Sunday, December 29, 2013

President's Weekly Letter #65

I graduated from Utah State University in 1974 with a Bachelors degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. I loved my 5 years at the University in Logan, Utah, but it was also a happy day to leave the University and begin working in my chosen career.

I joined a small private consulting firm named, Horrocks Engineers, Inc. and began working in their office in American Fork, Utah.  At the time, Horrocks was joint-venturing with a regional firm, John Carollo Engineers, designing and building wastewater treatment plants in northern Utah.  That happened to be my school specialty so I enjoyed learning the engineering business in that situation.  My wife and I had the opportunity to live in Walnut Creek, California for a year doing project design in one of Carollo’s offices.  It was a great experience and really launched my technical engineering abilities.  After 5 years, I had become a licensed, Professional Engineer and became a young partner at Horrocks.  I then quit engineering to fly airplanes as a corporate pilot.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed it, things did not work out exactly as planned as a pilot, so after 1 year of flying, I re-entered the engineering business working for the firm Creamer and Noble Engineering in St. George, Utah.  After 2 years there, I relocated in 1982 to Millard County, Utah and founded Sunrise Engineering, Inc. in Fillmore and my life changed forever.  My business partner, Jim Cox and I had a few employees and a few contracts as we set out to seek our fortunes.  I could tell many stories of the business struggles and successes over the years since 1982 but at the end of my career in 2012, my life changed forever again, I sold my remaining shares at Sunrise to serve as Mission President in the Belgium Netherlands Mission.  Sunrise then had 160 employees working in 12 offices in the western United States and operated 15 separate business units and business specialties.

At Sunrise, I went through many ups and downs.  All the employees that I hired over the years brought with them unique talents and abilities.  Some of the ugliest downs were when I laid-off employees.  Our employee turnover rate at Sunrise was extremely low but still lay-offs occasionally occurred including some partners and good friends.  My philosophy as President and CEO of Sunrise was to do all I could to help people be successful at Sunrise.  I always agonized over lay-offs because it affects human beings, families and frequently resulted in relocation, and assorted other tough challenges for the former employee.  It was essentially voting, "you die" or "off the island," to someone who I liked.  I always felt responsible as their employer for failing them in not giving them the right seat on the bus for a winning situation.  I still feel somehow dirty for having made those tough calls for what I perceived to be the necessary, higher good.

A lay-off does not always come when the employee’s problems flair up.  It usually comes when there are blue skies and things seem settled down.  Then the work load changes or something else triggers the hard decision to strengthen the company by cutting the guy that was at risk.  It usually takes them by surprise; sometimes no surprise.  But, either way they walk out of the office just as devastated.   Having lived it from my side of the table, it haunts me how many people were someone’s son or daughter that I did that to.   For the record, I also felt a strong responsibility to the other employees in the company who needed the company to be strong without the drag of employees that were not performing or no longer needed.

It is interesting how similar the Mission is to Sunrise.  Like employees, every missionary is different, but thankfully in the Mission, no one gets laid off.  After all, we are all volunteers.  Each of you has your own strengths, weaknesses, styles, likes, dislikes, etc.  Each of you can contribute to the overall work in your unique way because of your unique talents and who you are.  This diversity makes us stronger.  For every personal weakness someone has an off-setting personal strength.  The group as a whole is therefore much stronger than an individual or a group of clones.  The Lord said through the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“106 And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him, him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also.
 108 Behold, this is the way that mine apostles, in ancient days, built up my church unto me.
 109 Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand?
 110 Also the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect.”  (DC 84:106-110)

Because all of you are different, one of the great blessings of serving a mission can be realized.  In companionships, you can learn to get along with people who are different than you.  You can learn to like your companion and at least develop a good working relationship with your companion even if the two of you may never become best friends.  A transfer is a sort lay-off and is seldom the answer to companionship problems. You are here to learn to solve problems and a transfer would rob you of that opportunity.  Frankly, the unlearned skill of getting along before the transfer would only follow you to the new companionship.

In our church, we have to learn to get along with each other because we do not just go hear a preacher every Sunday and then go home.  We work full time with each other as members of this church.  So my theory is; the Lord puts us in odd situations so we can learn and grow.  This skill of getting along is also needed in business, families, civic and other relationships.  It is worth learning here in this incubator we call a mission.  Paul taught it best regarding our attitude as missionaries serving together:

“12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the ahead to the feet, I have no need of you.
 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”   (1 Cor. 12: 11-31)

This is not a business.  There are no layoffs.  In fact, all are welcome to serve and salvation is free.  The workers in the vineyard are very diverse and are all paid the same wage regardless of when they start their labor and how well they produce.  For the most part, I think we do well in capitalizing on our differences to be stronger and we do a pretty good job of effectively working with each other despite our differences.
President Robinson

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