Meet the Mentors: Couple Little
Ralph and Nancy Little were the mentors for the students at Cumorah Academy in the 8th week of the Spring semester and taught about the Characteristics of Leaders. They are both from Salt Lake City, Utah (USA), where still live. Parents of four children, grandparents of twelve, and married for forty-nine years.
Professional and Educational life
In 1986 Ralph was named to the INC 500 list as one of the “ Fastest Growing Private Companies in America”, in the twenty years he owned Little & Company, started several other businesses including a software development company, a truck tire recapping plant, storage units, a marketing company, and an electrical wiring and device company. He was referred to a course of instruction at Harvard specifically for CEOs of small businesses.
As a result of his Harvard experience, he retired a few years later at the age of 45 and began his second career, in teaching business owners how to be both successful and profitable. Ralf continues to teach at BYU, where 40% of his students start a business and make more than $10.000 during the semester.
Nancy graduated from the University of Utah with a teaching degree in Education. She worked and directed a program for BYU, Academy for Girls, for 12 years. Nancy loves to garden! She was fortunate to have been taught by the master gardener of Temple Square, Peter Lassig.
Cumorah Academy: Nancy, you brought some deep insights to the class, especially through poems. Do you believe that you are a person that likes to make deep connections with people? If yes, how does that help you to in your professional and personal life?
Nancy: Yes, it helps when I’m working with people from different backgrounds because I genuinely like and want to get to know them. I connect with them by asking questions and getting to know them well enough to understand their needs. This is important in my job because people prefer to buy a home from someone they like and trust.
Buying a home is an emotional decision, so having a good connection with the person helping them is crucial. Having a connection with people makes life more interesting and meaningful. If we don’t connect with others, life can feel boring and sad. These connections allow me to care for and love others, making each day more fulfilling.
Cumorah Academy: Ralph, you never enjoyed studying as a teenager or as a young adult, as you said. But later you discovered a great taste for another kind of education, through books. What do you think that attracted you to read books? And what was the importance of that discovery for your development?
Ralph: What I discovered through reading is that it helped fill the void I felt due to my lack of education. Because of my poor performance in high school and college, I felt uneducated and desired to become knowledgeable. The school was dull and uninteresting to me.
Although I attended classes, my mind was often elsewhere. However, when I stumbled upon books and realized the wealth of knowledge they contained, a whole new world opened before me. It was like walking through a grand door, and suddenly the world was at my feet. I couldn’t read enough or quickly enough, exploring various subjects that piqued my interest. Biographies captured my heart.
I read about remarkable individuals, such as church presidents, U.S. presidents, generals, prime ministers, and even some dictators. Surprisingly, I also found biographies about ordinary people equally fascinating. Additionally, I delved into books on engineering, architecture, and philosophy. Through my reading journey, I have truly become educated. It’s made all the difference in the world.
And so now I know how to read. I know how to spell. I have things to say. I can put a sentence together and it makes sense. It changed my life. Help me build my own business, help me build my confidence. Now I can speak in front of large groups. And I love that.
Cumorah Academy: How was the process of becoming someone that works for a university after many years of disliking a school environment?
Ralph: At BYU, I act as an instructor, teaching business and entrepreneurship. I was hired by a university, but the question arises: How did I end up teaching at a university that would not have accepted me when I was a child? After running my own business, attending Harvard, and selling my business, I decided to pursue my passion for teaching. Knowing that I needed a master’s degree to teach as an adjunct, I enrolled at the University of Utah and obtained my master’s degree. To my delight, I was immediately hired by the university.
I also had the opportunity to establish the entrepreneurship program at Ensign College, where I taught full-time for five or six years before retiring for the second time. Shortly after, I approached Brigham Young University (BYU) and expressed my desire to teach there. Thankfully, they accepted me, and I have been teaching at BYU for the past seven or eight years. I am truly grateful for this opportunity.
Gospel Principles Aligned with Leadership Principles
Cumorah Academy: You both have shared the importance of the gospel in your lives. How do you believe that following the principles of the gospel, defines someone as a good leader, and why?
Nancy: I think one of the beautiful things about the gospel and the church is its development; it provides opportunities to lead. When you are called to be a primary teacher, a counselor in the primary, or a young women’s advisor, it prepares you to give talks, prepare lessons, and have confidence in such tasks. Another wonderful aspect of the gospel is our belief in personal revelation.
As we seek to understand and receive personal revelation, we are empowered and receive heavenly assistance in all that we do. It helps us develop into leaders. We have the perfect example of the Savior to guide us and show us what an ideal leader is like. We aspire to be disciples of Jesus Christ, which inherently means we are also leaders who can guide others in righteousness.
Ralph: Doctrine and Covenants, Section 121, Verse 41 lists righteous behaviors, with the first one being persuasion. Persuasion is the domain of leaders. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have a responsibility to lead and guide others by pointing them in the right direction. We show them the path that leads to righteousness and happiness. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is at the core of leadership, and our approach to leadership is distinct. It is not about force or coercion, but rather about leading with love.
The Keys to a Well-Succeed Business
Cumorah Academy: Ralph, you had also said that personal revelation was important when you were raising your business. What was the key to making it grow?
Ralph: The key was to keep growing. It’s not about stopping and saying, “This is enough.” It’s about recognizing that we can do more and do better. It’s a constant evaluation of what needs to be improved and taking the next step, even if it’s scary. When we expanded nationwide, it was daunting. I had already expanded from Utah to five states and then to 12 states. Now, I had to expand back East. But with the Lord’s help, we can accomplish anything we need to.
Nancy and I both believe in this. Speaking of that, I love the concept and principle of “line upon line” and “precept upon precept.” I used to joke and say, “I don’t know what’s over that hill. I’m not sure if I would keep going.” But we are given just enough, and once we reach a step, we ask, “What’s the next step?” It’s a continuous progression, applying gospel principles in business and life.
In conclusion, the teachings of leadership at Cumorah Academy emphasize the importance of continuous growth and improvement. It’s about going beyond our comfort zones and embracing the next step, even when it feels intimidating. The expansion experiences mentioned demonstrate the willingness to take risks and trust in the Lord’s guidance.
The concept of “line upon line” and “precept upon precept” reminds us to approach life with a gradual progression, applying gospel principles in every aspect, including business. The message is clear: there is always room to do more, to do better, and with faith and perseverance, we can accomplish anything. Cumorah Academy instills this mindset in its students, fostering a spirit of growth and leadership that extends far beyond the classroom.