Photos by Ann Marie Grocholski, AMG Photography
When you grow up in a town as small as Pelican Rapids, Minnesota (population 2502), everyone knows your name, your business, and pretty much everything else about you. Ben Hovland experienced this small town phenomena first hand growing up.
As I sit across from Ben at Caribou Coffee in Plymouth for this pre-Covid interview, he is extremely calm and collected. Like many small town kids, Ben started working for his dad when he was 12 years old mowing lawns. Ben’s dad, Wayne Hovland, owned a business providing service for the area’s lake cabins. In addition to mowing lawns, Ben also worked at a breakfast cafe for his cousin where he recalls making $3.15 an hour washing dishes. His mom, Dar, worked as an office manager at a landscape material company. Even today, the entrepreneurial spirit has passed down to Ben’s younger brother Nic who owns an HVAC business.
Throughout his childhood in Pelican Rapids, about 45 minutes south of the Fargo Moorhead area, Ben was active in various sports. Yet what he really yearned for was to move to “the big city and to go to the University of Minnesota to ‘become lost.’”
Earning an income from an early age gave Ben the impetus to work throughout his college years. He continued his time within the restaurant industry at the infamous Cattle Company off of 394, then at Champps in Minnetonka, eventually landing at Maynard’s on Lake Minnetonka where he would become a manager after graduating from college. Enjoying his time spent working for the owners of Maynard’s, the Stevens family, Ben was placed in larger responsibility roles such as assisting in the opening of the Maynard’s location in Rogers. It was also during his time with Maynard’s that Ben met his wife, Katrina, a beautiful University of Iowa graduate who worked just across the Narrow’s Bridge at Lord Fletchers on Lake Minnetonka.
From Fine Restaurants to Finance
After getting married, Ben and Katrina began to consider starting a family. Working holidays and weekends in the restaurant industry didn’t fit Ben’s vision of what he wanted his family life to be like. “Yet, having managed the bar at Maynard’s in Excelsior among other positions, I found the most enjoyment in working with numbers and people.” It made logical sense for Ben to make the leap into a financial advising career which he began at Ameriprise. Around 10 years ago, he and seven of his co-workers left Ameriprise to join SagePoint Financial. They branded themselves as Signature Wealth Management under the broker-dealer, which rolls up under Advisor Group, which is their parent company comprising about 8,000 advisors nationally. As of this interview earlier this year, their team ranked as one of the top 5 groups at Sagepoint Financial.
Ben’s confident demeanor and shines as he begins to explain what he does for his clients. “We do a lot of financial planning, but our main goal is simplifying people’s lives to get from point A to point B.” As a Certified Financial Planner, Ben describes his role. “So I sit down with a family who wants to put their kid through college, wants to plan for retirement, wants to live for today but prepare for the future. Through our financial planning software, NaviPlan, we’re able to run analysis to say, ‘If you do this today we can get you to this goal in the future and there’s a percentage that we like to keep above 90% to help best ensure that happens.’ For example, if someone wants to retire at 60, but they also want to put their kid through college, we may have to adjust their specific plan to retire at 65 instead. Helping people solve for their financial goals while understanding the levers for how they save for one goal can impact the other goal so it gives them clarity and when you have clarity, you’re released to be able to do whatever you want, because you’ve got a plan in place to set out to achieve it.”
Commitment to Service and Community
As Ben and Katrina began raising their family, Ben became a member of the Wayzata Chamber of Commerce. “A lot of people join the Chamber for business, but I joined it for making connections with other people to get that sense of community back.” Ben has served on the Chamber board for six years, as the Vice Chair in 2018, then as the Board Chair in 2019. As the Board Chair he worked with Becky Pierceson, the Chamber President, as well as other board members to help grow the chamber. Along with the Wayzata Chamber, Ben is involved with the Wayzata Rotary. “I appreciate the smaller number of members the Rotary offers. Whereas the Chamber has 400+ members and is more business focused, the Rotary has 40 members and is more service focused, allowing me to give back to a community that is going to make deposits in my life and the kid’s lives as we grow into this community.” Beginning in 2019, Ben became the chair of the Music by the Lake Concert Series. Originally founded by the Chamber and taking place in June and July, the Music by the Lake Concert Series is now run to benefit the Rotary with 2020 marking their second year. In 2019 the Rotary held six concerts and although Ben had high hopes for 2020, the Music by the Lake Concert Series, like thousands of other events, was placed on hold, or as some would say, cancelled by Covid. Ben will become President of the Wayzata Rotary in July of 2021.
He left Pelican Rapids to get lost, but all these years later through joining the Chamber as well as the Wayzata Rotary, Ben became found again in a new place.
Making Deposits in People
Having established his professional network, Ben and Katrina are active members of St. Phillip the Deacon Lutheran Church in Plymouth to fulfill their personal community. Not one to stand back, Ben dove in and served on the church council for three years. “I’ve enjoyed our membership there which again helps make larger communities, very small.” When I asked Ben why he devotes the time to all of these local groups, he says, “it’s the sense of community and helping people. The way I was raised through my parents and through the community I was a part of, they were always there to support you and help you. People have made deposits in my life that I remember and I just feel like it is the right thing to do to make deposits in other people’s lives to make this a better community.”
When Ben refers to making deposits, he explains that it refers to those who have given him advice through the years, been a shoulder to cry on, lift you up at times when needed and celebrated when you’ve succeeded. “These groups of people, many of them friends, they’ve made that deposit for me and they may never know it. But they did and I may never know the deposits I’ve made in people’s lives but I try to keep giving back. These deposits make our community better.”
Ben believes it was a higher power from as far back as 20 years ago who set him up for where he is today and with those who’ve made deposits in his life. While at the University of Minnesota Ben earned his degree in sociology as he figured the study of people could help him throughout his career. He was the first in his immediate family to graduate from college. Katrina is now a NICU nurse at Maple Grove Hospital, their oldest child, Livian, just started second grade. Little sister Adeline and brother Boden currently attend Goddard Schools.
When I asked Ben in September about his thoughts on the rest of 2020, he cited Bloomberg as a source and had this to say, “Heading into the final quarter of 2020, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the economy due to COVID-19 and the election. Historically, if the S&P 500 anticipates a change of political parties it decreases 5.4% in September and October versus an increase of 3.1% in the incumbent President is elected. However, once the election is finalized the S&P 500 increases around 3.2% in both scenarios. This is a great reminder to stay disciplined and the economy and markets should continue to grow no matter the election results.”
For Ben, working with people and having had those responsibilities at such a young age has put him in a position to help other people make responsible decisions with their money and look out for others. We are lucky to have people like him who lead by example in service to both his community, his family and his professional clients.