Andy Propst is quick-witted and fast to laugh when he talks with his employees at Park Place Property Management in Meridian. He’s been president of the company since 2008 and now manages 50 workers and 2,200 properties throughout the Treasure Valley.
When it comes down to making challenging business decisions and juggling the day-to-day responsibilities that come with his job, he relies on his faith and lessons learned during a harrowing experience as a missionary in Russia in 1998.
A devout Mormon, Propst was 19 years old when he and fellow missionary Travis Tuttle traveled to Saratov, Russia, as part of their two-year commitment to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was there that both men were kidnapped, beaten and held for ransom. The church refused to pay the $300,000 ransom, but miraculously, the kidnappers released the men five days later. Tuttle and Propst went on to complete their mission work in England separately before returning to their families in the United States.
This month, Propst and Tuttle are again in the spotlight, in a very different way, with the release of the film The Saratov Approach, based on their real-life experiences. The movie, which wasn’t produced or distributed by the LDS church, has already opened in Utah. It opens at Edwards 22 at the Boise Spectrum on Oct. 25.
Propst said some of the lessons he learned during his ordeal have translated into the way he runs his company.
For example, he learned while in custody not to jump to conclusions about people before knowing their story. Propst and Tutte’s kidnappers were in a desperate financial situation personally, which is part of the reason why they demanded a ransom. Both men actually became sympathetic to their captors’ plight.
“You also can’t take your clients, co-workers or anyone else for granted,” Propst said.
Propst and Tuttle, who lives in Arizona, remain close friends and still talk to each other often.
Propst said the real possibility that he and Tuttle could have been killed humbled them, not only in their faith, but also in their trust and faith that people would eventually choose to do the right thing. Propst and Tuttle forgave their captors before they were released.
Especially in Idaho’s very connected real estate and property management world, Propst said maintaining good relationships, even with difficult clients or business associates, is essential.
“The experience trained us to be better people, which sounds weird, but it’s so true,” Propst said.
Every morning, Propst leads his office in a 15- to 20-minute huddle where the employees connect, talk about challenges they’re facing, or highlight personal and professional accomplishments.
“It’s just about making connections and maintaining good relationships,” Propst said.
Travis Tuttle is a business development manager at Insight, a global software hardware reseller. He manages the account for IBM, a company he has been associated with since he graduated from Arizona State University after his mission. His firm deals mainly with Fortune 500 Companies.
He said one of the lessons he took away from his tumultuous experiences in Russia was to be respectful and refrain from jumping to conclusions about people or their situations before knowing the full story. One of his captors was a 19-year-old who had just learned his girlfriend was pregnant. The other, an older man, was also in a desperate financial situation. While Tuttle said the way they went about resolving their situation was clearly misguided, he became empathetic to their plight.
“It made me aware of the human aspect of people and realize that we are all the same,” Tuttle said. “We’re so fast to judge, which isn’t always fair.”
Tuttle said in the workplace, it’s easy to get caught up on titles or how much money a person makes, but essentially, it comes down to treating everyone respectfully, and not burning bridges.
“I see it all the time where the high-level people are treated really well and some other staffers are kind of run all over,” he said. “The problem with that is there’s always a chance you will encounter that person again, whether in a different walk of life or as a decision-maker.”
Jennifer Gonzalez covers construction, development and real estate news at the Idaho Business Review. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 208.639.3515.