Roger Reierson ’74 came to Bemidji State University with one idea in mind for his future and left with the skills and desire to follow his passion in a different field.
Growing up in a family of bankers, Reierson figured he would follow a similar career path. He interned at a bank and earned a bachelor of science in business administration with a marketing emphasis and a minor in finance, but photography, radio and speech classes – and the professors who taught them – opened up up the possibilities in marketing and communications.
Using his degree to get his first job after college as business manager of a small Thief River Falls communications firm, Quillan and Associates, Reierson quickly gravitated toward creative and strategic work with clients.
Two years later, he and his wife, Arlene, moved to Fargo so she could complete her elementary education degree. He joined Harold E. Flint and Associates, thinking they would move on when she finished school. For the next several years, Reierson worked on accounts with the owner. They got along well, and he fell in love with the business.
Reierson and two partners bought the firm when he was 34. Those partners are no longer involved with the business. Nearly 40 years later, he’s still there – as CEO and chairman of a group composed of several marketing communications businesses, including Flint Group and AdFarm.
“Part of success is being in the right place at the right time,” Reierson said, “You also have to recognize an opportunity and be willing to take risks and put the effort in.”
Under his leadership, the business has grown from a small, downtown Fargo firm of 13 to an international business that employs more than 200.
Expansion came from aggressively seeking accounts while keeping partnerships with existing clients. They keep clients by staying in front of trends and new technology. They regularly bring in experts on the cutting edge of their fields to speak to staff and clients.
“If we don’t stay ahead of the curve, our clients will look elsewhere.” Reierson said.
Reierson said he first realized staying ahead of technology would be paramount to business success when he was a BSU student. He remembers learning to program a room-sized computer with punch cards, and even then the systems changed often. Despite the speed of change, he knows it’s important to keep things in perspective.
“The biggest thing is not to get too excited,” Reierson said, “We keep a calm, even mindset about the future. We just keep doing the work and doing it well.”
Flint Group’s sister company, AdFarm, is a marketing, branding and digital agency focusing on the communication needs of agriculture businesses with offices in several locations in the United States and Canada.
“To work in the ag field, we need to be where the farming is taking place,” Reierson said, “Different environments require different practices.”
In 2009, he accompanied Praxis Strategy Group CEO Delore Zimmerman on an economic development mission. Praxis and AdFarm formed Praxis Africa to identify and develop opportunities in agribusiness and microbusiness in the region.
They work with young farmers to find best practices to produce food with high vitamin value. Ideally, the farms will produce crops that will not just feed but commercially benefit the village.
Reierson’s organization also works with groups, clients and a sister school in Minnetonka to help schools in Ghana. So far the schools have received 30 computers and solar lights so students can do homework after dark.
Chief operating officer Andy Reierson, Roger’s son, praises his father’s vision and ability to build relationships, always with the first priority being to help people.
“He’s a genuine person, and he wants to do what he can to help businesses and communities he’s involved with prosper and grow,” the younger Reierson said.
The elder Reierson fosters that development and growth through civic engagement on local, state and national levels. He contributes his business expertise as a thought leader and officer for many groups, including: the Greater North Dakota State Chamber Association, the North Plains Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA).
One of his proudest professional moments came in 2011 when NAMA chose him as National Agri-Marketer of the Year. Leadership, charisma and vision were qualities cited in NAMA’s announcement of its most prestigious award. Reierson established NAMA’s Northern Prairie Chapter in 1986 and has served as chapter president several times.
Even though he began by pursuing a career he was not going to be happy in, Reierson remembers his days at BSU fondly and is a grateful for what he learned.
“Without those accounting classes and those business management classes, I don’t think I could be where I am today,” he said, “And without the instructors that showed me what mass communications could be, I wouldn’t be in this position and I wouldn’t be in this profession today.”