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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended January 19, 2001
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and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 20Jan01

By Kent Larsen

Doing Business in an LDS World

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The public radio business program Marketplace was in Salt Lake City today, and took a 10-minute-long look at the cultural factors of doing business in a Mormon-dominated society: Salt Lake City. Marketplace's Bob Moon reported that some members of the dominant religion often behaves in a way that wouldn't be expected elsewhere.

One of the major hurdles that non-Mormons face in Utah, according to the show, is a tendency of everyone to ask if you are Mormon. One non-Mormon, Claudia O'Grady, reports that she is asked that all the time, "A gentleman stopped in my office on business. Um, after a 10-minute conversation, he out of the blue just asked me if I'm married. No, I'm not married. Well, would you like to come to the, uh, singles events at our local Ward? And, no! You know, it's so presumptuous."

Others say that the problem isn't limited to simple business contacts; Church membership also comes up in job interviews. Former Mormon Scott Crawford says interviews often end up bringing up whether or not the candidate is Mormon. "People talk about certain very-LDS things like going on a mission...and not like it was ever part of the interview process or anything else, but part of the small talk around that." And returned missionaries often list a mission on their resume's, leading Shanna Szelag, a human resources manager, to think its almost like the sign of a secret club. "Sometimes they'll say 'volunteer service,' and if you didn't know you might wonder if it was Peace Corps, whatever. But a lot of 'em will put down, 'Served a mission in such and such.' And I have felt, at previous employers where some of them were owned by the church, that they definitely had put that down as an indicator of 'I have been on a mission.'"

But doing business in the heart of Mormon culture also has its upside. Moon interviewed Marriott School of Management dean Ned Hill, who says that recruiters like the high standards that Mormon students from BYU have. "I think a lot of employers come here because of that kind of student. They know they get a student who's going to at least try to be very honest and try to live standards that are, ah, pretty high and create a pretty good employee." But those convictions aren't dictated to students, instead, according to Elder Sheldon Child, Mormons choose how to implement their convictions. Marriott's executives, for example, let hotel guests choose liquor or sexy movies, but Child, on the other hand, closed the successful furniture store he ran on Sundays.

Still, sometimes Mormon practices and convictions do conflict with business. Brad Bertoch of the non-profit Wayne Brown Institute, which promotes venture capital investment, says "There was a venture fund from out of state, all set to invest, getting ready to transfer the money, and the managing partner of the local fund got called on a mission. And he just up and left! And the whole deal fell apart. And the people on the West Coast were really taken aback. I mean, they were kinda like, 'Doesn't this guy wanna be a venture guy?'"

Moon's report also covered the close-knit nature of the Mormon community in Utah, likening it to a "good old boy" network. Former Salt Lake Mayor Ted Wilson told Moon that people do used Church contacts to get business done. "People don't segment their lives. I mean, you can do business on Sunday at church. Just don't do it while the preacher's up there, ya know. ... The idea that you can separate church and state on the cultural, business, political level is, is really not a real concept."

But while Utah's LDS Governor, Mike Leavitt, promotes the culture as a plus to business, emphasizing the family-focused culture and its welcoming nature, BYU's Dean Hill also notes the downside, the financial swindles that have plagued the community. "We assume that when we meet somebody who's Mormon that they're gonna be honest with us, they're going to be trustworthy. If they tell us they've got a good investment, oh, it must be a good investment. Sometimes that trust goes a little bit too far."


Doing Business in an LDS World
Marketplace 19Jan01 B4
By Bob Moon
[Text of the story]

Listen to Marketplace in Real Audio (29:00 min)
Marketplace 19Jan01 B4

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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information