaction comes from seeing your team members excel
3.     Sacrifice your personal production to assist your team members to increase their production and to be their best
4.     Set the example
President Robinson

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