Position/title: President & CEO, Bell State Bank & Trust, Fargo
Family: Wife, Charleen; children, Grace, 12, Charlie, 9, and Rose, 7
What brought you to the area?
My parents moved here when my father was hired to head what was then State Bank of Fargo. If you had to narrow it down to just one thing, what do you like best about Fargo-Moorhead? The thing I appreciate most is what a great place this is to raise our young family.
Is your business’ culture important? Why or why not?
The culture at Bell is actually the most important part of our success. We’re in the most commoditized industry in the country – there are literally thousands of options for people to do their banking, investing or get a mortgage. In many ways, the only difference is our people. The reason we have grown rapidly and performed so well is because we have been blessed to have great people join our company. Bell’s culture is built around a simple mission statement: “Happy Employees! Happy Customers!” We know that if our employees enjoy what they do and are proud of the place they work, they will take great care of our customers, and our company will grow.
What are some unique benefits/incentives you offer employees?
Our most unique benefit is the Pay It Forward program. It’s probably one of the things my dad (Richard Solberg, semi-retired but still chairman of the Bell board of directors) and I are most proud of in our careers. Each year, our employees are given $1,000 to give away as they choose to individuals, families or organizations in need. Employees also each choose to honor a special customer, vendor or community member, who in turn is given $1,000 to pay it forward. Over the years, we’ve invested more than $7 million in thousands of micro-grants, and our team has had a huge impact on people’s lives. Pay It Forward has an even greater impact on all of us at Bell. It’s opened our eyes to so many needs and what each of us can do to help.
How does your business’ culture affect your customers?
Our bottom line of “Happy Employees! Happy Customers!” means people matter. It matters how we treat our co-workers and customers, and it matters how we impact the region. We hope our customers see our team living that mission every day.
When seeking new employees, what is the selling point for your business?
Our goal is to be great at what we do and provide a great place to work. Our vision is to be one of the largest and highest-performing privately owned banks in the country, and at the same time, be recognized as one of the most progressive and rewarding places to invest your career.
What is your selling point for the community?
Our customers and friends in the community are the sole reason we are successful. I think our customers are proud we are their bank. They like to be associated with a company that focuses on people and tries to do the right thing. We’ve been blessed to have consistently been voted the best bank, best customer service and best workplace in many of our communities. But the greatest honor we can receive is when someone chooses to do business with us.
What challenges does your business face in creating culture and livability for its employees?
For any company, I think a huge challenge is balancing profitability, growth, investing in community needs and building culture. We’re fortunate as a privately owned company to be able to focus on all of those things. We don’t have the pressure of the next quarter’s or next year’s earnings, so we can work on that balance.
What’s one thing you think would make Fargo-Moorhead more livable?
Continued investment in downtown. It’s been exciting to see how NDSU and the Kilbourne Group, among many others, have helped lead downtown Fargo’s revival. A continued focus on building a vibrant core is hugely important to the future success of our community.
Are you a dog or a cat person?
I’m a wiener dog person (Webby is our dachshund).
Who would play you in a movie?
I’m partial to Ben Stiller.
What does an ideal Saturday look like?
A large coffee and two newspapers.
Who’s your business mentor and why?
I’ve had many great mentors, but the biggest influence by far has been my dad, Richard Solberg. I’ve had the great blessing to work for him for the last 17 years, and he’s taught me so much not only about business, but also about life.