Business With Real Values

By Jim Yates
Wednesday - June 08, 2005
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Steven Golden, Charles Seening, Sharon
Shigemoto, Calvin Iwashita and Jim Yates

Growing up in rural Oklahoma, I didn’t know much about formal organizational “value statements.” People made decisions about whom they did business with for simple reasons — like whether a business could be trusted. Were their actions consistent with their words? Did they have a spirit of “service” in the way they lived their lives, contributed to their communities and operated their businesses? And, could they be counted on to deliver on their promises?

These values weren’t found in a plaque on the company wall. They were exhibited every day in how the company conducted its affairs and dealt with others.

After entering the work force in a large metropolitan area on the Mainland, I began to wonder if “real people” with “real values” were an anomaly in business, found only on the rural main streets of the Bible Belt. It was a pleasant surprise to discover a place in the middle of the Pacific that still honored such values, both in individuals and in business practice. When my family and I relocated to Honolulu in 1993, the transition was surprisingly easy for us. The fact is, while the view and the weather couldn’t be more different, the values of the people of Oklahoma and Hawaii are surprisingly similar.

It is truly a blessing to be able to live and work in a place that reinforces and rewards a valuebased life and business. It’s a definition of “paradise” that most visitors and newcomers don’t associate with Hawaii, but one that I think may be the most important reason to call Hawaii home.

I have been doubly blessed in having the opportunity to lead an organization like The Gas Company, which has a 100-year history of value-based service to Hawaii. Like all for-profit entities, The Gas Company must strive to provide an acceptable financial return to its owners. We’ve found that objective to be most achievable and, more importantly, sustainable if we seek to balance financial returns with service to our customers, employees and community. It is indeed fortunate when specific opportunities to serve two or more of these interests converge. We see just such an opportunity in the midst of the growing local electricity shortage.

Hawaiian Electric has been very public and candid about the challenges presented by our robust economy. The growing number of electric appliances in our households, the booming construction business, the continued growth in the local military presence, and the surprisingly rapid growth in the number of homes being air conditioned, have all contributed to a shortfall in production capacity. Mike Fitzgerald, president and CEO of Enterprise Honolulu, recently published an article warning that an inadequate supply of energy may dampen economic growth, sending a negative message that Hawaii is not capable of serving new businesses, especially high-tech companies that rely on large and reliable sources of power critical for their business.

With the next power plant not scheduled to be on line until at least 2009, and the real potential for immediate shortages, HECO is aggressively seeking other alternatives. At The Gas Company, we see the opportunity to serve both our shareholders and our community by being part of the solution, and we have held initial discussions with HECO to find ways to do just that. While there is no single solution, we do believe maximizing all alternative energy sources available will be necessary and that gas can play a critical role. Whether it’s heating water, cooking, drying, or even using gas in small-scale combined heat and power units to produce electricity for commercial establishments like the new Kahala Nui retirement community, The Gas Company has the ability to contribute to this important community need.

At The Gas Company, we are humbled by the responsibility that our community has entrusted to us. We look forward to working with the community and organizations such as Hawaiian Electric and Enterprise Honolulu to be part of the solution in meeting Hawaii’s growing energy needs. Serving others in an environment that honors and rewards adherence to values … now that’s what I call paradise!

Next week: Lynne Kaneshiro, President and CEO of Island Title Corporation

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