Ben Ellingson, CPA, CGMA

Partner in charge of Eide Bailly LLP’s Mankato, Minn., office

Ben Ellingson, CPA, CGMA
Providing a work atmosphere that’s hard to leave is a key objective for Ben Ellingson, CPA, CGMA, as partner in charge of Eide Bailly LLP’s office in Mankato, Minn. (Photo by Andy Clayton-King/AP Images)

'You are recruiting every day'

Challenging stereotypes: In recruiting for the Mankato office, I talk a lot about stereotypes. Although it's been a long time since CPAs wore green visors and sat in their offices crunching numbers, that perception of the profession remains. I and the people around me tell the story that things are quite different now. It's fun to do that and see eyebrows raised. There's so much variety in public accounting, which is what makes it an interesting and rewarding profession.

A competitive edge: Eide Bailly spends a lot of time on college campuses telling our story—that we offer challenging work in a caring, supportive, and fun firm culture. In a competitive market for talent, these efforts give us an edge. In Mankato, we also open our doors during busy season for Meet Eide Bailly Day and again for our Summer Leadership Program. We bring students in and give them the opportunity to talk with people working in various specialties. Students ask about how they spend their days and how their careers have progressed. Essentially, the students are asking, "Why would I want to do this?"

Aiding career development: Some new associates come into the firm knowing what they want to do, often because their favorite class or professor was in that area. Sometimes this initial choice suits them very well; on the other hand, they may not know about the many other service areas and career paths that exist. We try to look at areas that offer the best opportunities for growth and long-term fulfillment for them. In addition, we pair new people with a mentor who helps them make career development decisions. We have a true open-door policy and encourage people to talk to any partner or more experienced CPA.

Team building is not a cost: If you have a great environment and culture and are open and honest with your people, you provide an atmosphere that's difficult to leave. We work hard to provide such an environment and, as a result, have had great success with retention. We also work as a team and try not to emphasize the individual, though we reward outstanding individual work. In our culture, no person is more important than any other because each person's work is necessary to meet the client's needs. And we don't look at time spent building the team as a cost; we look at it as an investment. Having made that investment, billable hours will come on their own. Clients benefit, too—they get a great product and work with a great team.

—As told to Amy Krasnyanskaya (, a freelance writer in Cary, N.C.

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