40 Under Forty: Winners come from a variety of backgrounds — but all are good sports

2014-02-02T00:00:00Z 2014-08-25T06:22:16Z 40 Under Forty: Winners come from a variety of backgrounds — but all are good sportsBy TOM HOWARD The Billings Gazette
February 02, 2014 12:00 am  • 
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  • I’m pleased to present the winners to the 2014 edition of 40 Under Forty, our annual recognition of top young business professionals. I hope you enjoy reading about our winners as much as I enjoyed getting to know them.

    Not surprisingly, this year's winners represent many professions and come from a variety of backgrounds.

    Those who were selected all have many fine qualities. But one thing that stands out is that they tend to be good sports. Photographer Jim Woodcock will sometimes take them a little bit out of their comfort zone in his quest for a creative photo. For example, Jonathan McNiven deftly spun a basketball on the end of his finger for several minutes while Jim composed his shot and snapped away.

    And Justin Ott didn’t complain when he was asked to curl a 40-pound dumbbell in his right hand while holding a tablet computer in his left.

    When Jim dreamed up an unusual photo involving Gabe Lapito wearing a pair of skis, Gabe didn’t bat an eye. He willingly clicked his street shoes into the bindings, perched on a stool and struck an entertaining pose reminiscent of skier in the middle of a wipe-out.

    According to tradition, the 40 Under Forty winners are photographed in our studio at The Billings Gazette. They're asked to bring in some kind of a prop that illustrates their profession or one of their passions. We made an exemption to that rule this year as one of our winners, photographer Tracy Morgan, has a darn good excuse for not being available. She is on an extended mission to help improve living conditions in Tanzania, Africa, and won’t be back in Billings until sometime in February.

    As usual, the toughest part of 40 Under Forty is selecting the winners from among more than 100 nominees. This year was no exception. If you were nominated but didn't make the cut, please keep us in mind for next year.

  • Saying that Mike Hines grew up tapping on a computer keyboard is no exaggeration.

    “My dad bought a TRS 80 when I was 4 years old, and I messed around with that,” he said. People who know their computer history recognize that particular model as one of the earliest home computers.

    During high school, Hines continued to show a knack for an industry that was exploding in popularity and has fundamentally changed how the world does business and shares information.

    Not only was Hines the first among his circle of friends to buy his own computer, he was also an early user of the Internet.

    Marketing experts classify people like Hines as early adopters because they are on the cutting edge of new ideas and products long before the masses have a clue about what’s going on.

    When teens started spending long hours in front of computer screens, many worried parents responded by yanking the power cord from the wall. But Hines said his parents remained supportive of is high-tech passion.

    “My parents were real encouraging, even though my dad was a little hesitant when he saw me tearing into the computer I had bought,” he said.

    Hines studied computer science during his time in college, but much of the course work concentrated on software applications and writing computer code.

    “I didn’t enjoy the coding that much. My interest was in the hardware or IT side,” he said.

    Hines held a series of technology-related jobs before launching Redline Computers 12 years ago. Redline provides computer repair service, computer sales and other services such as IT service/consulting, managed IT and cloud computing.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: Trial, error, the grace of God, stubborn persistence and constant learning.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Changing roles from a “one man marching band” to “conducting an orchestra” as we’ve grown.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Leadership and delegation are much more difficult than they appear on the surface and create a whole new set of challenges.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Trim out a less-profitable service I was doing and focusing on the more profitable services.

    Who gave you that advice? My father.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Help people learn outside of traditional post-secondary education. Traditional four-year degrees aren’t as essential to success as they were 20 to 30 years ago.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Relationships, both quality and quantity.

    Which living person do you most admire? Dave Ramsey.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Growing the business from a $300 investment and one client to what it is today.

    I’m happiest when I’m… Recreating in the great outdoors.

  • Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Limit screen time to two hours per day. Participate in one hour of physical activity each day. Steer clear of sugary drinks.

    These words of advice are part of Healthy By Design’s effort to make Yellowstone County a healthier, safer place to live.

    Healthy By Design is a community health coalition of Billings Clinic, RiverStone Health, St. Vincent Healthcare and other partners.

    Heather Fink was named the community health improvement coordinator last fall. As part of her duties, Fink facilitates the Community Health Improvement Plan, which is based on the results of the community health needs assessment, a study that aims to improve public health.

    Fink has worked in the nonprofit sector since her college days. “I just always felt it’s where my heart was, to make a difference,” she said.

    Her first job out of college was as a youth director, and she served as communications director for Lutheran Social Services of Iowa.

    “That’s the place where I was introduced to a breadth of social services and health services and understood the array of things that are needed to make our community whole,” Fink said.

    She also worked for the Montana Office of Rural Health and the American Diabetes Association and was the grants manager at St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation before joining Healthy By Design.

    “I guess I really believe in that phrase that it takes a village, not just to raise a kid, but to make a community work,” she said.

    Fink and her husband are in the process of adopting their 9-year-old foster son.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Personalities can be tough, but they also make the work interesting.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Seek to do the right thing, and be humble doing it.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? “Sometimes you have to win tomorrow.”

    Who gave you that advice? David Irion, executive director, St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Assist with access to basic needs for all, including preventive health services and mental health needs.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Positive sustainable outcomes. In the nonprofit sector, many times it isn’t about money, and although heartwarming, it isn’t just about the feel-good stories. It IS about real, measurable change, which yields those great stories as well as sustainable results.

    Which living person do you most admire? My husband, Jason Wintrode. He is willing to help anyone in need, is intelligent, has overcome adversity, and can always make me laugh.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Receiving my master’s degree and then packing up my car and moving to Montana. Next will be parenthood.

    I’m happiest when I’m… outdoors.

  • Antonia Craighill dreams of cupcakes.

    “I keep a little pad and pen next to the bed so I can write it down,” said the owner of Velvet Cravings, a downtown bakery. “Sometimes what I write down is legible and sometimes it’s not.”

    Craighill said some of her more memorable late-night inspirations have been for savory cupcakes, including a spinach and artichoke cupcake with lemon and mascarpone and a tomato basil cupcake. “I did try one that was a jalapeno popper flavor, but I think there’s some tweaking we’ll have to do with that one,” she said.

    Velvet Cravings offers 15 regular flavors of cupcakes. But Craighill is always looking to create new flavors and textures.

    Craighill relies on social media to market her products. When she’s testing a new recipe, she’ll post on Facebook and gather feedback.

    

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today. My first job introduced me to the wonderful art of cake decorating. I realized that my art made people happy, which encouraged me to explore my talents. I enrolled in a Wilton cake decorating class.

    I knew then that this was my calling. Opening a stand-alone bakery became my goal. With his support, encouragement from family and a steadfast dream, we leaped into the restaurant business with Soup and Such in the Heights. From that location, I did all of my baking and started to build a clientele. With help from the Big Sky EDA, friends and family, my dream became a reality in October 2012.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Balancing work and home life. I put a ton of energy and focus into my business. It would be easy to let other parts of my life slide. We have three children, two are under 9 years old. I strive to spend as much time as I can with them, but also run a successful business.

    What did you learn from that challenge? I learned to let go of some things. There is always more work to be done, always another project to start. I have let my family help. My husband is wonderful at pitching in, but my real hero is my 16-year-old daughter, Kaitlyne. She helps out a lot with the kids, but she can also bake, decorate and sell cupcakes. She has such a positive attitude and it helps me get through any challenges that I face.

    What’s the best advice you have received? Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else.

    Who gave you that advice? Dave Ramsey.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: At the end of our day, we “Cupcake Bomb” different places in the community. We have taken cupcakes to the Mission, fire stations, hospitals, police station and other small local businesses. Giving cupcakes brightens smiles, makes people giggle and the enjoyment they have when telling friends that the “Cupcake Lady” dropped off cupcakes.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Blissfully happy customers are most gratifying. Opening Velvet is my dream come true. One day, when baking with my son who is 7, he looked at me and asked “Mom, will you teach me how to decorate cupcakes so when I’m old like you, Velvet will be mine.” Ahh, now that’s success.

    Which living person do you most admire? My husband, Mike Craighill. Without him I wouldn’t be who I am today.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Since taking the Financial Peace class in 2010, our lives have changed. “Changing your family tree” is one of the many mottos that you learn in this class. Following the steps to become debt-free, planning for our future and teaching our children to do the same.

    I’m happiest when I’m... baking/cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the entire family with a whisk in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

  • Some people seem to be destined for entrepreneurship. Tim Dodge, vice president of operations for Clearfly Communications, has been through three business startups over the past 16 years.

    The road has been rocky at times, but Dodge has no regrets about the path he has chosen.

    In 1997 the 20-year-old Dodge dropped out of Montana State University to open Advanced Computer Media, which provided computer support for businesses and included a retail storefront that sold computer systems. But when national chains like Costco and Staples entered the market, ACM’s market dried up almost overnight.

    “You could buy things at Costco cheaper than I could get them from my supplier,” Dodge said. Dodge and his partners liquidated ACM in 1999 and used the proceeds to start an Internet service provider called MultiBand Communications. Their goal was to be the first provider of high-speed Internet service in Bozeman. They also diversified into wireless Internet service.

    The company had several thousand customers in Bozeman and Missoula. But capital was hard to come by in the years after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000.

    “We had strong demand, but we were limited in growth because nobody was offering capital at the time,” Dodge said.

    MultiBand ended up merging with a larger regional company.

    “And that’s where I learned the difference between mergers and acquisition. One guy is always on top, and it didn’t end up working out too well,” Dodge said.

    But Dodge also met his future business partners, Chris Hunter and Cody Lerum, and learned that they shared his business values. With help from new investors, they formed Clearfly, which provides telephone, Internet and wide-area-networking services for small- to medium-sized businesses.

    Clearfly does business in 43 of the nation’s lower 48 states, Dodge said.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? When my partners and I were in the initial fundraising stage for Clearfly, we were all unemployed and living off savings. We had no customers and no investors were committed to funding the company, although we were having discussions with some interested parties. An established company found out that we were attempting to start a company that could compete with them and tried to use the legal system to keep us from ever getting started. They tried to block our certification as an eligible telecommunications company by the Montana Public Service Commission and sent each of us a personal 40-page ‘cease and desist’ letter from a large Denver-based law firm. We didn’t have spare funds to fight a legal battle, and we were also greatly concerned that this would scare off the few potential investors we were working with.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Adversity usually contains the potential for a greater opportunity. After deciding we would risk everything financially to move forward, things changed in our favor. Instead of causing concern among our potential investors, it may have increased their interest. That an established company would attempt to bully three guys in a home office from competing against them in a capital-intensive industry like telecommunications may have been verification that we had a high likelihood of success. With investor support, the legal issues were quickly resolved since they were mostly a bluff to begin with.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Don’t worry about the process of fundraising itself, concentrate on the idea and plan you are fundraising for. A great plan always finds money.

    Who gave you that advice? Jon Noel.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I’d love to start the equivalent of TechShop, or even a franchise thereof, in Billings. The idea of having the latest technology in tools and equipment available for anyone to use at low cost really appeals to me. I think anything that supports innovation happening in Montana is a goal worth pursuing.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? The nature of Clearfly’s day-to-day business presents plenty of “emergencies.” One measure of success is the feedback I receive from customers on how things were handled during their time of need. The second measure would be the constant and never-ending goal of improving the processes used to provide service. Every three months I evaluate the improvements, large or small, that were successful, and then develop a target list of new ideas to implement over the next three months. More often than not, the “little” ideas have the biggest impact.

    Which living person do you most admire? Adrian Newey, chief technical officer and aerodynamicist of the Red Bull Racing Formula One team.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Professionally, it would be assembling the diverse team of individuals needed to create a profitable telecommunications company from an idea and then having the skill and good fortune to make that idea a reality. Without my co-founders, Chris Hunter and Cody Lerum, Clearfly would not have become a successful company. The three of us have completely different personalities and skill sets, but as a team I believe we can be successful in any telecommunications marketplace.

    I’m happiest when I’m… on a river or lake with a clear blue sky surrounded by friends and family.

  • As Billings continues to grow, Stan Barr Jr. sees an expanding role for MET Transit, the city’s bus system.

    MET Transit provides more than 610,000 rides per year, and the para-transit service provides about 54,000 rides per year. Ridership has been on the upswing, in part because routes have been changed to improve service and increase efficiency.

    “We’ve seen increased ridership on the West End, and we’ve added ridership on the South Side,” said Barr, who is operations manager for MET Transit.

    The city’s bus system is safe, reliable and affordable for users, he said.

    “We need to spread the word about MET Transit,” Barr said. “We have a lot of loyal riders who are very dedicated.”

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: After college, I was hired by a company called W.P. Rentals to sell and rent construction equipment. I was fortunate to have excellent mentors to show me how the business operated and guide me to the next level. I was in a management role for approximately four years when I decided to move back to Billings. A position became available with the city that was similar to what I was doing for W.P. Rentals.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Trying to overcome the stigma associated with public transportation. While we do transport many people who do not have access to their own vehicle, our service is for everyone. Riding the MET is incredibly safe and a great way to save wear and tear on your vehicle, reduce traffic, help the environment and meet new people. We have some of the best drivers in the world and I would encourage everyone to take a look at the routes we run.

    What did you learn from that challenge? It’s a constant battle that we can win one person at a time by continuing to offer exceptional service to the City of Billings.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? The idea that your business is only as good as the people you have working with you has always rung true. I believe we have the best group of drivers, dispatchers, mechanics and office personnel in the city. By treating everyone we have here with respect we are able to retain this talent.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Since our business is improving the community, I would like to see some technological improvements with the transit system to help provide additional information to the riders we currently have and draw in some new riders.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Getting passengers to and from their destination in a safe and timely manner. If the MET can get our riders to their doctor appointment or job on time and bring them back safely I feel we have been successful, and obviously the more people we can do that for the better.

    Which living person do you most admire? Both my parents have worked hard to provide for my sister and myself. Without them I would not be where I am today.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? My wife, Rae-an, for letting me marry her, and our newborn son, Ryker.

    I’m happiest when I’m… Watching the Griz play on a Saturday and the Bears play on a Sunday.

  • Billings photographer Tracy Moore has been in Tanzania for the past couple of months, helping to bring clean water to remote villages and to improve education opportunities for African children. She has been working with African Reflections Foundation, a nonprofit that’s dedicated to improving living conditions in Africa.

    On her blog, http://blog.tracymoorephotography.com, Moore shared the following message on Dec. 23. “All I want for Christmas is for these kids to get an education they deserve, among other necessities.” An accompanying photo shows Moore surrounded by about a dozen African children holding school supplies, which are hard to come by in Tanzania. As of Jan. 7, Moore’s Educate Africa page on the gofundme website had raised $9,267 toward a goal of $25,900.

    In another blog post, Moore notes that fishing regulations in Tanzania are a lot different than what Americans are used to.

    “We go out in the sea to fish, and half the time will have no luck because the locals are allowed to dynamite for fish. So you hear a bomb go off, they net in maybe 10 percent of the fish they just killed … then they go sell them to the markets,” she wrote.

    Moore describes herself as a “troublemaker photographer” who prefers to shoot senior portraits and engagement photos at remote locations.

    And in case you haven’t yet gotten the idea that she’s an adventurous spirit, Moore says she has always wanted to don scuba gear, climb into a cage and stare great white sharks in the eye.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: With a lot of support from friends, family, clients and other mentors in this business. Also, a fair share of hard work, thinking differently and some tears too. It’s hard work, but I love it.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? The taking pictures part is easy. It’s actually running the business/legal side of things that are trickier for me. Thanks goodness I hired Steph (my studio manager) two years ago. She is amazing and keeps it all in check.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Don’t be too proud, and don’t be a control freak. It’s OK to let people do things for you to keep you sane.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Do what you love, and don’t be afraid of failing. My dad told me this when I started my business. I found a quote that explains what he said that I love: “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

    Who gave you that advice? My dad, Mike Reynolds.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I want to continue efforts with multiple charities I work with (United Way, Big J Show’s Santa Clause for a Cause, St. Jude’s, and more) to not only improve Billings, but also improve the world.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? By how happy I make others, and how happy I make myself while doing that.

    Which living person do you most admire? Katie Davis. She wrote the book “Kisses from Katie” and left her whole life in the U.S. behind to adopt, help and love many, many children in Uganda. It’s an incredible story, and I love that girl.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Anytime I cross something big off my “Life List,” it’s a huge accomplishment. This year, that was going to Africa, skydiving and winning The Gazette’s “Billings Best Photographer” award.

    I’m happiest when I’m… making someone smile.

  • While growing up in Miles City, Lonnye Finneman thought that a career in the medical field would be a good way to apply his interest in math and science. But it was a visit by University of Montana representative that got him thinking about pharmacy as a career.

    “I shadowed one of the local pharmacists in Miles City. I thought it looked like something I could do, being with patients, while also having a chance to work with math and science,” said Finneman, who is director of pharmacy at St. Vincent Healthcare.

    After completing his degree, Finneman completed a pharmacy residency program at Southwest Washington Medical Center in Vancouver, Wash., and it didn’t take him long to understand the advantages of participating in a residency.

    “New graduates get inundated with knowledge, but there’s not a chance to apply it yet,” he said. “A residency program gives you an opportunity to apply with many different settings so you get a broader picture. And when you’re done with your residency, you’re able to provide so much better patient care, and you get more confidence and experience.”

    Since coming to St. Vincent four years ago, Finneman has spearheaded the development of a pharmacy residency program to help meet the growing demand for post-graduate residency training. St.Vincent started its residency program on July 1, and so far the program is going very well, Finneman said.

    The role of the pharmacist is changing as they work closely with other medical providers.

    “Many people are on so many medications, and sometimes too many.” Finneman said. “Sometimes people don’t know how to take their medications, so it’s a huge role for pharmacists to educate people on how to take their medications and how to be on the right dosage and manage any side effects.”

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Managing the complexity of the healthcare system and making sure the services we offer provide the greatest value to our patients.

    What did you learn from that challenge? It is critical to collaborate and function as a multidisciplinary team.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? “Sometimes you just have to create your own sunshine.” The same mentor also told me early on in my management career that “You have the skills to do the job, you just need to determine if you want to do the job.”

    Who gave you that advice? The first director of pharmacy I worked for. He was a true mentor and continuously encouraged and supported me in my growth as I became a manager early on in my career. He helped instill in me the importance of being positive even if we have to “create our own sunshine.”

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I would like to see clinical pharmacy services expanded in our community so that patients have the opportunity to meet with pharmacists to gain a better understanding of their medications, the importance of knowing their medications and how to take them, and work collaboratively with providers to make sure patients are on the right medications. I also want people to know the resources and support that are available to them and I want to be a part of providing those resources and support to those who are most vulnerable and in need.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Success to me is leaving each day knowing that I did all that I personally could do to make our workplace a better place to work and the care our patients receive the safest and most cost-effective care. If I can make a positive influence in the lives of those around me and inspire someone to want to grow and surpass their goals, I feel I am doing my job.

    Which living person do you most admire? My dad. He has never wanted recognition or glory, but is a selfless, humble man who has made a difference in the lives of many. He is always thinking of others and the first to jump in to help out if someone is in need. I have been extremely fortunate to have him role model to me what it truly means to be a man.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Raising two independent, thoughtful, caring and respectful daughters.

    I’m happiest when I’m… Cuddled in with my family after a long day of work, just enjoying being together … also when the Griz win.

  • Not surprisingly, the Facebook page for the Red Lodge Clay Center features photos of resident artists and their amazing creations.

    But don’t get the idea that these creative folks spend every waking minute toiling away at their potting wheels. You’ll see them gathered at the side of a stream, dressed in waders and holding fishing rods. Sometimes they’re photographed just kicking back.

    Ohio-born Andrea Moon participated in a residency at the Red Lodge Clay Center a few years ago, and that opportunity evolved into a permanent position. As communications and residency coordinator for the center, she plays an important role in connecting resident artists with the community.

    More than 100 ceramic artists display their works at the center. In addition to the residency program, the center holds classes and other programs designed to introduce local residents to ceramic arts. “I came here after doing another residency program that I had completed in Tennessee,” Moon said. “The program here was growing, and they asked me to stay.”

    One benefit of her job is that she also gets to work in the center’s studio, Moon said.

    “It’s in the heart of Yellowstone country, and it’s a beautiful tourist destination,” Moon said. “To be in Red Lodge is kind of a big deal for a young artist. For me moving here, it was exciting to see the energy and to realize what we had in this small community.”

    Moon became interested in ceramic arts when she was in eighth grade.

    “I had an opportunity to shadow a ceramic artist. In high school I did an after-school program and worked as an apprentice,” she said.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: Research, travel, discipline and sacrifice. My life has been a journey of adventure and passion toward my goals in art and education for the arts.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? The balance of long-term and short-term goals. … “Keep your eye on the prize.”

    What did you learn from that challenge? Practice makes permanent.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Invest … Invest in people, yourself, career, colleagues, finances, and family. This creates value and growth in all facets of life.

    Who gave you that advice? No one in particular, but the people around me have always supported and invested their trust in me. Investing in them has made me who I am today.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Have more daylight hours.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Happiness and personal growth.

    Which living person do you most admire? Narrowing it down to one person certainly minimizes the value of all people, of my single mentorships throughout my life and career, so I cannot answer this question adequately.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? My everyday … my perspective toward my career and life as a whole is a continuous personal success, and I feel rewarded consistently.

    I’m happiest when I’m… working in the studio, listening to music, and sipping on a great cup of coffee.

  • Dr. Carrie Neuhardt rejoices whenever a former patient sends her notice of a high school graduation or another significant milestone in life.

    “It’s very exciting, one of the most rewarding things about this field,” said Neuhardt, who is a pediatric hematologist and oncologist at St. Vincent Healthcare.

    As a doctor who treats childhood cancer, Neuhardt often becomes very close to the families of her patients.

    “You are a part of them forever, even families with children who have passed away. This is one of the few fields in medicine where you make that connection,” she said.

    Parents are devastated when they learn that their child has cancer. But the good news is that the overall cure rate for childhood cancer is around 80 percent.

    “We’ve made a lot of advancements, and for certain types of cancer there’s an even better survival rate,” Neuhardt said.

    Neuhardt was in college when her father was diagnosed with cancer.

    “The doctors who took care of him were great, and I think that drove my decision once I got into medical school,” she said.

    Neuhardt had volunteered at a children’s hospital, and that also influenced her decision to go into pediatric medicine.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: I attended medical school in New Orleans, La., then went to Nashville, Tenn., for my three-year pediatric residency. After residency I went to Dallas for a three-year fellowship in pediatric hematology and oncology. I knew before I went to medical school that this is the field I wanted to specialize in and geared my training throughout to gain the most experience with this type of work.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? It is always very difficult to lose a child to a disease despite everything being done.

    What did you learn from that challenge? I learned that my role is more than just treating the disease. My job is helping the child and his or her family through a very difficult process every step of the way. The goal is always a cure, but sometimes that goal becomes altered and transitions to something very different. The importance of offering every family my support, despite having lost children in the past, is a constant reminder that each child and family deserves the best I have to give.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Do what you love. If you love it, then it is no longer work, it is your passion.

    Who gave you that advice? A medical school professor many years ago.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I continue to strive to bring better access to medical care here in our community. By improving access we can provide most care here locally instead of sending children away to a different state for weeks to months at a time. This will ease some of the financial and psychosocial burdens that families face when their child is diagnosed with cancer or a blood disorder.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? By the response I receive from the families I care for. It is incredibly important for me to feel my patients are well taken care of and know they understand what is happening and what to expect.

    Which living person do you most admire? Sheila Moore, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist in Baton Rouge, La. I met her after Hurricane Katrina disrupted my last year of medical school. She took me under her wing and helped me realize what was important and how to get there.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Somehow, I made it through medical school, residency and fellowship with two great kids. I also am so fortunate to have found my passion in a career that pushes me to learn and grow every day.

    I’m happiest when I’m… taking care of children and talking to families.

  • A rebounding real estate market has kept Stockman Bank busy in the Billings market, said Ryan Auer, residential real estate market manager for Stockman.

    The Billings market has rebounded from the recession, with 409 new homes permitted during 2013. That’s the most residential building since the pre-recession year of 2007, when 427 new homes were permitted. But it wasn’t just residential real estate that showed growth. Five hotels broke ground, and 92 commercial projects were permitted by the city, compared to 72 in 2012.

    “We finance a lot of new homes being built,” Auer said. “That program lends itself to my department providing permanent financing.”

    

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: I worked for more than 10 years in San Diego as manager of a commercial escrow department and 1031 tax-deferred exchange division for a large Fortune 500 company. I was born and raised in Billings and with the birth of my now 2-year-old daughter, my wife and I decided to move back to our hometown.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Real estate is a tough business. The toughest challenge I have faced in my role as real estate manager, however, is navigating the complicated chess match of working with 17 personalities, attempting to maximize their varying potentials, and making our mortgage department run like a smooth-sailing ship.

    What did you learn from that challenge? A manager must be firm but understanding, and occasionally take positions that may not be popular, but still benefit the entire team in the long run.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? “Always treat people with kindness, be fair, and always be honest, and you will always succeed in business.”

    Who gave you that advice? Sheri Auer, my mother, the best business person I know.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I would love to put as much time and energy as I can offer to try and revitalize Laurel, where my family resides. I believe Laurel has a lot of potential to be an amazing little town, and with just the right amount of care, fundraising and community service efforts, I would love to spearhead a project to clean up the older “Main Street” area and bring some life back into the historical buildings that line the streets.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? When my team is working well together, and leaving clients with the feeling that they have received the best customer-service experience of their lives, then I feel I have succeeded in my role as real estate manager.

    Which living person do you most admire? Both my father and my mother (a dead-heat tie).

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Learning how to drive my first car with my father’s sage guidance.

    I’m happiest when I’m… Surrounded by my family on a tropical vacation.

  • As manager of information services at Billings Clinic, Justin Ott makes sure a vast array of computers, tablets, phones and other electronic devices work together.

    From a practical standpoint, he reminds people at work that there is no purpose to acquiring technology unless it helps patients. “If they’re not providing value for our patients, why would we you have the technology?” he said.

    Ott’s job keeps him busy. But he also manages to find time to volunteer at Tumbleweed Runaway Program and was named the organization’s volunteer of the year for 2013.

    “I try to assist with their IT needs whenever I can, and they really appreciate it,” Ott said. “I make sure everything is working correctly, so the kids can come in and do school work if they need to.”

    In addition, Billings Clinic donates its old computers to the agency.

    Ott got his start with technology during high school in Reed Point. After attending May Technical College in Billings, he gave the district’s technology a boost.

    “Remember the dial-up Internet? You thought it was slow, but just try sharing it across 30 users,” Ott said. “It was the next evolution at the time. They had never had anything like it before.”

    A few years ago, Ott renewed his commitment to physical fitness largely so he could keep up with his son, who is now 4.

    “If I could figure out how to can some of that energy, I’d be a rich man,” Ott said.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: I was given opportunities and worked very diligently to make the most of those opportunities and provide the best possible service for my organization.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? To constantly strive for excellence in customer service and performance, while being innovative and creative, and always keeping our organization’s focus on the best patient experience.

    What did you learn from that challenge? To keep setting the bar higher and higher — creative thinking, innovation and teamwork make anything possible.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Have empathy and be kind. Treat everyone with respect, as you never know what tomorrow brings.

    Who gave you that advice? My high school principal.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: The programs at Tumbleweed assist our community’s youth and provide them opportunities that they might never receive. Sometimes that opportunity is all that is needed to change one’s life. I will continue to volunteer and support Tumbleweed’s positive youth development throughout my professional and personal career.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? By the happiness and success of my department as a team and our overall impact in the organization’s success.

    Which living person do you most admire? My dad.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? After my son, it would be getting my formal education while in my 30s.

    I’m happiest when I’m… with my family.

  • In 2001, Cory Albin, a football player at Rocky Mountain College, organized “Bears on Bulls,” a fundraiser in which Rocky’s student athletes got a chance to test their skills against real bucking bulls.

    When he became an agent for Farm Bureau Insurance seven years ago, he had a different idea about how his career would pan out.

    “When I started with Farm Bureau, I thought I would be out in the country dealing with a lot of farmers and ranchers,” said Albin, who is from Sidney. “But it turned out a lot of my clients live in town or are just regular 8-to-5 workers. We definitely have ranching clients. But really, it’s a very diverse clientele.”

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today. I wanted to purchase life insurance before my daughter was born, so I went to a local agent. He introduced me to Tom Cunningham, the agency manager in this area, and after a series of interviews and tests, I was given the opportunity to pursue a career with Farm Bureau Insurance & Financial Services. Starting as a scratch agent was difficult during the first few years. My perseverance kept me going through the hard times and has led me to the rewarding career I have today. I could not have done it without the help and support from my family, friends and mentors.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Creating such a great group of clients. I starting with zero clients the first month, so after you visit with your family and friends, who else do you call? There were days when I would sit in my office not having any appointments or anyone to call. With good time management and a hard work ethic, I was able to build a business that I am proud of. I strive to be that person someone can call if they are in an auto accident, something happens to their home, or worst-case scenario, something happens to a loved one.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Having family, friends and mentors to set great examples and show admirable leadership can help you through the toughest times in your life. I also believe that hard work and dedication will always pay off in the end.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? “Someone is always taking your picture” and “Be employed tomorrow.”

    Who gave you that advice? Tom Cunningham.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I would like to continue to educate and help clients with their insurance and financial needs. I would also like to continue contributing to my community when possible.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? The ability to make a difference in my the lives of my clients as well as their satisfaction in the service and products we provide.

    Which living person do you most admire? My parents. They taught me to be ethical, reliable and hard working. I am so thankful for everything they have done to help me get to where I am today.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Being a single dad and watching my daughter grow into a sweet and intelligent little girl. I now look forward to watching her grow into a beautiful young adult with my wife, Bethany. My greatest business achievements are yet to be. I aspire to be a leader within my company as well as my industry. I am a 2014 qualifier for the Million Dollar Round Table, which is recognized internationally as the standard of excellence in the life insurance and financial services business. Most importantly, be the kind of husband and father that my wife and family can be proud of.

    I’m happiest when I’m… traveling and spending time with my friends and family.

  • Finding oil in the Bakken oil play has been compared to hitting a bull’s-eye from 1,000 yards away. You have to drill 10,000 feet below the surface and at some point turn the bit 90 degrees, steering it to a horizontal plane until it hits an oil-bearing formation somewhere between 10 and 20 feet thick.

    At each drilling rig, an onsite geologist analyzes a steady stream of information that comes back from special instruments located 40 to 50 feet behind the drill bit. He then advises the drilling crew where to steer the bit in an effort to stay in the pay zone and maximize the well’s production.

    When you consider that the average Bakken well costs somewhere between $7 million and $9 million to drill, it goes without saying that errors can be costly.

    “If you’re drilling in the Middle Bakken area and you get out of the target window, the shale is sticky and hard, and you can stick the bit in there,” said Casey Anderson, president of Billings-based Brara Geo, a business that provides geologic and hydrocarbon analysis for oil and gas wells.

    Getting the bit stuck in the well bore can easily be a $500,000 mistake. And if the geologist messes up more than once, he ends up getting fired.

    “If we don’t do a good job, it could add substantially to the cost of the well,” Anderson said, adding that his firm has never been fired.

    Anderson, a Billings native, said this is a good location for his company because it’s close to good oil and gas-producing areas such as the Bakken.

    The company has grown to nine employees and Anderson expects the oil and gas industry to remain strong for years to come.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: Hard work, dedication, humility and sacrifice. I basically lived in a fifth-wheel down by the river for a year in my mid-20s to save money and make this possible. It turned out to be a very humbling and rewarding decision. There was obviously more to it than that but that was the key ingredient in making it through my first year of business.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Properly managing growth (personnel/financing).

    What did you learn from that challenge? No matter how big or small it will always be an issue. You must be diligent in your decision making and not let greed or others’ wants and needs deter you from staying the course of properly managing your business.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.

    Who gave you that advice? Charlie Hoefle.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Be a part of building a new community center that gives the youth somewhere to go and something to do that is healthy and productive. I want to help build character, teamwork and leadership skills that are invaluable.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Relationships. To me business is all about relationships with the two main focus points being loyalty and trust. If you can be a person of integrity and gain people’s trust and be loyal to your associates, win or lose fiscally, you know you represented yourself well and if another opportunity presents itself you or your business will again be considered.

    Which living person do you most admire? My wife. She is the backbone to everything I do and am, and I would not be here if it were not for her continuing love and support.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Having employees. Being able to provide others with work and provide a stable employment environment in which they can provide for themselves and their families is very rewarding.

    I’m happiest when I’m… Fly-fishing.

  • Spencer Frederick is the kind of person who takes advantage of opportunities whenever they come his way.

    After a distinguished high school sports career in Scobey, Frederick earned a spot on the University of Montana football team and was a key contributor in the Grizzlies’ 15-1 national championship team of 2001.

    “It was a big eye opener for me. From being a big man on campus in high school to playing in college, you get humbled pretty quickly,” Frederick said.

    During a productive career with the Grizzlies, Frederick was named first-team All Big Sky Conference tight end in 2001. He even got a taste of pro football as a walk-on for the New Orleans Saints. But injuries prevented him from catching on in the pros.

    After his football career ended, Frederick moved to Chicago, where he worked for a Fortune 500 company. 

    “I was there two years, and I knew it wasn’t the place where I could buy a house and get married,” Frederick said. “I decided I was ready to get back to Montana. All of my buddies had either moved out of state or had moved to Billings, so I chose Billings.”

    Frederick began working at Yellowstone Bank in 2006 and was happy there. But opportunity came knocking once again.

    Wayne Nelson, Billings market president for Stockman Bank, called Frederick to tell him Stockman was looking for somebody to manage its new branch at Grand Avenue and 14th Street West.

    Frederick accepted the offer, and so far things have been going well since the branch opened last spring.

    It’s a good location,” Frederick said. “A number of banks had looked at building in that mid-city area. There are a lot of commercial businesses on Grand Avenue, and we’re servicing a lot of Stockman customers.”

    The Stockman Bank branch on Grand Avenue is a full-service bank. “It’s nice to go into a branch and talk to somebody who has decision making abilities,” Frederick said. “We can do commercial loans or a 30-year home loan. It’s a one-stop shop.”

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Managing my time between my profession and family life.

    What did you learn from that challenge? I’ve learned how to prioritize.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Change is a good thing. Embrace it.

    Who gave you that advice? Wayne Nelson.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Continue to help the city bike trails expand.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Customer satisfaction and customer retention.

    Which living person do you most admire? My mom.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? 2001 Football National Championship – University of Montana.

    I’m happiest when I’m… in the mountains with my family.

  • In a highly competitive financial services market, institutions are constantly prospecting for credit-worthy customers.

    Kevin Rookhuizen, vice president of sales and marketing for Billings Federal Credit Union, says credit unions work to provide competitive rates for a variety of products, such as loans, credit cards and deposit accounts.

    “But our business allows us to look at more than a customer’s credit score,” Rookhuizen said. “There are scenarios where a customer may have a low credit score. We have the time and business model that allows us to peel back the layers and find out why a credit score is the way it is. This creates an opportunity to create a lending relationship and set a course to righting the ship.”

    Within a few months, the customer usually sees his credit score improve, and that opens up new opportunities to consolidate debts or provide other services, Rookhuizen said.

    “We say yes to a lot of people,” even though they were turned down previously by other financial institutions, Rookhuizen said.

    “We have a number of testimonials where people came to us and we gave them a chance, and they’re truly appreciative for that,” he said. “It’s neat to make that kind of a difference.”

    Many people might not realize that you don’t need to belong to a certain employment group in order to be a member of a credit union.

    “We are a community credit union that serves anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Yellowstone, Carbon or Big Horn counties,” Rookhuizen said.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: Having a goal-oriented mindset, a little bit of luck and being at the right place at the right time.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Rolling out new products/services and executing strategies that allow us to truly differentiate and remain relevant in a highly competitive industry.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Stay focused and do not give up. Not every product roll out or marketing campaign will be a complete success. But I always learn something through the process and hopefully use those experiences to make more educated decisions moving forward.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Be patient, open-minded and persistent and get your education. You will never regret it.

    Who gave you that advice? A combination of family, friends and co-workers.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Better educate our community to the importance of establishing a savings plan and how to improve and/or maintain a good credit score.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Happy, productive and engaged employees.

    Which living person do you most admire? Stan Simmons.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Having a great career in a field I am passionate about.

    I’m happiest when… I’m traveling with my wife and spending time with family and friends.

  • Kevin Lundin has never performed in a circus. But when you have a job like his, there’s always lots of juggling.

    “I’ll spend a couple of months bidding projects and then get ready to break ground in the spring. Right now I have about five jobs that I’m juggling, and two jobs that we’re starting, so the phone is always ringing and I’m trying to keep up with emails,” said Lundin, who is vice president of design for Eggart Engineering and Construction.

    Lundin says no day is ever the same at his job, which usually involves a heavy dose of problem solving and working to meet the expectations of owners and contractors.

    “You’ve got to be on your toes and be willing to jump in and figure out issues that arise,” Lundin said. “A lot of time is spent on the job site, dealing with any issues that come up, and then it’s on to the next site. Then you get back to the office and, on top of that, you’re managing people in the office and having them help you resolve the day-to-day things that need to be done.”

    Lundin has long had an interest in design and construction. While he was in high school, he did an internship at Harrison G. Fagg and Associates and studied architecture at Montana State University. He left MSU before graduating, and went to work as a draftsman at CTA Architects Engineers.

    Like many in his field, Lundin takes pleasure in seeing a project progress.

    “Our company puts up a lot of steel buildings. They go up very fast. It’s rewarding to see things go from a dream to paper to reality,” he said.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: A contractor is only as good as his ability to manage subs. Attention to detail and a lot of time spent on the job site is the only way to be successful in this business. You can’t run a project from the office.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? It’s a challenge to maintain a high standard of customer service and quality craftsmanship while still meeting budget requirements and deadlines on every project.

    For example, when we built Grace Montessori, the project would have never broken ground had we not been able to pick and choose line items from the budget to keep and cut. Sometimes it can be very difficult to separate wants from needs and necessities. At the end of the day, every penny counts.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Setting expectations is so important. A lot of sales people like to promise everything under the sun then underdeliver. We do the opposite and try to manage client expectations from the first meeting to the final move in.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Treat everyone with respect. My mom always told me you can tell more about a person by the way they treat their employees than the way they treat their peers.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Billings is growing quickly when compared to the rest of the state. I love seeing high-quality buildings erected, and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of the growth and design of the place where I grew up. Billings is thriving, and I love providing local businesses with facilities in which they can grow and prosper.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? The most important aspect of this business is making sure the client is overjoyed at the completion of their project. Customer service is key in the construction industry.

    We want our clients to keep coming back. We send out post-construction surveys after every building is done. Getting these back and reading positive reviews always brightens my day.

    On the flip side, constructive criticism and negative reviews help us improve the process and correct issues in the future.

    Which living person do you most admire? Bruce Lundin.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Moving up from a drafter to a project manager and vice president of a company without earning a college degree.

    I’m happiest when I’m… hunting and fishing.

  • Lots of kids go through high school with no goals, no ambitions, no plans. Not Patti Stanfill. She saw her future career come into focus at about the time she was old enough to drive.

    “I took my first accounting class when I was a sophomore,” Stanfill said. “We had to do a business from start to end, and all of the stuff in between. I fell in love with it. I just liked the whole process, seeing it all come together. Something just clicked.”

    Stanfill kept her focus throughout college and during lengthy study sessions as she prepared for the CPA exam.

    “Oh, yes. It was a lot of work. I read lots of books and did a lot of test questions, over and over,” Stanfill said, describing her preparation for the CPA exam.

    The long hours of study paid off for Stanfill, who has been with Ortt & Co. CPAs Inc. for 16 years. That includes eight years as an employee, four as a partner and four years as sole owner of the business.

    QuickBooks, the popular accounting software, has been touted as a savior for businesses. But Stanfill advises caution.

    “QuickBooks actually makes our job harder,” Stanfill said. “They advertise that with QuickBooks, you don’t need an accounting background to use it. But unless you have somebody with an accounting background to set it up, it can be a real nightmare. We spend a lot of our time fixing it and making it work.”

    Tax time is the busy season in the accounting profession. Just keeping up on new IRS regulations can be time-consuming.

    Stanfill also has some advice for people who are asking for help filing their taxes. Having adequate, well-organized records saves time and money.

    “We also advise our clients to write out their questions for things they’re interested in or have heard about,” she said. “We do a lot of tax planning ,and we want to know when people are changing jobs, getting married or having kids. Every life event affects your tax return, and we try to find out as much as we can.”

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: Lots of support from my husband and kids, hard work, long hours and determination.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Balancing home and work, and trying to leave work at work.

    What did you learn from that challenge? That my husband and kids are awesome and supportive.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Be honest, and you can never know it all. But, you can surround yourself with several people who have knowledge in the areas you are lacking.

    Who gave you that advice? Bryant Ortt.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Improve/build more parks, improve/expand on recycling with easy options.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Thanks from clients. They often send notes or call up thanking us. It’s nice to hear from employees being happy with their positions and excited to come to work.

    Which living person do you most admire? My dad.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Owning my own business and three terrific kiddos.

    I’m happiest when I’m… playing/relaxing with my family.

  • When you bake bread for a living, it means waking up before the chickens in order to get fresh products on the shelf in time for the morning breakfast crowd.

    Bryan Layton, owner of Great Harvest Bread Co., has put in countless early-morning shifts during eight years of running the made-from-scratch bakery at 907 Poly Drive. Even though Layton’s time at the oven has dwindled as his management responsibilities have grown, he still takes enjoyment from the hands-on aspects of running a bakery.

    Like many new college graduates, Layton landed a corporate job after graduating from Weber State University. “I did that for about 3-1/2 years, and it was OK, but it was just a big corporation telling me what to do in my area, so I started looking for something else to do,” Layton said.

    He began asking a friend, a business owner, for advice on what it would take for him to start his own business. Among other things, the capital requirements for running a business seemed daunting at the time. A few months later, the friend called back to say he was looking for a partner to run a Great Harvest Bakery in Pocatello, Idaho.

    The Laytons operated the Idaho bakery for two years, then moved to Billings when that Great Harvest franchise became available. The business, a franchise of Dillon-based Great Harvest Bread Co., has been on a roll ever since. Layton said the store, located on a busy street in an established residential neighborhood, is a local neighborhood hangout. Lots of kids stop by for a free bread sample after school. It’s also a destination for people who are planning to buy bread or sit down for lunch.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: Just a determination to make things work. I actually care about the experience and products our business provides. It takes a lot of hard work, blessings from above and sometimes dumb luck.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Rapid growth. With continuous growth, we have to constantly change. We have to employ and train more people, change shifts, change responsibilities, keep up with inventory, stay consistent with customer service and product quality and in the end make sure we have a bottom line.

    What have you learned from that challenge? I’ve learned to adapt, to appreciate good employees and give them more responsibilities, to adjust our systems and new employee training to be more efficient and contain better detailed information.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? To look forward to new employees. I still struggle with it, but really, what choice do I have? You either embrace it and enjoy the process and new personalities or you don’t enjoy work every day.

    Who gave you that advice? The owner of the Great Harvest in Idaho Falls during our first year as owners.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I think overall we have a good community. We have the same problems as many other places have and struggle with. It can be overwhelming when thought of such a large scale, but I heard a good theory from Stephen R. Covey, who says that our circle of worries is much larger than our circle of influence. We should concentrate on our circle of influence to make a difference.

    For me that isn’t a very big circle, but maybe one of these days I’ll get my kids to listen to me.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? When I first moved here and was out running errands around town wearing my Great Harvest T-shirts, people would often stop me and say “Oh, you’re the place on Grand,” or something similar, referring to another business in town. Now when I’m out and about I am constantly stopped by people who see my shirt and say things such as “I love your cinnamon swirl bread” or “Your employees are so nice.” To me, these are the best measures of success.

    Which living person do you most admire? My father.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Supporting a family by way of a business that we starting without any financial help. My wife and I followed through and paid for our educations, scrounged up anything we could sell to get a start and worked hard to accomplish our goals to get to where we are today.

    I’m happiest when I’m … Busy improving something.

  • When he’s not working for Charter Communications, Jonathan McNiven runs his own business developing websites for small communities in the Billings area. On top of that, the married father of four also represents House District 44 in the Montana Legislature.

    And sometimes he even pitches in to help out with his parents’ business, Western Romance Co.

    McNiven’s constituents include many residents of Lockwood, the unincorporated area just east of Billings that’s wrangling with growth and infrastructure issues.

    “I go to a ton of meetings where they’re trying to figure out how to make Lockwood a better place to live,” he said. “I feel my job is to spotlight all of the good things going on. I’ve tried to be a voice in that I can help the people get informed about everything, and I encourage them to get involved.”

    McNiven developed the website www.huntleyproject.net because he saw a need to create a forum to publicize local businesses and community events. The Huntley website gets more than 100,000 page views per year, he said.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: I started my employment in May of 2007 as a regular customer care representative for Bresnan Communications after moving back to Montana. Over the years, I also supported our customers as a bilingual agent before I achieved the level of an advanced customer care agent. I applied for the position of a team lead and have been in my current position since March of 2009.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Not allowing escalated calls to get personal and having confidence in my decisions in focusing on a resolution.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Over time, I’ve learned how to sit back, relax and take a broad approach to each situation. After listening to the customer and reviewing the account, I try to find a win-win resolution. Explaining my decision in a calm tone and the reasoning while having confidence in my decisions.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? It’s easier to catch flies with honey than it is with vinegar. I have a long way to go on this advice, but I keep getting better each year.

    Who gave you that advice? My mother.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Continue to improve the good information circulating online and help provide an online resource for the communities in which I associate.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Being dependable, ethical and helping the greater cause while providing the necessities of life for my family.

    Which living person do you most admire? My wife, Tana, is the one I most admire as she is the one who influences and helps me become a better person because of who she is. She is a loving, organized, forgiving, encouraging, thoughtful, selfless, ethical, supportive, reliable, responsible person.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? My family, not easy but worth it.

    I’m happiest when I’m… fishing and spending time outdoors with the family.

  • When he got his first computer, Adam Hanel wasn’t content to simply play games or type up his homework. The curious 9-year-old disassembles the machine to see how it worked.

    “I had it torn apart, and every part was on the kitchen table. I remember my dad coming home, and when he saw me, he wasn’t happy at all,” Hanel said. “I got a stern talking to, but it worked when I put it all back together.”

    That first computer had a 20-megabyte hard drive, ran on a 286 processor and likely used MS DOS as its operating system, Hanel recalls. It’s a dinosaur by today’s standards. But in those days, it provided hours of entertainment for a young boy, and it helped spark an interest in technology that he turned into a career.

    Hanel attended two years at Montana State University Billings and finished his degree at Rocky Mountain College. He worked in School District 2’s technology department for seven years, then moved on to Eide Bailly, an accounting and consulting firm, where he is senior network engineer and client service manager.

    Working in the fast-changing technology field is often compared to the story of the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass” — “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

    “You have to keep on top of it. There are a lot of training sessions that our vendors provide,” Hanel said.

    One recent training opportunity focused on ransomware, an insidious type of virus that encrypts files on an infected computer. The victim is usually ordered to pay some kind of ransom or the computer’s files will be wiped clean.

    

    What’s the toughest challenge in your business? Being recognized as more than a tax and audit business. I’ve always thought that Eide Bailly Technology Consulting is one of the best-kept secrets in Billings. Spread the word.

    What did you learn from that challenge? I’ve learned to not be timid in talking to others about the awesome ‘nerdy’ things we get to work on.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? “Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time.” Seems odd, but it was the right advice at the right time.

    Who gave you that advice? My dad. I remember him giving me this advice because I was super nervous to meet the CEO of our company as part of my interview process. Before the interview my dad reminded me that our CEO was just a regular guy, even if he had a different set of responsibilities.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I’ve always wanted to start an open-air theater that operates on the weekends in Pioneer Park during the summer. Classic movies and food provided farmers-market style from local vendors for all generations in Billings to enjoy.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Relationships. Success is all about the relationships. Projects can run ahead or behind budget.

    Which living person do you most admire? I most admire my dad. He’s taught me that in life you have to give, not take. He’s set a great example of how to serve our community.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Our two kids.

    I’m happiest when… my feet are in the sand or on a mountain top.

  • Lance Lanning says the work of Provision International, a worldwide Christian ministry of outreach, can be distilled into a few simple tasks.

    “We meet the needs of the less fortunate. We are committed to networking resources to serve people in areas of great need,” Lanning said.

    Provision International took root in 2001 when founders Dick and Anita Larson were on a short mission trip to Eastern Europe. After witnessing the extreme hardships that local people were enduring, the Larsons decided to begin gathering used medical equipment from American medical facilities. The equipment was placed on pallets and shipped to hospitals and clinics in underserved countries.

    Lanning joined Provision International in 2004, and his mission trips proved to be an eye opener.

    “We saw kids crawling out of the gutter, and that’s when we decided that kids can’t eat an anesthesia machine,” Lanning said. “We decided that we would do whatever we can, like providing food, to help people.”

    Provision International relies on 83 volunteers to help the organization fulfill its mission. Recently, volunteers organized a shoe drive to help underprivileged people.

    Lanning, a star athlete at Havre High School, was named the Gatorade Circle of Champions Montana High School Football Player of the Year in 1993. He was highly recruited to play college football, but became disillusioned with sports and fell into bad habits.

    “I learned that sports aren’t going to make you happy. I was walking around laughing on the outside but dying on the inside,” he said.

    Lanning said he turned his life around with help from friends who were involved in campus ministry at the University of Montana Western in Dillon. After college, Lanning frequently spoke at high schools, cautioning students about the dangers of bullying and drug abuse. Meanwhile, Larson had become familiar with Lanning’s work, and asked him to join Provision International.

    Lanning has found a rewarding career by helping others. He met his future wife, Miska Magdadiova, while on a mission trip to Slovakia in 2004. In 2011, he became president of Provision International after the Larsons decided to step aside.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Building a support team. Seeing people in great need and only being able to help some of them is another.

    What did you learn from that challenge? That God is truly in control.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Be honorable and do the right thing.

    Who gave you that advice? Joe Morstein.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I want to continue to develop meaningful relationships.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? The personal satisfaction that I’m giving it my best effort and hoping that I’m making a difference in other people’s lives. Loving the people that God puts in my pathway. Love can be expressed not only in words, but even more importantly, in actions.

    Which living person do you most admire? My wife, Miška.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? My family.

    I’m happiest when I’m… with my family on vacation.

  • As the youngest of 13 children to be raised on a farm in northeastern Montana, Nathan Haynie didn’t anticipate much of an opportunity to someday take over the farm.

    He decided to go to college, and after earning a bachelor’s degree in plant science from Montana State University, he continues to work in agriculture.

    “I started with internships and entry-level jobs as an applicator,” Haynie said. “I started building relationships and developed leadership skills and moved my way on up.”

    Haynie is an agronomist and area manager for Crop Production Services Inc. The company provides fertilizer, seed, chemicals and other products that farmers use to boost yields.

    Montana’s agricultural producers have enjoyed an era of relative prosperity over the past decade. Last year’s wheat crop was valued at more than $1 billion. Cattle prices remain strong, and Montana farmers have turned to several new crops to diversify their earnings.

    As area manager, Haynie’s territory encompasses Montana and Wyoming, but he and his field men concentrate on parts of the states where agriculture dominates.

    “We focus a lot on the Golden Triangle around Great Falls and the Yellowstone Valley and the Bighorn Basin in Wyoming,” he said.

    Montana has never been a major producer of corn. But new varieties of seed are providing opportunities for Montana farmers to raise dryland corn.

    “Demand for corn over the past four years has been astronomical, and we’re seeing more acreage as a result,” Haynie said.

    During an earlier era, dryland farmers often left half of their acreage fallow each year, meaning that each plot was planted every other year. The fallow acreage was tilled regularly to reduce weeds.

    Now herbicides are used to control weeds, and many dryland farmers also plant peas, lentils and other pulse crops as part of a rotation.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? The weather and the rising cost of agriculture inputs in a tough and unpredictable market and economy.

    What did you learn from that challenge? To value my employees and be available day, night and weekends to deliver product when the farmer is ready to hit the field. I try to stay on top of the ever-changing products, and educate farmers with alternative options of inputs. I also learned to give one-on-one attention and understand the grower’s individual needs and budget.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Qualify yourself to do everything you expect your employees to do.

    Who gave you that advice? My father-in-law.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Agriculture is such a large part of our local and national economy. I’d like to help educate our young people to better understand what it takes to put food on the table, the impact of agriculture, as well as the opportunities it holds.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Gaining the trust and loyalty of our farmers and their families with their livelihood and seeing a farmer succeed beyond their own expectations.

    Which living person do you most admire? My father-in-law, Steve Page.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? I was able to purchase a piece of my father’s original farm. It’s a place where I can take my family and teach our children the value of hard work.

    I’m happiest when I’m… with my wife, Sally, and our children, Noah and Haylie.

  • More and more, the way to do business in the 21st century is to get your head in the cloud.

    No, we’re not talking about spending long hours daydreaming like Walter Mitty.

    Cloud computing involves moving certain information technology functions such as data storage and even some applications into the cloud, a vast array of servers located in remote sites.

    Michelle Jackson of Billings, market development manager for the telecommunications company CenturyLink, says more businesses have grown to understand the advantages of working in the cloud.

    “It’s exciting to see where the cloud is going,” Jackson said. “More businesses are moving their entire networks to the cloud, and from a cost perspective, it makes sense.”

    Rather than investing in servers and other equipment that will likely be obsolete in a year or two, it makes sense to move functions to the cloud, Jackson said.

    Before going to work for CenturyLink, Jackson worked in the Officie of Political Practices in Montana. That agency will often spend months investigating complaints about campaigns or candidates. By contrast, Jackson enjoys the fast pace of working for a technology company.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? As the market development manager, I face the challenge of managing a large territory that encompasses Eastern Montana and Wyoming. Each local community is unique and the marketing tactics that may work in one particular community may not always work in another community. It is my goal to put together effective localized marketing plans that will make an impact in each local community.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Over the past few years, I have learned that working closely with the local employees in each community is of the utmost importance in order to put together a successful marketing plan. Being in the trenches with the local teams makes all of the difference.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Always give people a second chance in business. If you end up having a fallout with someone, make the effort to reach out to him or her later. You never know what kind of business relationship you may end up developing with that person.

    Who gave you that advice? Jeremy Ferkin, the VP/GM for CenturyLink over the states of Montana and Wyoming.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I would like to provide the Billings Public School district with the most up-to-date and available technologies for the classroom. Technology is going to continue to play a crucial role in the workforce. Providing children with technological hands-on experience will only help strengthen our community and future workforce.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? This question can be answered in one word: Relationships. Every successful public relations and marketing professional understands the importance of relationships. In order to help a business build and grow a positive image within a community, one must develop key relationships within that community.

    Which living person do you most admire? Richard Branson. He started his business from his basement and grew it into what it is today. Along the way he has built up and empowered many other entrepreneurs to start their own successful businesses.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Being a mom. It may sound cliché, but family really is one of the most important things to me in life.

    I’m happiest when I’m… collaborating with a group of like-minded professionals to come up with a creative solution to any given problem. I love working with a group that is not afraid to develop creative and innovative ideas. Working with a team where the sky is the limit is refreshing and empowering.

  • Doug Enderson, a transportation engineer for DOWL HKM, designs highways for a living and is no stranger to drivers’ complaints.

    “Everybody is a traffic engineer when they’re driving,” he said. “That’s the fun part about it, getting to solve some of the traffic problems.”

    Enderson managed the design for the Rimrock Road expansion in Billings. He’s currently managing the design for the reconstruction of Highway 200 between Sidney and Fairview, and he has assisted in traffic design for the highway upgrade between Laurel and Rockvale.

    Enderson excelled in math and science while attending Skyview High. Engineering seemed like a natural path, and he’s glad that he attended Montana State University.

    “When I was in high school, MSU was ranked fifth or sixth nationally for engineering. It’s relatively inexpensive, and they have top-notch teachers,” he said.

    Enderson became interested in transportation while completing his degree in civil engineering. He worked as a transportation engineer in Arizona for five years but always wanted to return to Montana, and was hired by DOWL HKM, where he had done internships during college.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today. I have been blessed with excellent mentors who have constantly challenged and encouraged me to continue to develop as an engineer and as a person. Their mentoring and my commitment, dedication and extra efforts have led to where I am today.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Leading and managing a team of coworkers to develop high-quality products efficiently.

    What did you learn from that challenge? I was advised early in my career that to be successful in this profession, I need to be able to lead myself before leading others. I learned the true meaning of that advice from that challenge.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? As consulting engineers, we have no other reason to exist than to serve our clients. There are so many other aspects to consulting, but that thought captures the heart of our business. I try to remember that statement when I get caught up in the day-to-day struggles that we endure.

    Who gave you that advice? Ed Vick, co-founder of my previous employer, Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Encourage others to volunteer. There are so many boards, commissions, clubs and community service organizations that benefit from the dedication of individuals. The time commitment is generally minimal compared to the benefit the community receives.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Developing relationships and gaining the trust of clients, co-workers and colleagues.

    Which living person do you most admire? My father. Dad is the handyman of handymen, never hesitates to help a friend or family member, and never expects anything in return. He is caring, compassionate and supportive and has a relaxed confidence that is second to none. I can only hope to be half the man he is someday.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Realizing that there is nothing I can’t learn.

    I’m happiest when I’m… with my wife, kids and dog on the bank of a stream or lake wetting a line or throwing rocks.

  • Andy Kautz taught elementary school after graduating from Montana State University Billings. Like many teachers, in 2005 he began working on the side to bring in extra money. But as the years progressed, the landscaping business he started began occupying more of his time.

    “Pretty soon I had to make a choice, and I decided to go with landscaping,” he said.

    After running A&E Curbing and Landscaping for a seven years, an opportunity to expand came Kautz’s way. In 2012, the long-established local business, Sylvan Nursery and Landscaping, came up for sale.

    “I was there looking at a vehicle they had for sale,” Kautz said. “I started chit-chatting with the previous owners, and about 20 days later, we were signing the papers.”

    Kautz continues to operate both A&E and Sylvan Nursery’s landscaping businesses. But the two businesses may eventually merge to simplify bookkeeping and reduce confusion for customers, he said.

    Running a nursery, greenhouse and landscaping business requires careful planning. Sylvan Nursery has already begun planting in anticipation of the spring gardening season, which hits its peak around Mother’s Day. Typically, he orders Christmas trees in July.

    “We used to have a down time, but that has disappeared,” Kautz said. One advantage of owning the greenhouse is that it provides opportunities for diversification.

    “We want to adapt and have a few gift items for sale, and we just started selling cut flowers out of a cooler,” Kautz said. “We don’t want to be just a seasonal business.”

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: Lots of hard work, help and support from family and friends.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Trying to balance work and family.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Still working on that.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Shoot for the stars, but set goals to get there. Expect delays and bumps along the way.

    Who gave you that advice? It’s something that I’ve personally learned along the way.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Establish more green space, parks, and conserve water.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? The smiles on the face of customers.

    Which living person do you most admire? The person who is out there working 60 hours a week to support their family.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? My wife and children.

    I’m happiest when I’m… able to take off and spend a week at Disneyland with my family.

  • Regina Demis says she was drawn to the nonprofit sector because she wanted to work for an organization that makes a difference.

    After earning a master’s degree in nonprofit management at Regis University in Denver, she worked in the private sector for a short time. But she felt the need to work for a nonprofit.

    Demis has held a variety of positions at the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch, which provides mental health services for youth and families, both in a psychiatric residential treatment facility and in a variety of community-based programs. “Basically, I get to help share the success stories on the things we do for families,” she said.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: I had a cousin who was involved in a serious car accident and suffered a head injury and became a paraplegic when I was little, thus my family became active in nonprofit work and fundraising. I later went to college and became the fundraising chair for my sorority for three years and then decided I would look for a graduate program in nonprofit management, as I discovered at that time I had a passion in connecting people and providing service to others. In addition, it is those people who I came across in my journey of the nonprofit world that have helped me to get to where I am today; those who have mentored me and to be the person I am today.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Not being able to provide care to youth and their families who are in need of mental health services due to blocks in health care funding or location of services.

    What did you learn from that challenge? I have learned that I do help the ones I have contact with no matter if it is in a work or personal setting. I try to take advantage of “the moment” to make an impression and support our youth, our future, by being positive, listening and being real with them. I strive to help bridge other organizations, businesses and individuals to partner to be solutions and to be aware of their mental health as well as others they surround themselves with. Most importantly, I try and challenge both youth and adults to take action to be involved in their community.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

    Who gave you that advice? My father.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Provide free mental health assessments/screenings and continuous counseling.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? When a youth contacts YBGR after being discharged to let us know one of our staff members has made a difference in his life or he is doing well by making good choices and using coping skills to get through the challenges of life.

    Which living person do you most admire? My fiancé, he has provided our country protection with integrity, belief in our God and strives every day to be a better person while standing up for his values. He continues to support me and encourages me to reach my goals.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Organizing, coordinating and raising enough money for an entire hardwood floor and tile to be installed in the large dining room area of the Bozeman Senior center.

    I’m happiest when I’m… cooking a meal for friends and family.

  • Plunking a first-time teacher from Glendive into one of the roughest high schools in Anchorage, Alaska, could have been a recipe for disaster. But Megan Kongaika has fond memories of her two years as an educator.

    “I’m so glad that I was a teacher,” she said. “Everybody should spend time in the classroom. It gave me an inside look into the public education system, and it’s going to equip me for the rest of my life.”

    Family matters brought Kongaika back to Montana. But her return also provided an opportunity to follow through on a longtime desire, to complete a master’s degree in public relations from Montana State University Billings.

    “I’ve always been really interested in people and their stories, and I’ve always been super comfortable around people. My mom thought I should go into PR,” she said.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today. Nowadays, every day is different. One day I’ll be in an operating room with a camera guy, another day I’m learning about cardiac MRIs, and the next I’ll be driving around Jordin Sparks before the Billings Clinic Classic. I often think to myself, “Who knew studying Shakespeare would land me this gig?” Moral of the story, let your passion dictate your career, not your learned skills.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? I’m an English major surrounded by people who practice the incredibly complex science of medicine. Part of my job is to translate much of that information to the general public, sometimes in as little as two sentences on Facebook, and always in a way that factors in the human element. That means that on a daily basis I fluctuate from feeling incredibly dumb to fairly competent (and back) in a matter of minutes.

    What did you learn from that challenge? I think people look smarter when they have the confidence to openly admit when they don’t understand something. I’m comfortable stepping out of my comfort zone now, and it’s opened up some amazing opportunities.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Always take the high road. People will remember that before they’ll remember whether you were right or wrong. I think about that all the time when I’m having a “Check yourself before you wreck yourself” moment.

    Who gave you that advice? LynAnn Henderson, who’s been a mentor of mine for years.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I’m a firm believer that in order to improve things, we need to start by looking at what’s working really well before we try to reinvent the wheel. This kind of positive deviance is something that we do here at Billings Clinic, and it would be fun to implement it on a community level with some of the service organizations and other not-for-profits around town.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? When I drive home at the end of a work day I want to feel like I’m making a difference. When I left teaching, I told myself that any job I took from then on had to give me that same feeling. To me, that’s the measure of success.

    Which living person do you most admire? My 2-year-old son. Before his arrival, my life was full of fun. Now it’s full of joy. He taught me the difference.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Working full time, getting married, getting pregnant, getting my master’s degree and turning the big 30, all in the same year. That was a big year for me. I have a supreme respect for women who do it with kids in tow or without a spouse to help pick up some of the slack.

    I’m happiest when I’m… Surrounded by family and friends.

  • A woman was bloodied and choked to unconsciousness by her domestic partner. But with support from Gateway House at the YWCA, the victim ended the abusive relationship, and with help from her case manager, she landed a new job and is now in a healthy relationship.

    Gateway House, which provides assistance for women and children who are victims of domestic or sexual abuse, reports dozens of similar success stories every year. Erin Lambert, Gateway’s program manager, said it’s rewarding to work for an organization has had such a positive influence on the community.

    “We have a lot of gals who have gone on to be very successful,” Lambert said. “There is just something about knowing that you can help somebody.”

    Lambert started volunteering at Gateway House while attending Montana State University Billings. The former Lewistown resident, a dedicated bookworm, had planned to become a history teacher. But then she discovered her true calling.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today. In 2005 I was a junior at MSUB and saw a flier seeking volunteer victim advocates at the YWCA. I decided to get involved because I have always been interested in the criminal justice system, and I thought it would be an interesting way to give back to the community. I fell in love with the work and in 2007, after a year and a half of volunteering, I was hired as the Sexual Assault Services coordinator. By this time I had enrolled in a graduate study program at MSUB seeking a master’s in rehabilitation and mental health counseling. In 2008 I was promoted to program manager and in 2009, I earned my master’s degree.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? The toughest challenge I’ve faced is making decisions about who to help when we don’t have enough resources to help everyone who asks for it. Having to turn someone away from shelter because we are full or they aren’t eligible is incredibly difficult.

    What did you learn from that challenge? I’ve learned to always trust my gut when making decisions. I’ve also learned that if I do what I know is right, I will always be a peace with my actions.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Fair does not always mean the same treatment, but means looking at all the circumstances in a situation and deciding what’s right for each individual and situation. Sometimes this is much harder than simply applying the same “rules” to everyone, but it makes for a more just society.

    Who gave you that advice? Rhonda Myron, the former program manager at Gateway.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I hope my work will inspire others to take a stand against domestic and sexual violence and that I will have helped to shape a program that will help many women and children escape violence far into the future. I also hope to raise my son to be a good person who appreciates diversity and believes our community should be inclusive and safe for everyone.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Success is knowing that one person’s life has been saved or that someone feels safer in their home because of Gateway. It is so incredibly rewarding to impact the lives of women and children and help them escape violence in their home and then go on to live happy and successful lives.

    Which living person do you most admire? Kelsen Young, executive director of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She was the major champion behind getting Senate Bill 306 passed in 2013. This bill amended the partner family member assault statute to include same-sex couples in the definition of partners. It was a huge accomplishment!

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Becoming a mom. It is my opportunity to make a difference in the world that will carry on for generations.

    I’m happiest when I’m… At home with my family.

  • In advertising, people often go to great lengths to come up with a memorable campaign. A few years ago, Karlee Bentz found herself climbing into a pen full of turkeys to tape a television spot for Cranky Ranky’s Midland Dodge. The dealership’s owner, the late Harold Reinke, was known for his humorous TV spots, including an ad in which he “flipped his wig.” Yes, TV viewers saw Cranky Ranky’s famous toupee spinning on top of his head.

    Bentz was toting a large video camera and a recorder while taping the turkey segment, and for a moment she wondered whether the turkeys might start pecking at her. But everything turned out fine.

    Advertising has changed a lot since the days when Cranky Ranky poked fun at himself on TV. Bentz, co-owner of Arrowhead Marketing, a Billings advertising agency, says advertisers must learn to adapt to advertising in the digital age. “I’m always trying to educate myself and get current on new approaches to advertising and how we can incorporate them for our clients,” she said.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today. I wanted to work in advertising ever since I was a kid. To help pay for college, I bartended part time at the Knights of Columbus. A member there was also the sales manager for one of the TV stations. The station happened to have an opening for a copywriter. I honestly had no clue what a copywriter was, but I enthusiastically told him I could do the job and asked him to give me chance. They figured out I had no experience, so they agreed to let me work part time for a semester with no pay and asked that I work something out with the college for college credit instead. After that semester was over, they hired me. I worked part time at the TV station until I graduated from college in 1996. In 2002, my business partners approached me. They had started Arrowhead Marketing six years earlier. They asked me to join the company as an equal partner. At age 27, I became a co-owner of an advertising agency and was living my dream.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? There continues to be a significant increase and variety of entertainment options for the consumer. This creates fragmentation, making mass marketing much more challenging. Technology and the ways people receive information and entertainment are constantly and rapidly changing.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Don’t fight it, embrace it. Technology and new advertising can present terrific opportunities that have never existed before. I have also learned that continuing my education through workshops, online courses, etc., is not only necessary, but is fun, too.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Be honest and do the right thing. You will ultimately succeed in the end.

    Who gave you that advice? My father.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I’d like to help come up with a solution to connect the bike trails in the Josephine Crossing/Norm’s Island System to the Gabel Road and/or the South 24th Street West System.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? When my clients experience an increase in sales due to a targeted advertising campaign I’ve implemented.

    Which living person do you most admire? My father, Jim McDermand, because he started from nothing and created a successful life for himself and his family.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? By age 27, I was a college graduate, home owner and a business owner.

    I’m happiest when I’m… relaxing on a beach in Mexico or Central America.

  • Maisie Sulser traces her interest in architecture back to her time in elementary school.

    “When I was little, there was a dirt pile up against the fence on the playground where we’d play house,” she said. “I’d create the floor plan for the house. I was very visual, and I liked it to be more real.”

    Sulser had outgrown playing house by the time she entered West High, but she started thinking seriously about architecture by then.

    “I had a really great drafting teacher, and I liked art. But I also liked practical things like science and math, so (architecture) just seemed like a good fit,” she said. “I’ve always been a person who had goals, so it was an easy choice.”

    After completing her degree at Montana State University, Sulser briefly considered working in Seattle, but decided to return to Billings, where she has become involved in many community activities.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? I think a combination of being a woman and gaining the experience necessary to be taken seriously. But I have been fortunate to work in firms where I felt supported and encouraged. There may still be a glass ceiling at times in our profession, but I believe that it is only there if you let it be. Learning the construction jargon and working with contractors (a traditionally male-dominated and -operated field) has also been a challenge, but one I have enjoyed. It is important to me to put architects in a more positive light than they have historically been in when it comes to working with contractors and understanding the reality of the construction business. The importance of the knowledge and expertise of those doing the actual building and construction of an architect’s design should not be ignored and discounted, but rather heard and intelligently integrated.

    What did you learn from that challenge? If you continue to work hard and put yourself in the right situations, you can accomplish whatever you want. When opportunities present themselves you have to be ready for them and take them. Personality and perseverance will get you far in life.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? As a business owner, you have to treat your employees with high regard and inspire them to be their best and do their best each and every day. It seems like pretty simple advice, but I think that in many situations, it is just lip service. Everything starts with your employees and how they feel in the workplace.

    Who gave you that advice? It is something that I have always believed, but truly heard and felt that in my current workplace. It was said to me by a partner in my firm and over the past couple of months it has been proven in actions.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I love to get involved. I enjoy taking part in community activities and being involved on all levels whether it is attending a concert at the Babcock, volunteering at Blues Fest, being a judge for the St. Patrick’s Day parade, or organizing a community design competition. I take pride in the community of Billings and what we have to offer to our current and future residents. I have served on the Billings Architectural Association board, the Yellowstone Historic Preservation board and I am currently a board member on the Downtown Billings Association and actively involved with the Billings Jaycees. The connections and friendships that I have developed over the years have served not only to inspire me, but have proven to me the power that exists in our community and the love for this city that so many of us have.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Co-workers, office culture, clients and repeat business. It is a delicate balance in the architectural profession between familiarity and professionalism. You want both your clients and your colleagues to feel comfortable and inspired. When you get to the final product — big or small — it is rewarding to see a design through from start to finish and even more rewarding to know that you gave your client the best possible design and product.

    Which living person do you most admire? My mom. I don’t know if I tell her enough how much I appreciate her advice, support, laughter, tough love and good nature that have seen me through so many times in my life — good, bad and everything in between. She is my best friend and someone that I am so lucky to call Mom.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Passing all my exams to become a licensed architect. It tested my patience and work ethic like nothing before has quite done. I felt so much support from my family and my friends, and I knew they were in my corner no matter how long it took me or how much I struggled at times. They were there with either kind words or a kick in the butt, whichever I needed at the time. The whole experience reinforced my belief that you can get through any challenges with your family by your side and if you have that support it makes the victories and achievements that much sweeter.

    I’m happiest when I’m… 1. Surrounded by hundreds of Bobcat fans (in particular my mom, cousin, and boyfriend) cheering on the Bobcats to a football victory, and 2. Any time I get to be uninhibitedly creative.

  • Whenever Austin Adventures led travelers on memorable trips to exotic locations, Kasey Austin wasn’t far behind.

    “My dad was either working in the office or leading trips, and I was always the kid tagging along,” said Austin, who is vice president of operations for the Billings-based adventure travel company. “I wanted to help out chopping up the vegetables, and I loved washing the dishes. When we did guide training, we would have a lot of them sleeping in tents. I just thought as a kid it was cool to grow up in this environment.”

    Austin received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at the University of Montana. But the family business drew her back.

    Last year Austin’s job took her to Holland and Australia. She also participated in a guided trip through Yellowstone National Park. She has visited every corner of the world. But so far, Peru has been her favorite country to visit.

    “I just love the mountains and the people, and I love attempting my horrible Spanglish,” she said.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: 1. Hard work (long hours and unwavering focus). 2. Full dedication to the adventure travel business. 3. A willingness to jump into just about any situation (whether it’s traveling to Costa Rica to train 40 guides on the way we do business or writing a blog on the “Top 10 Hidden Corners of US National Parks” and 4. A love for what I do (both office and field work!)

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Every year, our business deals with what we call “guide drama,” and since I’m the direct supervisor of all of our guides, it’s me who gets to solve the problems. Sometimes these problems are simple — for example, Katie is missing an Austin Adventures T-shirt for a guest and needs me to overnight a package to her. Other times, the challenges are much bigger, such as when a pair of guides who are supposed to guide with each other for 12 weeks straight end up not liking each other after week one, and I either have to step in as mediator or move guides around in the schedule. Since this is such a crazy business to be a part of, I deal with all sorts of strange problems, such as finding out where a repair shop is in the middle of nowhere for a bear who tried to rip into a trailer or figuring out what the best menu to serve would be for a person who only eats foods that are both gluten free and vegan.

    What did you learn from that challenge? The ability to remain calm and clearheaded is the most important part of solving any kind of challenge. I’ve also learned that there’s never one way to solve a problem, and once I got my head around that idea, I’ve been much more efficient at finding solutions.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Delegate. Part of managing and working with others is learning to share the workload and being a team player. Loving to work independently myself, this has been difficult for me to accept, but I’m quickly learning that I can’t do everything on my own, and working closely with our guide team and office staff has shown me that teaming up on projects and problems is the efficient way to do things. Aww, what a relief!

    Who gave you that advice? My dad and my supervisor at AA, Christy Hamill.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I’d like to continue serving as head of the Yellowstone Riverfront Trails Committee to get more bike trails and connecting trails in Billings.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? I measure success in many different ways, but most of all I wouldn’t be successful if I didn’t love doing what I do.

    Which living person do you most admire? My dad, hands down. Anyone who knows me could tell you that. He is the reason I am successful at all to this day. Every move he makes seems to be for my benefit. I owe so much to him.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Graduating as a Presidential Leadership Scholar from the University of Montana in 2011.

    I’m happiest when I’m… Hiking or traveling. I just returned from a monthlong work trip to Africa this week.

  • In football and in business, timing matters. When former college quarterback Drew Hedrick began selling real estate in Billings in late 2008, the nation was in the midst of the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression.

    “I got in at the worst possible time,” said Hedrick, who is with Century 21 Hometown Brokers. “At the same time, I got a chance to start slow and learn the business and learn what it takes to be successful. When you’ve got to spend a few years grinding it out, it teaches you how to work connections.”

    Hendrick knew he had to put in the time to succeed.

    “For the first year I would work and train at Century 21 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. before leaving to work a retail job from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m., five days a week. On weekends I would work eight-hour shifts both Saturday and Sunday for a combined weekly total of around 80 to 85 hours.”

    Hedrick said he weathered the lean times by keeping his expenses low. “I’m a single guy and I didn’t have any college debt, so it didn’t take much to live on.”

    Before long, that hard work started paying off.

    “I started getting some good referrals from some great clients,” said Hedrick, who said he enjoys the service side of real estate. “The opportunity to get out what you put in is what drew me to the business.”

    In 2011 Hedrick was one of Century 21’s top 50 producers in the five-state region and was awarded a “Masters Ruby” award for volume and transactions.

    “Over the last two years, I have continued to grow and diversify my business into a nearly 100 percent repeat and referral based clientele,” he said.

    Hedrick played quarterback for the University of Montana after graduating from Senior High. After two years at UM, he transferred to Rocky Mountain College, where he completed his college career.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: Besides selling real estate, I also own a business that provides certified market value evaluations for local banks. I am a full-time football coach at Senior High, and I am the vice president of the Billings Petroleum Club, and am in the process of publishing a photography book about Yellowstone National Park. In short, I got where I am in my work by large amounts of hard work and the belief in excellent customer service.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Building the trust of my clients and colleagues through a historically difficult time in the real estate market was a challenge. As a 25-year-old “kid,” trust and perceived legitimacy are hard to gain in business. For the most part, the toughest challenge was just doing whatever it took to stay in business, whether it was working nights or doing work that no one else would do.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Respect is earned, not given. There is no shortcut to long-term success.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Trade short-term wealth for long-term success.

    Who gave you that advice? Mark Dawson.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I would like to help less-fortunate high school kids get degrees by giving guidance and support.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? In real estate I measure my success by the happiness and success of my clients. In my coaching career, I measure my success by the number of kids that I can positively influence on a day-to-day basis.

    Which living person do you most admire? My mother.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? My relationships with friends and family.

    I’m happiest when I’m… all alone on a summer evening making long casts to rising trout.

  • One of the most important decisions that medical students contemplate is what kind of specialty they’ll go into.

    Dr. Chris Baumert, a resident physician with the Montana Family Medicine Residency at RiverStone Health, said he had a relatively easy time deciding.

    “I was one of the rare students who knew I wanted to go into family medicine before medical school,” Baumert said. “Part of that may have been because my mother is a family physician. She didn’t try to bias me in any way. But she enjoys being able to talk to me about the stresses and the business side of medicine.”

    Baumert will complete his residency at RiverStone Health later this year. He plans to remain in Billings, but doesn’t yet know where he’ll practice.

    Medicine is actually Baumert’s second profession. He worked as an engineer for a short time after completing his bachelor’s degree.

    “I enjoyed all the classes I took. But designing one little part for a wastewater treatment plant just wasn’t the job I had envisioned,” Baumert said.

    “I enjoy talking to people, and I enjoy helping to solve their problems. Maybe it’s because of that engineering background,” he said.

    Medicine has changed somewhat from when his mother was in medical school. One of the big differences is that residents are more restricted on the number of hours they work.

    These days, residents work around 80 hours per week. In an earlier era, it wasn’t uncommon for residents to work more than 100 hours per week, and sometimes clock 30 hours consecutively.

    “We don’t do more than an average of 80 hours per week,” Baumert said. “I never feel like lack of sleep is interfering with patient care.”

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: I am most proud of my involvement in advocacy and health policy as a resident leader in the American Academy of Family Physicians, the professional organization that represents family physicians. This past year, I was one of two delegates representing my resident colleagues from across the country at the AAFP’s Congress of Delegates in San Diego. I first became involved in helping to direct the policy of family medicine organizations as a medical student in the Pennsylvania chapter of the AAFP. In various leadership roles since that time, I have brought a resident voice to such issues as developing guidelines on use of social media by family physicians, developing guidelines for family physicians practicing prenatal ultrasound, and advocating for a federal controlled substance registry.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? I feel like it’s a constant challenge to keep up with current medical knowledge and implement best patient care practices while maintaining efficiency.

    What did you learn from that challenge? The need to stay adaptable.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today, and that includes making time for food, physical activity and family.

    Who gave you that advice? My mom, my residency program director, and basically every other mentor I’ve had in the health care field.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I’d like to continue to help implement changes at RiverStone and advocate for changes in legislation in Helena and Washington, D.C. that can help improve access to quality primary health care for everyone.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? By the size of the smile on my face at the end of a day of helping patients feel better.

    Which living person do you most admire? My mom, for instilling in me her values of hard work, honesty and empathy.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? I think it’s so special just to have gained the trust of the patients I treat.

    I’m happiest when I’m… playing soccer, skiing, or just spending time with my girlfriend Kristin.

  • Some recent and near retirees have managed to squirrel away a nice nest egg and are planning to spend their golden years taking long walks on warm beaches. But, according to AARP, around 20 percent of boomers have almost no retirement savings.

    Financial adviser Gabe Lapito said baby boomers are affecting the economy like a python trying to digest a pig. It’s a big challenge.

    Lapito, owner of Billings-based Strategic Retirement Plans, said preparing for retirement is one of life’s most important tasks.

    “Retirement is not like riding a bike,” where you get back on if you fall down, Lapito said. “You’ve got to get it right the first time.”

    Lapito has always been interested in finance.

    “I went to school knowing I wanted to give myself the most opportunities,” he said. “I earned the CPA and the MBA, and I thought about getting a master’s degree in tax and a law degree, but I stopped a little short of that. After working in public accounting, I knew it wasn’t for me, so I decided to come back to Billings.”

    Lapito said Strategic Retirement Plans is a full-service firm that helps clients with an array of financial issues: insurance, estate planning, income tax planning and investment advice.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: With a lot of hard work, a lot of schooling and taking lots of tests outside of the school setting. That is just one of the many requirements for the field in which I work.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? The political environment we’re in, the economy and how that affects a lot of the day-to-day concerns that my clients have with money management.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Throughout the ups and downs of that environment, it is every bit as important as it is managing their investments and expectations.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? It is something that I practice in my business every day and that is to make sure that relationships are established with people before any business is transacted.

    Who gave you that advice? Warren Buffet. I met him when I was getting my MBA at Creighton University.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I believe it is important to make people aware that there are a lot of nonprofit organizations that work behind the scenes to make the community that we know and plan the events that we have. There are a lot of great people with good hearts that are doing good all throughout this community and it makes me want to be part of it, and be proud that I can help make a difference.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? I measure success in my work on my clients’ overall satisfaction and a good way to measure that is through client retention. We have quite a few long-term clients that are like family, and that is a great picture for me of what success looks like. I would also add staff retention as well. Currently we have three staff members with more than 10 years with our firm, which is impressive considering the size of our staff.

    Which living person do you most admire? Billy Graham is who I have really looked up to for many years. The way he lives his life, being an upstanding man of God and loving and serving people is really inspiring to me.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? My two children. They are life’s biggest blessing to my wife, Brandi, and me, and the responsibility that comes with that is a great but rewarding challenge.

    I’m happiest when I’m… Spending time with people I love, outside in nature. I am really close with my family and friends. I also love to spend time with pastors that we help through my nonprofit, Refuge Foundation.

  • The work of Dovetail Designs and Millwork Inc. is on display at some of the biggest commercial projects in the Billings area.

    The refurbished Northern Hotel, the new Billings Public Library, the soon-to-be-completed Scheel’s store, the Billings Clinic operations center and a remodeling project at the Stockman Bank on Shiloh Road are just a few of Dovetail’s recent commercial projects.

    “Before the recession, about 90 percent of our work was residential,” said Morgan Sevier, Dovetail’s office manager, who is also the company treasurer and is in charge of project development and project management. “Since the recession, about 70 percent of our work has been commercial.”

    Growing up, Sevier spent lots of time at the family business. As a youngster he did the usual duties that one would expect a kid to do. He started by sweeping up and pitching in wherever he was needed. “I started learning and moved into the mill room, worked in production, the finishing room, assembly and install. I pretty much did it all,” he said.

    Sevier’s father, Mark, started the business in 1979. He began by making custom furniture but soon realized there was more profit in custom cabinet work.

    Over the years, Dovetail Designs gained a reputation for quality work, with projects ranging from custom kitchen cabinets to a renovation of the Montana State Capitol in Helena.

    In his current role, Sevier has gotten away from the hands-on aspects of building cabinets.

    “I really try not to work out in the shop,” he said. “If I can keep my employees busy, I’d rather have them doing the work.”

    Part of the challenge of running a small business is scheduling enough work to stay busy throughout the year.

    “We work really hard to keep our employees working full time,” Sevier said. “We average between 35 and 45 hours per week.”

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: I have wanted to work and run Dovetail since I was 8 years old. That said, the actual reason for my current position is I kept coming back.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Navigating the boss/father/work/family relationship.

    What did you learn from that challenge? I have learned how to compartmentalize stress, leaving work at work and home at home.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Do not start a new cabinet shop.

    Who gave you that advice? Myself. The question was asked by a University of Montana student who wondered why I would want to take over the family business instead of starting a new shop.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: For Dovetail, I would like to continue to provide employment to our employees. My shop and home are on the South Side. We hope to continue to rebuild this historic section of Billings.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Every year in business is success.

    Which living person do you most admire? Pope Francis (I’m not even Catholic).

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Surviving a family business.

    I’m happiest when I’m… with my wife and kids.

  • Montana Brewing Co. ushered in a new era in the hospitality industry 20 years ago when it opened a combined restaurant and brewery at 113 N. Broadway.

    Since then, seven Billings breweries and one in Laurel have opened, not to mention dozens more across the state. The trend has left beer drinkers with a wealth of flavors and styles of local beer from which to choose.

    When he went to work at Montana Brewing Co. in 2005 as general manager, Sean Graves envisioned only a short stay.

    “I wasn’t planning to work at the bar very long, but things started moving real fast,” said Graves, who bought into the business the following year and is part owner in the nearby Hooligan’s sports bar, as well as The Vig, Alehouse and Casino in the Heights.

    “We’ve seen so many people work for us and then go on to other things. It’s cool to see a lot of people go out and make it on their own,” Graves said.

    Montana Brewing Co. has won numerous awards in beer competitions over the years. But Graves is equally proud of the food.

    “Our menu has moved with the times, and it’s one of the strongest in Billings,” he said.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: When I was 15 years old, I decided that someday I wanted to own a bar by the time I was 30. At that point in my life, I began to learn as much about the bar business as possible. I read books, went to seminars and filled notebooks with ideas, lessons, successes and mistakes. I made it my passion to never be outworked by anybody. I started from the bottom and worked my way up to the top. I worked every position in the restaurant industry from dishwasher to bartender to learn the inside-outs of how things work. I never gave up on wanting my dream. You have to set goals for yourself if you want to achieve your dreams. I started with a big goal, but I achieved that goal by conquering all of my smaller goals.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? When I was 25 years old, I became the general manager and co-owner of The Montana Brewing Co. and Hooligan’s. At the beginning I faced some hurdles, people thought I was way too young to run a business of this size. I had to convince peers, fellow owners and my staff that the choices I was making were the right decisions. I appreciate everyone who stood behind me. In the past six years, with my staff’s help, we have doubled our business and built a new restaurant in the Heights.

    What did you learn from that challenge? I learned that if you know in your heart, mind and gut that you are making the right decision you fight for that choice at all costs. Never give up and never be out-worked by your competition.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? You can’t be afraid to fail. If you want to succeed, you have to be willing to take risks. People that don’t achieve their goals are unwilling to take chances. You have to be willing to hit rock bottom to make it to the top.

    Who gave you that advice? John Taffer.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? I By seeing happy faces. I sell positive reactions for a living. Seeing a customer’s face light up with joy when you deliver them a tasty meal or mouth-watering ale is what this business is all about. If you continually make people happy in the restaurant business, the profits will follow.

    Which living person do you most admire? My wife. She does an absolutely amazing job taking care of our two sons and me. I would be lost without her.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Owning a bar in Montana is extremely difficult. My dream was to own a successful bar and restaurant by the time I was 30 years old. I was able to achieve this quest at age 25. I am very proud to be one of, if not the youngest, liquor license holder in our state.

    I’m happiest when I’m… enjoying one of our handcrafted beers with family and friends.

  • It looks like 2014 is shaping up to be a busy year for Jeremiah Young, who has a habit of challenging himself by keeping lots of irons in the fire.

    Young is creative director and owner of Kibler & Kirch, the interior design studio and furniture store in Red Lodge.

    He also owns Marcasa Clothing, the upscale clothing store in downtown Billings.

    For months Young has been hard at work adding a design studio to the second floor of the Stapleton Building in downtown Billings.

    “There will be nothing like it in Montana,” he said. “It might be one of the most beautiful design studios in the Northwest, and it’s a big change for us.”

    Kibler & Kirch’s new Billings location will occupy about one-third of the building’s 12,000 square feet of space.

    Young hopes the space will attract interest from other creative businesses, such as architects and advertising agencies.

    “I hope we can add a lot to the Billings downtown,” he said.

    Young is always searching for new creative outlets. Recently he collaborated with photographer Ken Jarecke and filmmaker Brian Murnion on “American Chic,” a well-received downtown art exhibit.

    Among Young’s other projects, he’s working to relaunch the Rocke Gear brand, a local line of sportswear that he acquired from Chuck Barthuly.

    The new Rocke Gear will have an American heritage, made from American-grown cotton, and sewn in U.S. factories.

    “Made in America is something I’m passionate about,” Young said. “At Kibler & Kirch we sell a lot of American-made things. The best furniture is still made in the U.S.”

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today: I’m very driven by ideas and creativity. I’m self-taught in design and studied for many years. Working eight days a week helps, too.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? I took over two businesses during the worst economic times and had to inspire those around me to know that better times were ahead if we put in place a team that would be ready when the economy recovered. We invested in staff and design expertise while others cut back. I had to sell my vision for what is possible.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Three things: Passion is contagious; look past your competitors and strive to be world class; that I can’t do everything alone.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? “Work hard and be nice to people.”

    Who gave you that advice? A poster.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Focus on the built environment. Residents know Billings is a great place to raise a family, work, and live, but we also need to make it look and feel like a place people want to live. That’s how we can make a good city a great one. A few other places in Montana have figured this out already.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Whether I’ve made the world a more beautiful place.

    Which living person do you most admire? Two people: my father-in-law, Richard McComish, for his unstoppable work ethic, and Rosina Kastelitz, the founder of Kibler & Kirch, for how many lives she has touched through design.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? My 2-year-old daughter, Tilly. My wife and I waited 13 years of marriage to have her, and we struck gold when she came.

    I’m happiest when I’m… sketching ideas for a new design project.

  • Whenever you buy or sell a piece of real estate, or even if you’re refinancing your mortgage, you’re likely to do business with a title company.

    Title companies play an essential role in real estate transactions. They make sure the title to a piece of real estate is legitimate by conducting a search of records so the buyer is confident they are the rightful owner once the transaction takes place.

    As part of the process, the title company also issues title insurance, which protects the lender and the owner against claims against the property.

    “If you think you own your property, we make sure that’s the case,” said Trina Maurer, assistant manager at American Title & Escrow.

    Title companies clarify all kinds of issues. Perhaps your neighbor has an easement across your property. Or maybe the person you’re buying a piece of property from was widowed and it’s her deceased husband’s name on the deed. A title company clears that up, as well.

    Maurer notes that American Title & Escrow was the first Billings company to go paperless. Records are kept electronically, eliminating the need for large file cabinets.

    Describe how you got to where you are in your job today: This has been 15 years in the making; I went to school in South Dakota and received a degree in legal assistant and paralegal studies. I started work with North American Title Co. in Denver in 2000 as an assistant and was promoted to title officer within nine months. In 2003 my family moved to Billings, where I began working at Chicago Title Insurance Co. but found my real home at American Title & Escrow. In 2006 I moved to Hardin to become the branch manager of American Title & Escrow of Big Horn County for four years. After this I returned to American Title & Escrow in Billings as the assistant manager, and I now assist in supervising four offices and 25 people.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Just the changes in the past five to six years have been the biggest challenge. Our industry is consistently under pressure from several government agencies to be more efficient, more effective, more secure with our information and more aware of protecting our customers.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Change is good, and when you can handle it with care and leadership, your team will stand by you and make it a pleasure.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? From mistakes comes wisdom.

    Who gave you that advice? Ted Lovec, our owner and president.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: There are so many things missing from our schools that could be funded in other ways than using property taxes. We should be looking at our neighboring states and how they fund so much through the state’s natural resources.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? I ask myself, do I like my job? Do I look at the clock all day long? Can I laugh with my co-workers and employees? It always feels that when I can do those things, I am a better friend, a better co-worker and a better leader.

    Which living person do you most admire? Sarah Palin. She faced a tough road and still put her family and faith first.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? My kids and grandson.

    I’m happiest when I’m … being crafty and making gifts for friends and family. Crocheting and jewelry making are my current obsessions.

  • The health care industry is in the middle of some significant change, and Melanie Sands-Snyder, a patient access trainer for Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, meets with employees to make sure they’re satisfied and productive in their jobs.

    “We see there’s a great need for employee education to reduce turnover, to create an employee who is proud of their job and putting all of their effort into helping the patient, and to be educated in our computer systems and our mission as a whole,” Snyder said.

    She worked as a collection specialist in her first job in health care.

    “But from there I saw that we were at the end of the patient relationship and I wanted to move up and see the whole aspect,” she said.

    Snyder’s job requires her to travel out of town occasionally, and that means she must be organized so her seven children can get to school and other activities such as sporting events.

    “If it wasn’t for Skype and other communication technology, it would be tough. I wouldn’t be able to focus on my work. And when I’m with my children, they’re my focus,” she said.

    Snyder studied interior design in college and enjoys putting those skills to work at home.

    “I love having a big family. I’m one of those people who has to have something to do all the time,” she said.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? The ever-changing economy and how it affects health care as a whole, outsourcing, new computer systems and various challenges.

    What did you learn from that challenge? Stay patient, keep educated and informed of the ever-present happenings in health care. Be open to change and adaptable. This will keep you ahead of the game.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Learn your business from your customers/patients. Understand their minds, their hearts and their lives. Do what you do to make their lives easier. When a problem comes, leave them a place to stand and stand tall beside them.

    Who gave you that advice? My grandfather.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I would like to start programs that give cellphones to domestic-abuse survivors. Establish a Kids in Court program here in Billings, helping older children stay away from crime and oversee and mentor younger teens that are at-risk youth. I’d like to see reading programs for all by establishing reading centers in shelters and mental health facilities.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? The ability to go home at the end of the night and know that I have done everything possible to help a patient, and that from beginning to end, the visit to the hospital has been a smooth transition.

    Which living person do you most admire? My grandfather. He taught me that life will fill me with challenges and that I can either hide from them or tackle them head on. I owe my stubborn, never-give-up nature to him.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? I have never given up, despite having all odds against me. I am a survivor, from a very hard childhood growing up in Las Vegas, Nev. Whatever life has thrown at me, from incurring a traumatic brain injury from a serious accident in 2009, to having a stroke this year, I refuse to let that define me. I am a graduate from the Headway program, learning to simple tasks such as walking, talking and cooking (thank heaven that my husband does that). Now I’m enjoying hobbies that I wasn’t able to do right away after my accident. I am proof that life can throw you some real lemons, and you can make some great lemonade of it.

    I’m happiest when I’m… fishing, camping, being outdoors and enjoying what Montana has to offer.

  • Ren’s Purl Yarn Boutique stays open evenings so customers can come in for classes or just to chat while they stitch and purl.

    And despite what you may have heard about who picks up knitting and crocheting, the store’s predominantly female clientele isn’t limited to one age group.

    “We have girls from their late teens and 20s to ladies in their 70s and 80s,” said Ren Dschaak, owner. “There’s no age gap. Everybody is enjoying the company, and it’s nice to see a meshing together of the ages.”

    Dschaak opened the store 2-1/2 years ago, and has seen a steady growth in clientele. Knitting has fallen in and out of style over the years. During World War I, women considered it their patriotic duty to knit warm socks for soldiers at the front.

    Within the past decade, celebrities such as Cameron Diaz and Hilary Swank have joined a growing army of young, hip knitters.

    Besides, many people appreciate the thought and effort that goes into a hand-knit gift, Dschaak said.

    Describe how you got where you are in your work today. Since I was very young, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I grew up in Billings and remember my mom taking me shopping as a child at the boutiques downtown. I would tell her that when I grew up, I wanted to own a store of my own. After college, I taught myself how to knit and completely fell in love with the craft. I then moved back to Billings, got married and decided there was no better time to execute my dreams and open my own business. Knitting and yarn had become such an obsession that it was natural to open Ren’s Purl Yarn Boutique.

    From conception to open doors, it took just over one year of planning. I cannot believe Ren’s has already been open for 2.5 years. Time has flown by and though the boutique is always growing and changing, our excellent customer service, kind and thoughtful staff, and welcoming community atmosphere remains the same.

    What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Having never owned a business before, there’s the challenge of learning how to manage finances — paying expenses while also buying product. There’s the challenge of learning how to meet the needs of my customers, everything form stocking products they like and satisfying their day-to-day needs, to organizing classes and events that fulfill them and drive the shop community. Lastly, there’s the challenge of making sure I stay healthy and happy in running my business, adapting to the ever-changing needs of the shop and its customers.

    What did you learn from that challenge? In my business I am constantly learning, and there is always a new challenge around the corner. Overall, I’ve learned that the needs of my shop don’t stay the same for long, so the ability to identify needs and adapt quickly are key.

    What’s the best business advice you have received? Follow your gut. Lots of people will be giving advice, although nobody knows your business like you. So, take what people say, process it, and then listen to yourself and do what is right for you.

    Who gave you that advice? My mom.

    Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I want to reach out to people in Billings and give them a place to gather, where they can find camaraderie and friendship. Ren’s is a place for people to knit/crochet, grow their skills and meet others who will encourage and support them. Not only in their craft; but in their life.

    Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? By the happiness of my customers, staff and myself. When the shop is bustling and busy with good conversation and camaraderie, I know we are successful because we are fulfilling the needs of people in the community. Ren’s is all about bridging the gap between people, bringing them together.

    Which living person do you most admire? My husband, Chad. I am so lucky to have married such an amazingly supportive, encouraging and ever-loving man. Without question he has sacrificed so much and put his own dreams on hold so that I can pursue mine. Chad is full of kindness and integrity. I so appreciate the person he is and all he has done for me.

    What do you consider your greatest achievement? Since I don’t have kids yet, I’d have to say opening my boutique is my greatest achievement. The store is my baby and running it is my greatest work in progress.

    I’m happiest when I’m … Cuddled up knitting with my hubby and puppies.

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