In the late summer of 2011, Dave Wentz, Jim Brown, Stan Brown and I sat around a table in Dave’s office that was piled with blueprints covered in plans and schematics. Sunlight drenched the giant pages as we picked slowly through one drawing after another.
Tossed into one corner of the table was my contribution: a financial analysis of the plans for USANA’s solar photovoltaic system. At 8 ½ by 11 inches and a handful of pages long, my analysis didn’t figure very prominently on the table full of large-scale blueprints. But I knew that without my little contribution, there was no way we would be at that table selecting the plans for USANA’s future solar energy system.
My little report represented one thing. Quite simply, there was a return on the investment. Not the best return we’d ever seen, but a worthwhile return nonetheless. We knew that as a publicly traded company, we couldn’t just spend money without being sure that it will lead to future profitability. Many auspicious plans have had to bow to the financial scrutiny in one of those 8 ½- by 11-inch reports. We owe that scrutiny to the people who have trusted us enough to purchase stock in our company. They deserve it. That means that on some days, you have to put the ambitious plan back on the shelf.
But there are other days, like the one I spent in a sun-drenched office watching huge pages of drawings sail by and the plans for new rooftop solar panels shape up. I forget now who said it, but when all was done, Dave, Jim, Stan and I shared the same feeling: “We’re doing this for our children.”
Fast-forward to December 2013. That summer day is long gone. The blueprints sit rolled up on my shelf. The only source of light in the early evening seems to be the glowing computer monitor in front of me. It is cold and drizzly, and already they are talking on the radio about driving less to reduce seasonal air pollution. It seems we’re in for a long slog through the winter. But through all this winter drabness comes the unmistakable sounds of footsteps on USANA’s rooftop. Those sounds are a sure sign of a little holiday cheer — new solar panels are going up again.
Phase 3 of the old plan that began with the four of us on a summer day in 2011 is just about finished. I’ve had the chance to go on the roof over the past month and watch the racking go up and the panels get mounted. With so much of our roof covered, it is nearly impossible to see the other side of our solar panel installation. Standing in the middle of it all is thrilling, like wading through endless, glittering waves of dark blue crystal. But what is most impressive about it is that when our new solar system is finished, USANA and the sun will generate enough power for 53 U.S. homes.
During this season when so many are enjoying one holiday or another, I can’t help but feel grateful. I am grateful for a chance to do good work that is worth doing for our customers and our shareholders. I am grateful for the opportunity to help get solar energy right over my head on USANA’s rooftop. And I am grateful for that summer day when I got to sit with three exceptional men and plan ways for USANA to be a force for good in the world.
*Jeff Robertson is a customer complaints analyst and member of USANA Green.