Hyrum W. Smith, Utah entrepreneur who created the Franklin Planner, dies at 76

(Photo courtesy of Tuacahn Center for the Arts) Hyrum W. Smith, the creator of the Franklin Planner and co-founder of FranklinCovey Co., died Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, at the age of 76.

Hyrum W. Smith, the Utah entrepreneur who created the Franklin Planner and made it a businessperson’s must-carry item, has died. He was 76.

Smith died Monday in Gunlock, Utah, from cancer, according to an announcement Friday by FranklinCovey Co., the company he co-founded.

“The world lost a truly great and remarkable human being in Hyrum,” FranklinCovey CEO Bob Whitman said in the statement. “He truly achieved his ‘deeply held desire to make a positive difference on this planet.’”

Smith developed the Franklin Planner in his basement, using loose-leaf pages to organize appointments, tasks and notes — based on a time-management system Smith also developed. He named the system after Benjamin Franklin, the inventor and statesman, who also kept a small notebook for daily jottings and observations.

Smith founded the Franklin Quest Co. in Salt Lake City in 1983, manufacturing day planners and conducting seminars on time management and productivity based on Smith’s principles.

The company grew rapidly; by 1992, a $50 million public offering made several executives overnight millionaires. In 1993, Franklin Quest paid $1.4 million for the naming rights to Salt Lake City’s newly constructed minor-league baseball field (now known as Smith’s Ballpark).

Smith believed it was possible to be too rich. He explained his “abundance mentality” in a 2017 interview: “The minute we are able to look into the mirror and honestly say, ‘I have sufficient for my needs,’ at that point, you are wealthy. Why? Because we have enough.” Anything earned beyond that, he said, was “a stewardship that God has given me to do something with that matters.”

Franklin Quest merged with self-help guru Stephen Covey’s Covey Leadership Center in 1997, forming FranklinCovey. The company sold its consumer products unit, which makes the Franklin Planner, to a private equity firm in 2008.

Smith was born Oct. 16, 1943, in Salt Lake City, and grew up in Honolulu. According to a biography posted on the Franklin Planner website, he served a mission in London for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, after that, was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he commanded a Pershing missile unit in Germany.

He married Gail Cooper in 1966, while on leave. They went on to raise six children and have 24 grandchildren. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 1971, with a degree in business management.

Smith was a direct descendant of Hyrum Smith, who died in 1844 alongside his brother, Mormon founder Joseph Smith, at the hands of an angry mob at the jail in Carthage, Ill. So it was a shock in 1998 when the church excommunicated Hyrum W. Smith.

Three years later, Smith wrote a book, “What Matters Most,” which in part discussed a period of personal crisis. In 2004, Smith had written another book, “Pain Is Inevitable, Misery Is Optional,” in which he discussed his excommunication and his rejoining the church.

Smith used some of his fortune to buy a 22-acre ranch near St. George. He wrote several books, both on his business principles and his faith.

The Smiths became arts patrons, donating a total of $23 million to the Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins. Kevin Smith, Tuacahn’s CEO (and Hyrum’s nephew), estimated that it was the single largest contribution to an independent arts organization in Utah.

“It’s hard to imagine Tuacahn without Hyrum,” Kevin Smith said in a statement.

Funeral services are set for Tuesday, Dec. 3, at noon, at the Ivins Stake Center, 260 E. 1060 South, Ivins. A visitation will be held Monday, Dec. 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Tuacahn Amphitheater, 1100 N. Tuacahn Drive, Ivins. Interment will happen at the Gunlock Cemetery.

Family members suggest donations be made in Smith’s name to the Hyrum and Gail Smith Endowment at Tuacahn.