Mike Terry, Deseret News
William H. Child, chairman of the board of R.C. Willey speaks after receiving the Salt Lake City Chapter of the BYU Management Society's Distinguished Utahn Award.

SALT LAKE CITY — Bill Child knows how to work hard and succeed in business. Known for his local success with a family furniture store, many friends and associates say it is his persistence, work ethic and integrity that has made his small company based in Utah turn into a successful business now owned by wealthy and well-known investor Warren Buffett.

Because of his accomplishment, the Salt Lake City chapter of the BYU Management Society presented Child with its 2011 Distinguished Utahn Award during a program at the Little America Hotel on Wednesday night.

"He is one who goes before, showing others the way to follow," President Thomas S. Monson of the LDS Church said. "The Child family is a band of pioneers, showing others the way to follow."

President Monson, past Distinguished Utahn Award recipient, congratulated Child by saying, "I am proud of you."

Known in the community as the former owner of the local R.C. Willey Home Furnishings, Child has spent many years building up, expanding and growing the company, while still managing to keep the store closed on Sundays.

"He's spent his lifetime creating a successful business built on ethical principles," said Marc A. Jewell, president of the Salt Lake City Chapter for the BYU Management Society. "I can't think of a greater philanthropist than one who creates jobs for people. Over Bill's lifetime he's employed thousands and has guided them with his moral and ethical leadership."

Under the management of Child, R.C. Willey grew from two employees to more than 2,600 employees, from a 600-square-foot store to 12 large stores in Utah, Idaho and Nevada, with an annual sales volume of $500 million all in 47 years.

"Thank you for your time and support," Child said. "I do appreciate all who have had such a positive influence in my life. My family, friends, neighbors, associates, each and everyone of you have had a huge impact on my life."

As someone who grew up working on a farm in Davis County, Child learned how to work hard as he and his family bailed hay and worked the farm.

"We learned great lessons," Sheldon F. Child, Child's brother, said. "We had great parents, who instilled in us a great sense of unity and encouraged us to stay close as a family all of our lives."

"He has always been my role model," Sheldon Child said.

Sharing a story of when an appliance at their store had a defective part, Child's brother said that Child took it upon himself to make sure every customer was granted replacement parts or a replacement of every single machine.

"We didn't have a profit that year, but it was the right thing to do," Sheldon Child said.

"The mission of the BYU Management Society is to grow moral and ethical leadership around the world," Jewell said. "Bill Child was the perfect candidate to honor because his leads with integrity and honesty."

email: mholman@desnews.com