After growing up as a cowboy in Northern Wyoming, Robert Workman made his way to BYU and helped his father run Provo Craft. From there he took over the company until he decided to move on and do some good in the world. Now, this humanitarian has supplied power to those in underdeveloped countries and given light to those living in darkness. This week Shauna Lake sits down with Robert Workman “Person 2 Person.”
SHAUNA LAKE: I read that you said that life is just about little steps.
ROBERT WORKMAN: Yes.
SHAUNA LAKE: And you just take one after another after another. Is that kind of the philosophy you live your life by?
ROBERT WORKMAN: Yeah I think I call it stumbling forward. I live my life I guess as more of what I would call a vision. I have to know where I’m going. I have to understand the vision of it, and then I don’t really put too much emphasis on the details until each day because it’s surely going to change. But that doesn’t stop you from going forward. If it does then maybe the vision wasn’t right for you.
SHAUNA LAKE: When was the moment, Robert, when you decided…you had some financial success and you had done really well with Provo Craft, when was the moment you decided you wanted so much more and you started these foundations?
ROBERT WORKMAN: Well maybe that was stumbling forward too. I don’t think you just all of a sudden wake up and decided you want to do a foundation.
SHAUNA LAKE: There wasn’t a clear cut moment that made you want to go forward in that direction?
ROBERT WORKMAN: No. I think it was more of a process from the time I was a little boy. My wife Ange and I have always been really involved in humanitarian work and giving back. I think that the moment of what we’re doing today was an accumulation and all the stars lined up.
SHAUNA LAKE: So you developed a business in Congo, a way for people to develop business and make money for themselves and be successful. What did that feel like for you?
ROBERT WORKMAN: Well at first it was pretty exciting. We went over there. Our first business was a purification water business and so we put together a little team of Congales, and they started their business, and they were doing really well and the cash started coming in, and that’s when the corruption started. And it was a tough time that we had to decide this wasn’t working. What we thought was going to work of the process wasn’t working, but the vision was still true and that felt right. And so what we got to do is say, “Okay what are we really good at?” And so we were good at making stuff and really good at it. So three and a half years taught us four basic human needs. We identified those four tools, one is portable power, the second one was shelter, third was food and fourth was water. So our whole mission is to develop product, and then businesses that serve the poorest of the poor but are relevant to the richest of the rich. So product was key. Once we created that product and got it into the hands of people, nearly one hundred percent successful. Because then they could take their culture, their belief system that they had, use that product to lift themselves, or to create businesses, or to create better education opportunities, then it’s successful.
SHAUNA LAKE: So is this philosophy a family philosophy now? Have you taught this giving back and getting good to your family and to your offspring? And are you that grandfather to them that you experienced as a little boy?
ROBERT WORKMAN: I sure hope so. I sure hope so. I think I’m a good grandpa, better grandpa than I was a dad.
SHAUNA LAKE: Why do you say that?
ROBERT WORKMAN: Well I think all dads have to learn. I spent a lot of my time raising eight children, providing lessons and education and so on. I make the excuse sometimes it’s lonely being dad, a sentinel on the hill.
SHAUNA LAKE: It makes you emotional because…are you missing that time?
ROBERT WORKMAN: No not at all. I just, you know what happens though, every father feels the same. Every mother feels the same, that you could have done better. If we would have known what we know today, right so we don’t get to go backwards. But I’ll tell you one thing my kids know, that I love them unconditionally. There isn’t anything they could do, and I’ve learned so much from them, more than I’ve taught them, and so I’m grateful for them. And they’re still stumbling forward themselves, and I’m just there to catch them when they stumble. What else can you do?
SHAUNA LAKE: Thank you so much.
ROBERT WORKMAN: You’re welcome.
SHAUNA LAKE: What a pleasure to meet you! And get to know you better “Person 2 Person.”
ROBERT WORKMAN: Oh well thank you. It’s been my pleasure.
-Written and Produced by Leslie Tillotson
(Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)