‘I would encourage young people to always dream big …’
Benefiting from a presidential encounter: I wanted to become an entrepreneur, and when I was at the University of Kansas (KU), I studied accounting as a foundation to build a business. I started selling Native American jewelry to casinos and custom logo jewelry to universities. The American Indian Business Leaders had recognized my efforts, and I had won a business plan competition when President Bill Clinton selected me to introduce him before a speech to the Native American nation in Washington, D.C. It was incredible. Within 10 minutes of meeting the president, he began introducing me to people and calling me “Dom.” And as we prepared to walk in front of 100,000 people, he looked me right in the eyes and said, “Hey, Dom, it’s showtime.”
Before graduating, I had interviews with three top accounting firms. I’m sure I wasn’t as polished as the other candidates, and two of them turned me down. Then I went to an interview with EY. On the interviewer’s desk was the UK college newspaper with a front-page article about my meeting with President Clinton. The interview quickly turned into a discussion of my interaction with the president and then I went to the Kansas City, Missouri, corporate office for a second interview. They saw something in me and hired me.
Taking a leap of faith: I am an enrolled member of the Prairie Band of the Potawatomi Nation. After two years with EY, our tribe invited me and my brother, who worked at Deloitte, to return home to Kansas and help them acquire and operate the Prairie Band Casino and Resort that was under a management contract with Harrah’s. Our father had been elected to the tribal council, and so we took a leap of faith. My brother and I worked our way up through the business and helped our nation transition the casino into a tribally owned and operated business.
In July 2021, I became CEO of the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee. And because everything always looks easier than it really is, I experienced some shock and awe, realizing I was steering the ship with the Potawatomi Nation counting on me to make smart and calculated decisions during the pandemic — one of the most difficult times we’ve ever faced — over the last two years.
Dreaming big and working hard: My parents always told me, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” I had big, bold ideas, and I was free to dream and to chase those dreams. And I have been blessed to be around the tribal leaders throughout my life. They are both tough and forgiving, which helps keep me grounded when I lift too high and lifts me up when I fall to the ground. I would encourage young people to always dream big. If you love what you’re doing, are disciplined, and work hard, you can overcome any obstacle. I’m proof of that. I never knew exam review courses existed, and I failed the CPA Exam miserably the first time I took it. I would advise young accounting students to create a clear path to study for the CPA Exam, work hard, and never give up.
Favorite food: Delicious Indian tacos with Grandma’s fry bread.
Favorite travel destination: I love driving through the Great Lakes region.
Favorite leisure activities: My brother and I enjoy competing on the Bass Fishing League circuit.
— As told to Teri Saylor, a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest another subject for Last Word, contact Courtney Vien at Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com.