Utah Business' Outstanding Directors Awards

Nolan Karras: Outstanding Directors Awards

Congratulations to Nolan Karras, Lead Director at Merit Medical – he has been selected as one of the 2017 Outstanding Directors Awards honorees!

The annual Outstanding Directors Awards celebrates our state’s most engaged and effective board members—individuals who exemplify excellence in corporate governance while guiding companies to develop long-term strategies, enhance their performance and mitigate risk.

Read more about Nolan and the other 2017 Outstanding Directors Awards honorees in the digital magazine.

Nolan Karras, Merit MedicalWhen you make a mistake, use it to learn and get better. Keep on learning, in every way you can, no matter what you’ve already accomplished. Using that strategy might help you accomplish as much as Nolan Karras has in his career thus far—and that’s a great deal.

“I probably learn more by my mistakes than I learn by my successes,” says Karras with a smile. “In a board, you’re supposed to have your nose in and your fingers out. That distinction is tough to keep sometimes. I think my contribution can be because I’ve made some mistakes and I’ve learned from them.”

And if Karras, the chairman and CEO of The Karras Company, Inc., has learned from his mistakes, he’s certainly learned well. Karras served on the boards of Utah Power and Light, Beneficial Life, Pacificorp and Scottish Power, along with the University of Utah Hospital board and as board of trustees chair for Weber State University. Karras was elected to the Utah Legislature in 1981, where he served until 1990, and became majority leader and speaker. He served as Gov. Michael Leavitt’s representative on the Salt Lake Olympic Committee for seven years.

In addition to his service on the Merit Medical board, Karras is currently a Weber State University trustee and is on the board of WSU’s Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service.

Even with such a storied career, Karras has not rested on his laurels, nor does he feel he has learned enough. He says being effective on a board depends on knowing when to speak up and when to be quiet, but that role is harder to learn than one might expect. Fred Lampropoulos, founder, chairman and CEO of Merit Medical Systems, says there is an honest give-and-take with Karras that makes others trust his advice.

“He really is the smartest guy in the room, but he never acts that way. If he doesn’t know something, he’ll say ‘I’ll look into it.’ And he’ll do the research. He’ll come back,” says Lampropoulos. “He’s humble. He’s bright. He’s committed. You can do all those other things, but if you’re not committed and you don’t show up … what good is it? It’s not just the talk. He does the walk.”

Lampropoulos says Karras is always dialed in, bringing intellect, compassion and even humor (which Lampropoulos classifies as “very accountant”) to his role. For Karras, it’s the opportunity to learn from others and to bring that knowledge back to help other businesses succeed that keeps him engaged.

“It’s been a tremendous experience to be able to observe other people running their business. It’s been very helpful to me then to be able to take that back into my own business, or to be able to be assisting clients,” he says. “I like interaction with people. That’s the highlight. Getting to know people and serving with them and learning their strengths and trying to utilize their strengths. It’s an intellectual challenge.”