Faces Of Fargo Business: Andrea Hochhalter, Ben Carlsrud, Ryan Keel

Written by: Fargo Inc Staff

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: Margot Peterson, Kurt McSparron, Chris Edgerley

Andrea Hochhalter

COO, HueLife

Andrea Hochhalter

Andrea Hochhalter says she’s always been passionate about two things:

  1. Organizational change
  2. Cross-group collaboration

“I’m passionate about the role human behavior and engagement play in an organization’s system and success,” says the COO and shared owner of HueLife, a full-time team and national network of certified facilitation and training consultants. “I love the strategy and operational challenges that come with developing teams and organizations.”

As a facilitator, the former group training development manager at Microsoft is a practitioner of what are called ToP (technology of participation) methods, which help teams, organizations, and communities use participatory methods to solve challenges, plan strategically and achieve collective outcomes.

This year, Hochhalter and team will host more than 1,000 participants in public courses, workshops and private facilitated events.

The Day

First Hour
“Energizer Time”

“There was a time in my career when each day began hectic and stressful, and my family suffered. I am a strong believer in the power of positive mindsets, and so I now intentionally contribute to my family, starting their day with positive experiences and attitudes by not bringing or adding to stress because I’ve taken ‘Energizer Time’ for myself (and for them) before I dive into work.”

Early Morning
Problem-solving and project time — heads down.

Mid-Morning/Early Afternoon
Schedule meetings/calls with team, clients and partners from mid-morning through early afternoon.

End of Workday
Leave late afternoon for completing priorities for the day and planning for the next day.

Spent on little rocks: emails, tasks, content writing and ensuring I’m organized for the next day (and, of course, family time).

The Week

Level 10s or Deep Dives (rotates every other week)

Level 10s
• Focus on what’s important in the short-term (1-2 weeks)

Deep Dives
• Discuss strategy and make decisions with strategic and longer-term impact

Designated day for connections and learning:

  • Attend Rotary
  • Attend the100, inc. Roundtable lunches
  • Meet with advisers

“This day is about putting energy toward growing and building the business and myself. As a result, I get more energy.”

Operations meeting or project meeting (rotates every other week)

Operations Meetings

  • Marketing, finance, training, operations
  • Work on common goals and solve specific operational problems

Project Meetings

  • Eliminate fire drills and improve quality
  • Foster individual and team commitment, confidence and ownership in the process

I Recommend

1. “The Art of Focused Conversation: 100 Ways to Access Group Wisdom in the Workplace”

2. “Leading Change”
“My go-to in working on change initiatives with organizations”

3. Harvard Business Review and Stanford Social Innovation Review
“Love all the management and leadership wisdom”

Ben Carlsrud

President, NetWork Center

Ben Carlsrud

Ben Carlsrud has been with NetWork Center his entire career, starting out as a service technician and eventually being promoted to president nearly six years ago. During his time as president, he’s seen the company grow from about 20 employees to 70.

Killing-Time Reading

“The Stormlight Archive” by Brandon Sanderson

How does the reality of your job differ from the perception?

“Being the president is not caviar dreams and champagne wishes. I have a lot of flexibility, but for the most part, every day is ‘roll up the sleeves and dig in.’ As my family will attest to, there are many nights and weekends that go into this. Oh, and what’s a vacation?”

What keeps you up at night?

“Staying relevant in our industry and to our customers. Even after being in business for more than 30 years, there are always new challenges and hurdles to overcome. I’d say the biggest worry for me is providing a secure work environment for our employees and making sure we’re around for another 30-plus years.”


“Sneaky Pete” on Amazon Prime

Thank you,

Roger Haglund

“Roger was my math and computer teacher in Borup (Minnesota). He helped me out in so many ways by fostering and supporting my interest in computers and technology. I probably caused him many late dinners, as he would let me hang out in the computer lab well after school was out.”

Business Reading

Anything by Patrick Lencioni or Jim Collins

What’s something you’re most proud of as company president?

“Working through the conversion from a privately held company to an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan). We’ve been an ESOP now for just over three years, and there is so much that goes into it, especially from a culture side. We went from a single company owner to now educating our employees that we are all owners, and the decisions we make affect each one of us.

“There are some very successful ESOPs in our community that have had an amazing effect on their employees’ lives. I want NetWork Center to run in that same crowd.”

One Way the Local Business Community Can Help Ryan

“Attend one of my workshops, or help spread the word. What I do is unique in the region. You may be able to find someone who does college planning, but what sets me apart is that I don’t have any products I sell as part of the plan.”

Ryan Keel

Founder, CollegeSmart

Ryan Keel

1. Before founding CollegeSmart, which helps families navigate and fund the cost of a secondary education, Keel worked as a financial adviser for nearly 20 years.

2. For the past four years, Keel has volunteered as the community outreach coordinator for Diamond in the Ruff Pet Rescue.

“A good work/volunteer balance doesn’t take away from your job or life,” he says. “If done correctly and with a cause that you’re passionate about, it should make your whole life better. You aren’t ‘giving away’ your time; you’re investing and getting a great return.”

3. As part of his job, Keel works with a lot of parents of college-bound kids. Here are some of his favorite (and often surprising) pieces of advice he has for them:

  • Comic books are good.

“Reading comprehension is huge for getting into college for less, so get the kids into reading early.”

  • Gap years can be a good plan.

“If the student doesn’t have an idea of what they want to do.”

  • Don’t save for college.

“If they aren’t fully funding their retirement.”

4. Worst advice he’s gotten: “Wait until you’re comfortable.”

“I’ve struggled with that. Sometimes, I want to wait until I can do something perfectly before I jump in and actually do it. I’ve learned that starting and running your own business means you need to get going as soon as possible. Start whatever you’re working on, and improve it while you’re going.”

5. Favorite TED Talk: “The happy secret to better work”

Psychologist Shawn Achor argues that happiness actually inspires productivity.

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