How it all Began: FranklinPlanner’s Founders

The year was 1726. A young man named Benjamin Franklin was returning from London to his home in Philadelphia, an 80-day voyage. During the journey, he contemplated the direction he wanted his life to take. He wrote down his values in a small black book he carried with him, listing thirteen virtues he wanted to develop:

  1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.
  1. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
  1. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.
  1. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
  1. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.
  1. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.
  1. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  1. Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  1. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  1. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.
  1. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  1. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  1. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

For the rest of his life, Benjamin Franklin worked on one of these virtues every week, making incremental improvements in his personal character. The results showed in his historic life, where he is now revered as a philosopher, inventor, and statesman.

More than two-and-a-half centuries later, in 1981, Hyrum W. Smith read Benjamin Franklin’s biography, and was struck by Franklin’s impressive self-improvement and time-management systems. Smith moved to create a system of motivational seminars based on these revolutionary ideas.

The goal of these seminars was simple: help clients identify what they really want to accomplish, do the right things for the right reasons, and stay motivated until they complete their goals. Smith targeted these seminars to corporate groups and business executives, and focused on building relationships rather than direct marketing efforts.

Word of mouth spread, and by 1983, Smith teamed up with Dick Winwood, Dennis Webb, and Lynn Webb to form the Franklin Institute. During this time, Smith accepted every opportunity to speak, logging more than four and a half years traveling on business between 1983 and 1990. He taught effective planning, even when he expected a group of 30 or more and only three or four showed up.

Smith introduced the Franklin Day Planner in 1984 to help his seminar participants put values-based time management into practice. As time went on, the success of values-based planning helped the Franklin Institute grow into an international business. From mall-based stores in the US to UK to Australia to Hong Kong, Franklin Quest spread the art of planning worldwide.

Meanwhile, , author of the best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, built his own professional training organization, based on his landmark ideas of personal growth and professional cooperation. In 1997, Franklin Quest merged with the Covey Leadership Institute to become FranklinCovey.

290 years after Benjamin Franklin first wrote in his book, and more than 30 years after the creation of the Franklin Day Planner, the practice of value-based planning still changes lives. At, we’re looking forward to helping you achieve what matters most to you!

6 Replies to “How it all Began: FranklinPlanner’s Founders”

  1. I absolutely love this history about my favorite planner that has been a part of my life since you conceived it. I had been using a planner prior to that since 1979. Last June I decided to try several different planners and went back to Franklin Covey which is the very best in my opinion. None other compared

  2. This is inspiring! The nobility of purpose of these great men makes us want to follow in their path. “In his master’s steps he trod, Where the snow lay dented, Heat was in the very sod, Where the saint had printed.”

  3. Thanks for the historical review! 🙂 I have digitized the Hyrum Smith cassette tapes that I received when I first bought my planner in 1993 (!) and try to listen to them yearly. He was a terrific teacher who will be missed, that’s for sure!

    My favourite Hyrum Smith quote from the tapes, as he explained how he simply motivated himself to finish swimming to the other end of a bay in Hawaii after he spotted a shark: “It’s okay to drown, it is NOT okay to get eaten.” LOL!

    Keep up the good work, people!

    1. I’ve been looking all over for those very tapes you digitized. Any chance I can get a copy of those from you?

  4. Love this company and the system and,binders and planners.I remember getting to see the great Hyrum W Smith teach the system in an all day seminar. He made served the audience,and made you to feel like he was just speaking to you personally all the while addressing this group.Magical, the man was gifted. That experience changed my life.there is no other system or products like these,Period. ok that being said could you please take a product request and bring back the 2000 Franklin covey.Co. Metropolitan Pocket planners pages.that was my all time fav planner pages.I will be happy to purchase several in advance if your willing to bring them back to us. I’ll bet you there are a lot of people out there who would agree with me. wish I was tech savvy enough to submit a picture of said pages for your consideration.but i’m sure you know them Please and Thank you,
    Scot j.Massey

  5. I’m so hoping to get a copy of the original cassettes, or MP3s, of The Franklin Planner System from when I got my first one in the early 90s

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