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We like to think of the Fargo business community as a giant puzzle and the people who comprise it as the different but equally essential pieces. Take one person, one company, or one industry away, and the picture becomes incomplete. Faces of Fargo Business is our chance to piece that puzzle together each month and celebrate the countless people who make this such a great place to work.
Marketing & Brand Management Director, United Way of Cass-Clay
When Kristina Hein was 23, she hit a career crossroads fresh out of Concordia College.
“At the time, I was working for the Moorhead Healthy Community Initiative and loving my role coordinating a mentor program for middle school students,” says Hein, a native of Litchfield, Minnesota, who’s now called Fargo-Moorhead home for more than a decade. “I was given an opportunity to join the team at United Way but was told, ‘Don’t leave a job you love.’ Had I listened to the advice, I never would have had the incredible experience to grow and work for the United Way for the past 10 years.”
First joining the United Way team as a community impact associate, the high-energy, high-impact Hein now leads the myriad communications and PR initiatives for the nonprofit. Fellow United Way-ers often say that if you see, hear or experience something involving United Way, she likely played some role in its branding or design.
“I work with our team to lift up the stories, people and information that reveal why giving back and philanthropy matter,” says Hein, who also serves on the FMWF Chamber of Commerce’s Women Connect Committee. “When we take the time to tell the story of a woman who was impacted by our school supply drive when she was 8 years old, there’s a chain reaction of empathy, understanding, motivation and action.”
Whether it’s the LIVE UNITED Awards, 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program or UNITED Acts of Kindness Day, Hein says she spends much of her time thinking about how she and her team can best utilize and maximize every ounce of energy, potential and good will in the FMWF community.
“It isn’t uncommon for me to wake up in the middle of the night with some random — sometimes crazy — idea about how we could involve our volunteers to help kids become better readers or how we could organize a flash mob of people in LIVE UNITED t-shirts,” Hein says. “The ultimate motivation for me is to work toward creating an infectious enthusiasm for doing good. We do what we do because we want to create an understanding and awareness of how we can work together as a community to make a measurable and lasting impact on issues that we all want to solve: hunger, homelessness, mental health, poverty.”
She adds that no one organization on its own can solve these kinds of complex community problems. The only way to create lasting, measurable change is by innovating the way people, organizations and systems work together.
“I’ve learned that we all must care and consider how our work and actions impact others,” she says. “If we don’t, we won’t hear the perspectives of others so that we can work together to improve our community in the best way possible.”
Hein ends with a call — really, a challenge — to action:
“What if each of us encouraged and inspired just one other person to give and get involved in the community? The return on our investment would impact all of us. I challenge you to make it happen this week.”
United Way of Cass-Clay | UnitedWayCassClay.org
President, YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties
How many people can say they learned to swim at the place they now work? Steve Smith makes at least one.
Smith is a YMCA lifer, first as a member growing up in Seattle and then as an employee for the next 20-plus years with numerous Y branches in Washington state and Wisconsin. Among other roles, he’s served as an aquatics coordinator, program operations director and now as a president, a position he assumed at the YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties last summer.
Smith, who oversees a total staff of 850 that is spread throughout the two Fargo metro YMCAs, Camp Cormorant, five Early Learning Centers, and various before- and after-school programs in the three area school districts, says his time with the Y has always felt more spiritual than professional.
“I am here to serve,” says Smith, who is also active with Rotary and will soon be joining the board of the Northern Lights Council. “I feel like I have been called to my positions much like a pastor is to a church. In many ways, the YMCA is closer to a church then we are to a fitness center.
“It shows up in seniors drinking coffee together. It shows in the care we give to children while their parents are working and putting food on the table. It shows when we compliment a child for reaching a goal in our swimming or sports programs because that might be the only time they hear they are great. I love working for this organization and all the things it does for the community.”
And for Smith, that means creating an environment that both YMCA staff and members will love, too.
“I think it is important to remember that, as senior leaders, someone is watching you all the time,” he says. “how you enter the building, how you conduct yourself through your day, how you treat all levels of your team. I’ve had supervisors or senior leaders in other organizations who would show up to work grumpy. If you eat the staff, they tend to eat the members.”
The YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties is currently in its final fundraising push for a new camp welcome center at Camp Cormorant. They’ve raised $1.3 million to date and currently have $160,000 to go. If you’re interested in helping out, please contact Financial Development Coordinator Karen Engelter at Karen.Engelter@YMCACassClay.org or 701-364-4120.
YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties | YMCACassClay.org
President & CEO, Noridian Healthcare Solutions
When Paul Wilson’s children were younger, they would ask him about his job. After explaining it to them, they would respond with, “So you just sit in meetings all day long.” At the time, they probably weren’t too far off, Wilson admits. But administration and leadership roles have changed quite a bit over time.
Wilson has more than 30 years of experience in healthcare leadership and is currently the President and CEO of Noridian Healthcare Solutions in Fargo. He’s held that position since November 2017, after serving as interim president and CEO after Tom McGraw’s departure in June of last year.
NHS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Noridian Mutual Insurance Company and delivers business solutions for government agencies to reduce cost and enhance value in the healthcare industry. The company employs 1,500 staff members and a majority of the 1,000 North Dakota employees are based here in town.
While Wilson describes his day as “ensuring the strategic initiatives they have put in place to excel as a company operationally and grow strategically are being carried out,” he isn’t always behind closed doors in meetings.
“In today’s business environment, leading through collaboration with a high degree of relationship-management skills is a minimum necessary for survival,” Wilson says. “It can be very time-consuming to stay connected in a business that employs more than 1,500 people, but it’s worth it.”
In his years serving in a leadership role, whether as President of Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, or CEO at DMS Health Technologies in Fargo, he’s realized why it’s said that 80 percent of executives lose their jobs not because of what they did but rather because of how they did it.
“The “how” is about knowing one’s self — how we receive information, how we are perceived by others,” Wilson says. “I think understanding the ‘how’ is an important component of successful collaboration in the workplace that is often overlooked.”
He also goes back to a piece of advice he received in 1984. Wilson was working at Lutheran Health Systems in Fargo when he was offered an opportunity to take a leadership role at a hospital in central Kansas and turn the operations around. The day before Wilson left for his new job, Mike Bice, who was the CEO of Lutheran Health, called him into his office and told Wilson that his job was to go to Kansas and try to make a difference.
“I don’t care if you actually do, as long as you try,” Bice said to Wilson.
“What he was really saying is that a leader can’t be afraid to make hard decisions,” Wilson says. “Just use good judgment and make the decisions you think will make a difference. I have never forgotten this in my career and am thankful to him for the lasting advice.”
Noridian Healthcare Solutions | NoridianSolutions.com