A Family Plan for Business
Welk, Lawrence. "A Family Plan for Business." Christian Economics, n.d.
When the newest member of our musical organization, young Mary Lou
Metzger, steps into the spotlight to sing “No, No, Nanette”
on one of our recent weekly telecasts, it was more than just a regular
production number. If you had been in the studio that evening, you
would have seen why. Every other singer and performer in our company
was crowded into the wings, watching proudly as she sang, and they
burst into delighted applause when she finished. Jim Hobson, our producer,
George Cates, our musical director, and every member of the band were
beaming broadly, too. So was I.
Mary Lou’s performance that night was the culmination of
the year-long training and encouragement she had received from every
member in our group. Her triumph was our triumph, too. It was a
dramatic demonstration of the effectiveness of our training and
development program... a system which has worked remarkably well
for us over the years. We have developed through our program such
closeness and affection that, when our show was dropped by the ABC
network after a 16 year run, it served only to bring us even closer
together. It provided the inspiration for us to move confidently
ahead into the much wider field of syndicated television.
The men and women in our musical family have learned – through
this unique work-program of ours – how to utilize their talents
to the fullest. They give every ounce of themselves to every performance,
and they back up their talent with solid character.
The Bible says, “Give, and it shall be given unto you.”
This statement expresses a basic law of life – what is given
out returns in kind. It is upon this precept that our entire training
and development program has been built. It is based primarily on
the concept of sharing not only in the accepted economic sense,
but also in the broader sense of sharing one’s self, his talents,
knowledge, his care and concern. I can best explain how our system
works by using Mary Lou as an example, since her experience so closely
parallels that of all our other performers.
A year ago this pretty youngster came to audition for us. She was
very young, just 17, and her voice had not been developed properly,
but I recognized a basic quality immediately and I was impressed
with her freshness and enthusiasm. Also, I realized after talking
with her, that she came from a family which had given her sound
moral training. We discussed her dreams of a musical career, and
I finally told her she could work with us as an apprentice, appearing
in group numbers and learning as much as she could from practical
experience. “But I can’t promise you any solos,”
I told her. “We’ll have to wait and see how things work
out for you.”
Mary Lou eagerly agreed, and she enrolled immediately in our training
program. Jack Imel, our choreographer and assistant producer, began
to work with her on stage techniques. He reported that she was naturally
talented. Our arrangers Curt Ramsey, S. K. Grundy, and Joe Rizzo,
along with musical director George Cates, worked to help her find
her range and the type of songs she could do best. The wardrobe
and makeup people also helped Mary Lou develop her own eye as to
what looked best on her. I had her sing for our audience at the
Palladium where I could watch her performance closely, and then
I advised her on technique and phrasing and the best way to present
The heart of our training program made itself felt most importantly
in her relationship with the other girls on the show. Far from resenting
her or feeling any professional jealousy, they undertook to show
all the tricks of the trade. Her immediate predecessor on the show,
Gail Farrell, helped her in every way possible. Gail showed her
around the studio, introducing her to all the wonderful technical
people backstage, chatting with her during lunch breaks, drawing
her ever closer into the “family,” just as Ralna English
had done for Gail herself a few months earlier, and as Tanya Falan,
Cissy King, Sandi and Salli and Norma Simmer had done, in turn,
as each one of them had done on the show.
The Family Plan
We have deliberately cultivated this “family” concept
in our organization. All of us understand that the better we work
together, the better the show–and the better it is for each
one of us. The goal is always of paramount importance and, although
sharing for that reason is simply a practical necessity, it tends
to develop our spiritual sense of sharing also. The result is that
the character traits of unselfishness and consideration of the other
person are nurtured and refined to a high degree. Within this framework
of mutual consideration and friendliness, each of our members feels
free to offer suggestions and criticisms, and each is recognized
for what he is–a human being whose own essential dignity is
beyond value. As Mary Lou continued her training, we began to put
her in group numbers. As she gained poise and assurance, we assigned
her one or two solo lines.
Everything came into focus a few months later when I was participating
in a golf tournament in Phoenix and I received a phone call from
Irving Berlin in New York. “Lawrence,” he said, “there’s
a revival of ‘No, No, Nanette’ on Broadway right now
and it’s a tremendous hit. The music would be perfect for
you. Make an album right away.”
When I got back to Los Angeles I called Randy Wood, my record producer
only to find he had the score ready. He was most anxious for me
to make the album, too! We went right to work.
I decided to see if Mary Lou could handle the lead song of Nanette.
She took the song and worked very hard at home. With the confidence
and professional skill born of her months of training and encouragement,
she came into the recoding studio and sang the song exactly right!
Her rendition in the album was such a hit that we were forced to
release a single record. That year of concentration, training, development
and self-discipline had paid off. Mary Lou was finally able to appear
in a full-fledged production number on national television, singing
with the sparkle for a nationwide audience. She had made the grade.
It was a source of deep satisfaction to us all.
How It Works
As you can see from this account, the basis of our development program
is an apprentice-training system. This is not a new idea in itself,
but one which we have embellished and expanded in two very significant
ways. First, we have deliberately fostered a spirit of mutual affection
and concern as we work together to achieve a goal beneficial to
all of us. Second, we all share financially in the success of our
Years ago we established a profit-sharing plan for everyone who
works in Teleklew. (Teleklew is the corporate name for all our enterprises.)
We considered several different plans, but finally adopted the one
we felt offered the most to our employees. At the end of every fiscal
year, Ted Lennon, uncle of the Lennon Sisters and one of my chief
business advisors, oversees the investment of up to 15 percent of
our total yearly payroll. This money is turned over to financial
experts who see that it is invested to the best possible advantage.
The employees contribute no money at all, but they share in the
distribution of the returns according to their length of employment
and job status. They become, in effect, part-owners of the company
without any investment. This is a powerful incentive because the
more successful the company, the more successful they each become.
It is the combination of these various factors which is the key
to the success of this plan. First, the training which develops
the talents and character of both trainee and teacher. Second, the
team spirit which grows as employers and employees strive to reach
a mutually rewarding goal. And third, the sharing of profits as
we successfully achieve each of our goals. This is a system which
stresses the positive rather than the negative. It encourages and
rewards excellence of achievement. It had filled all of us with
such dedication and spirit that it has literally changed our lives!
What This Plan Can Do For You
If you are an employer I cannot urge you to strongly enough to give
our proven system a fair trial. You’ll find your employees
will work with you at their top potential. You will observe a new
enthusiasm among your people. If you hesitate because you wonder
about sharing profits, I can only tell you that your profits will
increase. You will make far more from the efforts of a group of
dedicated employees who care than you will from people who are working
for a pay check only. You will find that not only will your profits
rise, but your own spirits and those of everyone else in your organization
will rise, too.
If you are a prospective employee, profit sharing will be great
for you, too. You’ll get a share in the profits. I have noticed
the self-confidence and quiet inner assurance which this plan develops
in our people. You and your employer will both experience a wonderful
feeling of cooperation and friendship which will replace the traditional
gaps of antagonism and suspicion.
The consumer benefits, too. We feel that the quality of the service
we produce by this method is higher. The consumer gets more for
Most important of all, the entire nation benefits because our program
tends to develop the highest potential, character, and sense of
responsibility of every participant. The stronger each one of us
becomes, the stronger, and better our nation becomes.
The Quality of Life
I believe in this plan with my heart, not only because I know from
experiences what it can do, but because is it rooted in God’s
laws. After 47 years in the world of entertainment, I know that
the moral truths revealed to us in the Bible are as true and valid
today as they were centuries ago. They work just as well in business
as they do in our personal life.
That is the real value of our teaching and sharing system. It springs
from a spiritual source, and thus adds to the total quality of our
lives. It brings a full measure of compassion and hope, feelings
of usefulness and faith in the future, and the joy and serenity
that come from building a solid character. It helps to build worthwhile
lives. And I know by now that earning a living is never enough.
But enriching a life is.
Reprinted with the permission of Christian Economics.