Photos by Hillary Ehlen and J. Alan Paul Photography
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.
RELATED: Faces Of Fargo Business: Matt Bitzegaio, Deb Dawson, Travis Christopher
Development Director, Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley
“Oh, so you ask for money all day?”
It’s a question Erica Johnsrud gets a lot when she tells people about her role as development director for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley.
“I have to explain that yes, I do ask for money, but it’s more about creating relationships,” says the Dawson, Minnesota, native and Concordia College alumna. “When a person gives their time, talent or treasure, it’s a very personal thing. My job is to make sure that when they trust us with their resources, it’s aligning with their goals and is meaningful to both their and our organization.”
Johnsrud spends her days meeting with donors, planning fundraising events and working on marketing and communication strategy for RMHC, which supports families whose children are receiving medical care in the Fargo-Moorhead area. She says she’s especially proud of the organization’s brand new facility near the new Sanford hospital in South Fargo.
“(The new house) is such a labor of love,” says Johnsrud, who’s also active with the member relations and leadership arms of the FMWF Chamber of Commerce. “It’s able to keep families near the hospital and with each other when it’s needed most.”
“Include nonprofits in your conversations to make sure you’re making the most impactful and budget-relieving impact possible. It’s important to bring nonprofits to the conversation right away instead of assuming an idea would be great for them.” -Johnsrud
My leadership role model
I’m fascinated by the leadership of Ronald McDonald House Charities global CEO Sheila Musolino. As she strategically leads, she has set new standards and processes with the help and input of her team and a global system. She is charismatic, has a heart for the cause and isn’t afraid to have tough conversations.
What I’d use an “easy button” on
Data entry. Such a necessary evil!
“Required watching for all humans”
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor? The Mister Rogers Documentary.” There’s so much we can learn from the way Mr. Rogers lived his life. There are lessons on leadership and life, and I think it’s a wonderful reminder of how a little kindness can go a long way. Don’t forget to bring some tissues!
An essential leadership trait
Courage. It takes courage to take on projects and to trust a team to come together for a common purpose. It takes courage to stand up for a mission or vision that’s important to you.
A program you should know about
The North Dakota State Tax Endowment Credit has been of great benefit to us at RMHC. We started our endowment in October 2012, and it’s been a fantastic way of introducing new donors to our mission. It’s also a unique way for donors to give back in a mutually beneficial way, and as the endowment grows, it’s a reliable source of income for the future and a long-lasting legacy for those who give in that way.
2 Ways We Bolster Creativity
- “Crazy idea” time. My team has a monthly brainstorming time purely dedicated to thinking of crazy ideas, not worrying about the details and just getting them out into the universe. You never know when a crazy idea could become reality.
- “Unsquashed ideas” whiteboard. We need to make sure we don’t squash ideas and stifle people’s creativity and sense of belonging in an organization. When someone has an idea, we write it on a whiteboard. Then, when we’re stuck or looking for something new and fresh, we can go to those ideas.
Jane Schuh, Ph.D.
VP, Research and Creative Activity, North Dakota State University
You know what they say around here: Once a Bison, always a Bison.
After earning both her bachelor’s and Ph.D. from North Dakota State University, Jane Schuh returned to the NDSU campus in 2004 following a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.
An immunologist by trade, Schuh directs NDSU’s cellular and molecular biology interdisciplinary graduate program and also serves as associate director of the North Dakota Experiment Station. She’s assumed a number of administrative responsibilities during her time at NDSU — including a stint as the interim dean of the College of Business — and just last month, she began a one-year appointment as the school’s new Vice President of Research and Creative Activity.
“I see opportunities to partner with the fantastic community of Fargo to make our world better from right where we are,” says Schuh, who, as part of the appointment, will also serve on the board of directors for the NDSU Research and Technology Park and NDSU Research Foundation.
Schuh, who is herself a frequent attendee at local entrepreneurial events such as 1 Million Cups, says she believes the Fargo business community and NDSU have an important, symbiotic role to play in each other’s lives.
“One of the best things our business community can do is support higher education,” she says. “(NDSU is) an investment in the future of this state. We recruit bright minds and give them the tools and opportunities to stay in the state and make it better by creating new economic diversity and filling critical jobs. Everyone should support higher education because we help to sustain other important aspects of life such as a vibrant arts community that we need to attract and retain great talent. In short, help us to help you!”
“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl
This is hands down the most impactful book I’ve ever read. You may want some tissues nearby when reading it.
“Start with Why” by Simon Sinek
Understanding our own personal “why” allows us to align with meaningful work and a fulfilling life. Helping an organization recognize its “why” allows the group to be focused, consistent, and clear about decisions and planning (great also as an audio book read by the author).
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 “Ode to Joy” by Ludwig van Beethoven
It is well-known and well-loved but very personal, too. I adore classical music — really, I like music of every type – but this choral symphony makes my heart soar. Listen to it with your eyes closed and the sun on your face. There’s nothing you can’t do.
Words of Wisdom
Don’t get me wrong. I value rules and work within them. Good rules are important to help us function safely and efficiently, and, above all, they help remove uncertainty. However, I’m also a scientist. Science is about asking questions, and sometimes my questions are: Why not? Does this serve the purpose? Can we do this better?
I have seen so many instances where resilience is the difference between success and failure: graduate school, entrepreneurship, balancing work and home lives, new Americans assimilating to their environment. It’s the community you build that allows you to move successfully through hard times and come out stronger on the other side. Also, contributing to that community in your own good times is an important part of the resilience cycle. For me, the Fargo community provides exactly this resilience cycle. I love this place!
For me, doing meaningful work has always been important. Wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, I want to focus on moving the needle toward “good.” I have been blessed to have wonderful mentors, family and friends in my life who have helped me in that ongoing pursuit.
President, Heartland Trust Company
Graduates from Concordia College, moves to Minneapolis for a job with Wells Fargo
Economy crashes, pivots to dental-supply industry, is offered sales job with VOCO America
His dad’s advice? “Take it! If you find something you love to do, great. If not, you gain some valuable business experience working for a multi-national company. And if you ever want to get back into the financial world, the markets change every day, but the forms stay the same.”
Moves home to Fargo to serve as VP of family business, Heartland Trust Company
Promoted to president of Heartland Trust
What’s on your nightstand?
“The Decision Maker” by Dennis Bakke
“The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg
A local company you admire
What should leaders be good at?
What would you give a TED Talk on?
Keeping business personal
A local resource you’d recommend?
FMWF Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program
What keeps you up at night?
Knowing there’s something I didn’t get done that I said I was going to do. The only way I can get over it is to write it down so that it’s No. 1 on my list the next day.
- Board of Directors – Plains Art Museum
- Company Sponsor – Plains Art Museum’s Arts & Business Breakfasts
- Chair, Next Generation Network – Association of Trust Organizations
- Lake Agassiz Exchange Club