A Millennial’s View

Guest blog by: Isaac Bumgarden, audit intern, Eide Bailly LLP

Accountant: the career that seems like it’s filled with numbers nerds, gloomy days reading over spreadsheets and days spent typing away on a calculator. If we’re talking about a public accountant, everyone thinks you’re an evil number cruncher who’s up to no good (and maybe even works for the IRS).

So how does someone, let alone a millennial, decide accounting is the right career path?

As you know, everyone is different (yes, even us millennials have different tastes and interests). While I don’t speak for everyone, it seems a majority of millennials have a similar experience when it comes to choosing a career, especially if they landed on accounting. When looking at the accounting profession (at least before having much exposure to it), we tend to think of someone sitting behind a desk, quickly punching numbers into a calculator all day, or even someone working for the IRS – and often times, these views don’t seem to sit well with us millennials. After all, we are said to be a social generation which thrives off of each other.

However, college and schooling comes around, and a whole new world presents itself. Rather than hearing about the IRS auditors, you start learning about different options in the accounting world.

“A CFO? What’s that?”

            “There are other auditors besides the IRS? Well what’s the difference?”

           “I can open up my own tax accounting firm in my small home town if I                           understand this stuff?”

You begin to realize that maybe accounting isn’t a one-size-fits-all career path, and there might even be something about it that catches your eye. In fact, I see accounting as a door that leads to a lot of potential in the business world, which is something I never would have even thought of on my own.

Many of the potential scenarios in accounting appeal to us millennials if we are exposed to these options. If you enjoy being alone, maybe the traditional accounting job is for you. If you like interacting with people, take a look at the business side of accounting, such as being a CFO, where you get to go in and work alongside different companies. If travel is your idea of an ideal career, maybe an auditor is the right choice for you. There are many different opportunities and possibilities for each personality and skill set.

For myself (and other millennials, too) and even the general public, accounting is often seen as a boring profession, as explained before. However, accounting is so much more than just the numbers. Public accounting is not only a way to help individuals, but businesses as well.

Being an auditor allows you to help businesses be sure they are on the right track both legally and financially. If you’re the tax man (or woman), you can make sure individuals, families and businesses are being taxed properly, which can lead to saved money and greater revenue and income. Many people don’t realize accounting truly allows you to help people do what they love.

It seems the reason millennials aren’t choosing accounting as readily as other generations simply stems from the lack of information about what accounting really entails. When it comes to accounting, you’re never really stuck in one area. We millennials enjoy variety and a change in scenery, and accounting allows us to have just that.

A Community Resource: Emerging Prairie

Guest Blog By: Annie Wood, Director of Community Programs, Emerging Prairie

Founded in 2013, Emerging Prairie began with the goal to create a community we all want to be part of. We want to do our part to make Fargo a great place to bet on ideas, start companies and improve the human condition through technology-based solutions. In 2016, Emerging Prairie became a non-profit organization and maintains its mission to connect and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

At Emerging Prairie, we live out our mission in multiple ways:

– Platforms: we have an online content publication and several events that create opportunities for people to share and spread their ideas. We also utilize platforms like 1 Million Cups (caffeinated by the Kauffman Foundation) and TEDxFargo to help champion these ideas.

– Coworking: we run The Prairie Den, a coworking and event space in downtown Fargo. The Den provides a home for startups, small businesses, entrepreneurs, an office away from the office for other organizations, and a place for people to meet.

– Connecting: we run multiple programs and groups that are designed for authentic connection for entrepreneurs to connect to other entrepreneurs, as well as build connections between members of the community.

– Convening: we play a role in helping bring entrepreneurs together so our community learns together and can share what we collectively need when folks like the Bank of North Dakota are working on new ways to serve the startup community.

Companies of any stage can connect with us. Some of our programs are geared to companies of different sizes, stages and industries. For example, 1 Million Cups Fargo (which is supported by the Kauffman Foundation) is curated to be primarily tech-based founders or entrepreneurs who have a product or software as a service (SaaS) companies. We work to put founders first, so many of our programs are more geared toward supporting founders versus the size and stage of the company.

The Prairie Den is an inclusive space in the heart of downtown Fargo – it’s truly a place for community to be built. We think of it like a student union for our city. Just like a student union on a college campus is a place for students to study, hold meetings and social events, The Prairie Den provides a similar area to the community. It’s a place for connecting, for working, for moving ideas forward, and for groups to gather. We offer workspace for teams, individuals, and as an office-away-from-the-office for employees of many organizations. We also have conference rooms, a classroom and even an event space that we rent to members and non-members.

The Den is also where Co.Starters is hosted by our friends at Folkways. Co.Starters is a nine-week course to help people with ideas turn them into businesses, or people with young businesses strengthen them.

Emerging Prairie subscribes to the Fargo Thesis, which Co-Founder and Executive Director Greg Tehven first wrote about in Fargo Monthly. The Fargo Thesis is to Connect It, Believe It and Love It. This is how we operate in our community –Connecting people; Believing that Fargo is a place of possibility; and showing love by celebrating and caring for community members.

As an organization, Emerging Prairie is excited about continuing to support our startup community. We believe ideas matter. We know it’s a leap of faith to start something new, so we want to celebrate those who take the leap. And we want to be an organization that helps pave the way for founders to bet on their ideas, to build teams around them and to pursue possibilities to create a community that we all want to be part of.

Cheers to 100 Years

By: Clinton Larson, Eide Bailly LLP

Raise your hand if you’re 100—hey, that’s us! We’re celebrating our centennial this year, and like wine and cheese and lots of other good things, we keep getting better with age.

Reaching a century in business didn’t come easily, as you could probably guess. It takes commitment and foresight, the right people and the right attitude. Lots of companies have come and gone in that time, and even our own heritage involved two different Fargo firms growing, pinnacling and deciding to forge a new path together.

So how can your company make it to 100? Well … there’s a lot of variables that go into that equation. However, there’s no specific formula to share, and it’s hard to know what the world will look like in 2117 (although we hope it involves some cool, legitimate hoverboards, or something went terribly wrong.).

However, we can share five areas of focus that have helped us reach 100. Even if your business is just a year old, or maybe 10, our advice can help your business grow and prosper.

Innovation

For most of the 20th century, accountants relied on pencils and ledger books to do their jobs. Then came calculators and computers, and now smartphones can do it all. Through every step, we’ve embraced technology to help us work more efficiently and better serve our clients. Change is inevitable, so be innovative and learn how to harness it to your advantage. For example, we’ve made technology consulting a part of our suite of services, and we’ve recently created a cyber security team to help clients deal with the ramifications of that technology. Always be on the lookout for ways to innovate.

Culture

Simply stated, culture is the personality of your company. It often develops organically from your company values and actions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it official or create goals. When Eide Bailly merged in 1998 (formerly Eide Helmeke and Charles Bailly), the partners sat down and listed the qualities they wanted the new firm to represent. That list turned into the culture statement, and it’s at the heart of who Eide Bailly is as a firm — and we make sure to walk the walk when it comes to those words. We have regular celebrations and outings to encourage fun, and we have benefits that promote a positive firm, like a wellness benefit and a branded apparel allowance. Make sure your own goals for your culture are well-known and show in everything you do.

People

Hiring the right staff is a critical component of any successful business, as we’ve discussed before, but it doesn’t end there. You need to give your staff all the tools they need to succeed, and that includes the proper training. Our managing partners have all believed in giving staff the keys they need to unlock their potential, which includes robust training both inside and outside the firm. Be sure you not only hire the right people, but give them every opportunity to grow and improve themselves.

“My business philosophy in a sentence is we have great people, trust them to do their work,” says our Managing Partner/CEO Dave Stende.

Community

When our clients succeed, so do we, which is why we invest so much into helping the communities we serve. Part of our growth strategy through the years has been to expand in the Midwest and western regions of the U.S., but we do more than just add offices in new cities and states. We engage with the communities through volunteering, sponsorships and more. We even have a corporate responsibility initiative that officially encourages giving back by our staff. Build up the people around you—thriving businesses grow in thriving communities.

Vision

This may sound cliché, but part of the way to make it to 100 is to simply envision yourself achieving that goal. Having a vision for your business is critical to longevity. Eide Bailly’s first Managing Partner/CEO, Darold Rath, felt being located in Fargo shouldn’t be a hindrance to hiring the best and being a major player in the accounting industry. Both Managing Partners/CEOs after that, Jerry Topp and Dave Stende, achieved visions of doubling the size of the firm every five years. Dream big about what you want out of your company. You can’t reach goals you never visualize.

Reaching 100 isn’t easy, and unfortunately, not every business makes it. However, by following some of these tips, your business might just make it to see if hoverboards do, in fact, show up in 2117.

The Stay Interview

When it comes to your employees, you likely conducted interviews on them when you first hired them. If you’ve had employees leave, maybe you’ve conducted exit interviews. But there’s another type of interview that often gets overlooked: the stay interview.

A stay interview? What’s that?

While exit interviews are conducted when an employee leaves to help management get a better understanding of what went wrong or why the employee left, stay interviews give management an idea of how they can help their employees stay with the company.

Stay interviews can help management gain a good understanding of what the company is doing right that makes employees want to stay, but it can also help determine what it is that would cause an employee to leave. This gives management a chance to identify strengths and weaknesses, and to work on improving those before it’s too late.

On top of that, stay interviews can help build stronger relationships within the company, which can ultimately lead to more trust throughout. When employees realize their thoughts and needs are being considered, they are often more likely to have positive attitudes and relationships. Following up on information learned in the interviews can help solidify this.

Stay interviews are also sometimes a better option than other ways to measure employee satisfaction, such as sending out surveys that often get buried in inboxes. Stay interviews provide a two way, face-to-face conversation that allows for questions and dialogue.

What questions should I be asking?

There are many questions you can ask during a stay interview, and often times, these questions depend on your business. If your employees do sales, you might want to ask them about a specific goal or initiative. If you’re in the world of technology, you may find value asking your employees how they feel about the software they’re currently using.

While a lot of stay interview questions can and should pertain to your specific business, there are also common questions that may be beneficial to conducting a worthwhile interview. Some common questions to consider asking include:

  • What keeps you coming back to work here every day?
  • What do you look forward to here?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would it be and why?
  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • What do you want to see from upper level management/staff?
  • What might cause you to leave the company?
  • What can the company do more of for you?

What do I do next?

After you have conducted the interview, it’s helpful to do a quick run through of the employee’s answers to make sure you didn’t miss anything important. You may even notice a pattern of similar answers from different employees.

Once you have a good idea of what needs to change and improve, act on it! The purpose of the interview is to help you help your employees, and to improve employee retention based on the answers you hear.

Stay interviews can be a powerful tool to help you improve work-life for your employees, and to keep them around for years to come. When stay interviews and the information obtained in them are acted on properly, you’re more likely to retain your employees and avoid exit interviews.

An Exit Interview with Jim Ramstad

Jim Ramstad is no stranger when it comes to business. From starting businesses to selling businesses and every step in between, Jim has done it all. After all his time and experience, Jim has decided it’s time for a new path in life – retirement!

Jim has been an important part of our work here at Eide Bailly, and we know his advice and knowledge will be missed. We sat down with Jim to ask him to share some of his thoughts and advice with you, fellow business owners and entrepreneurs.

How long have you worked in the business world?

Altogether, I’ve spent 49 years in the business world, involved in various aspects of business.

How/what made you want to get involved in business?

Growing up and in high school, I never even thought of getting involved in business. In fact, I wanted to be a teacher and a coach. As I grew up, I watched as my dad’s family did very well for themselves in business. As I watched their successes and trials, I became more and more intrigued, and decided it was the right path for me.

If you weren’t in business, what would you be doing?

As mentioned before, I thought about being a teacher and a coach when I was younger. Now looking at it, I think it would be fun to be in politics. Twenty some years ago, I took a personality test that determined the top two areas that would make sense for me career wise. My top two were politician and ambassador, and accountant wasn’t even on the list. I feel like ambassador made sense, and I’ve gotten to do some of that in being an ambassador for other businesses.

How long have you been at Eide Bailly?

I’ve been working at Eide Bailly for 12 years, and I was a client here before I started working here. I’ve always had a connection with the Firm, which has led me to some of the career positions I’ve been in.

What positions have you held prior to being at Eide Bailly and at Eide Bailly?

Prior to being at Eide Bailly, I held many different positions. I’ve been an accountant, controller, CFO, COO and CEO. I’ve also done business development and government relations for a company in which I got to propose a piece of legislation that actually got approved into law in the energy bill.

Here at Eide Bailly, I’ve always worked in business advisory. In 2005, I started working with entrepreneurs to help get their businesses to take off. Throughout this role, I’ve been blessed and fortunate to take my personal experiences in business and apply it to other clients and help them learn from it.

What was your favorite position and why?

I don’t think I could really pick a favorite – I’ve enjoyed them all! I’ve really enjoyed the last twelve years here at Eide Bailly. I’ve enjoyed getting to apply my past experiences while also learning new things from our clients. Although there have been challenges, I’ve found it very rewarding.

What changes did you see take place in the business/accounting world during your tenure?

The biggest and most obvious change I’ve seen is in technology. From everything being completely manual to now being nearly all online and in the cloud, it’s been a total change. When I was 26, I worked with for a trucking company that completed everything manually. I gradually helped introduce them to technology, which was a process. Now, they use technology for everything.

What advice would you offer small to mid – sized businesses just getting started?

Get an advisor. It’s important to find people who are truly and genuinely interested in you and your success, not just in selling you something or getting a fee for the job. Find these people and rely on them – don’t try to do it all on your own.

What will you miss most about Eide Bailly?

The people, hands down. I am also sad that I won’t be around to watch the Possibilities Center grow into a bigger, Firm-wide practice, but I will be paying attention and willing to help if the need arises.

What are your plans after retiring?

I’m going to stay busy. I’m going to use my facilitation skills to start some groups in the FM area, such as mastermind groups and a bible study type group. I always want to continue to be a mentor and resource for Eide Bailly professionals who may need my help. The rest of my time will be spent with family, being a grandpa and a great grandpa.

While Jim isn’t leaving us for a few more weeks, please join us in wishing him well and thanking him for all his hard work and dedication.

Three Components You Can’t Ignore

Like you, your business is alive. But is it thriving? Are you giving it the fuel it needs to grow?

Many components of business require the time of owners, founders and management. And three critical components stand out—accounting, culture and systems. Sure, it’s possible to make money without these, but it can be extremely difficult to grow or reach goals. Surprisingly, these three components are typically ignored or left to chance. Don’t leave your success to chance.

Accounting, culture and systems are equally important, although one might take priority over the other two, depending on your business and its current development stage. But no matter where you’re at, it’s important to be aware of how these three components contribute to your progress.

Accounting

Accounting is usually most ignored by small and beginning businesses. However, we’ve seen many well established, profitable companies that don’t have or can’t produce reliable financials on demand. Without that, management loses all ability to gain valuable information that’s provided in financial statements.

So, why is accounting often ignored? While each business likely has its own, unique reasons, there are some common themes we see. Often times, small businesses just can’t afford to have in house accounting people, so these functions get pushed to the back burner. Another common theme we see stems from lack of understanding. Accounting can be tricky, and when businesses don’t understand their numbers, they often times just ignore them and hope for the best. This can lead to some serious financial issues that, if ignored, can take a business downhill fast.

Culture

Culture is your company’s personality. It’s how your staff interacts with each other and customers. If you don’t identify and define your culture, you can stunt your business’s efforts to grow. For example, one business owner almost completely replaced her staff. Her former staff wanted to keep the “mom and pop” feel. In her long-range planning, which her former staff was part of, they identified strategies for growing the business, complete with revenue targets. It wasn’t until the owner began taking the necessary action to achieve the growth did she realize her staff wasn’t actually on board. Her views of change and growth for the company differed from her staff, which created a cultural nightmare.

It is imperative for everyone to believe and share the company culture. Maybe this means creating policies and procedures that directly align with your company culture, or hosting meetings and events to help your staff understand and adapt to the company culture. However you implement it, culture is too important to ignore – after all, your people are at the heart of your business.

Systems

Proper systems are more than writing down the process. The systems should be both quantifiable and qualified. Quantifiable means it should be set up to measure if things are being done the same way every time, and if the desired results are being achieved. A qualified system is one that’s performed the same way and the way it was written, even if you or management is not present. It should be pointed out that it’s not necessary to systematize your entire business. Focus on areas that create consistent and reoccurring frustrations, are important to the operation and growth of the business and where consistent results are needed.

To sum it all up, all components of your business are important. Your accounting needs, culture and systems and processes are three components that stand out because unfortunately, they are often ignored. By devoting more time, effort and resources into these, you can help your business stay on track for growth and continued success.

*Shameless plug: These three components may seem confusing, scary and downright challenging, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have talented professionals who dedicate their time and skills to helping your business succeed. If you need help, let us know!

Meet the Team: Angie Ziegler

6147What is my role?

My role is to make sure that all business owners feel understood and educated with what the team provides them, whether it be accounting or payroll. I want to make sure business owners understand the information they are being provided so they can make smart, informed decisions about their business. I strive for the team and me to connect with the business owners in order to build a trustworthy relationship.

Why are numbers important for business?

Numbers are a road map! This map is a journey for the business owner to visually see how their risk and rewards play out, and where these decisions might lead them. The numbers allow us to show a business owner the past, present and future of their business, which can help them make better decision for the future.

Why do I want you to succeed?

I enjoy that feeling you get when you walk out of a business and realize they really value the service you provided them.  If they feel success, then so do I!  A lot of business owners don’t understand and/or really struggle with accounting and payroll, so when I can come in and explain it in a different way that makes sense, we all win and feel a sense of accomplishment.  When the payroll makes sense, everything else rolls along smoothly!

#ILoveSmallBiz

I love to see someone take a leap of faith and start a new business (seriously, how cool is it seeing someone chase their dreams?). I find it so rewarding to be a part of that leap of faith and to help them get where they want to be.  I love hearing the stories from our clients that start out in a basement or garage and then move into a large facility. The business owners have such pride in what they do and I enjoy when they share that with me.