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Potvin encourages employees to take risks

William Potvin ­­

Class of 1972

Compiled by Brainerd Public Schools Foundation

William Potvin graduated from Brainerd High School in 1972 and later earned a bachelor of science degree in accounting from Bemidji State University in 1976. In 1979 he passed the CPA exam receiving his certification in 1980. Bill started his career in Brainerd working for Johns and Lampi CPA’s (later named Johns, Beyreuther, Beinhorn & Company) where after an internship, he transferred in 1976 to the Staples Minn., office which he managed, and while there he began developing his tax and consulting skills. In 1982 Bill moved to the Twin Cities and worked for Long Froehling and Associates of Excelsior, Minn., as a manager in their tax department. In 1984 he moved back to Brainerd to work for Donald H. Engen & Associates in Pequot Lakes and was in charge of the quality and growth within the tax practice. He opened an office in Brainerd in 1984 for Engen and began growing and developing the Brainerd market. In 1988 D.H. Engen & Associates was to sold to Larson, Allen Weishair & Co. Although he had worked in a number of firms and locations in his early career, Mr. Potvin’s career path has been marked and defined in large measure by his contributions at one firm, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CLA and formerly known as LarsonAllen), and by his contribution to our larger Brainerd lakes community.

Named a partner at the firm in 1988, Mr. Potvin’s experiences as a business developer and firm leader span over a quarter century. He currently is responsible as the partner­-in­-charge of the Brainerd and Alexandria, locations. In addition, he is managing the tax practice for the Northern MN offices of CLA which include Brainerd, Alexandria, St. Cloud, and Buffalo. His areas of expertise include tax preparation and planning, succession planning, business consulting and financial reporting with a current focus in the industries of construction and real estate, and working with dealerships and the hospitality industry. With 14 years as an elected member on the firm’s board of directors (including four as chairman), Potvin’s leadership has influenced the company’s growth from approximately 200 to more than 3,600 employees and from three offices in one state to 90 offices in 26 states, making it now one of the 10 largest firms of its kind in the Unites States. Along with being involved in setting the strategic direction of the firm during his years on the board, he also was responsible for the firm­-wide tax practice for a number of years, led two focus groups on the study of the board structure with in the firm, participated in the due diligence of the tax practices of a number of firms being acquired and more recently initiatives primarily through the use of “Kaisen” events. During the same time the Brainerd office of CLA has grown from 10 employees in 1988 to a high of 50 in the most recent years. He has trusted the gifts, talents and the vision of the teams he has assembled and allowed and encouraged his employe’s to take risks and learn from successes and failures while always looking for a new and better way of doing things.

“If you trust good people and give them a little guidance,” he said, “they can and will do amazing things.”

Over the years Bill has contributed his time and talents in many ways and in a number of organizations. He currently is treasurer of the Brainerd Noon Rotary Club was well as a mentor in the Rotary STRIVE program, chairman of the Essentia Health Central Region Board of Directors, classroom teacher, member and corporate host of the Junior Achievement program, board member for the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation and advisory board member for Bemidji State University College of Business, Technology and Communications. He is a member of the Minnesota Society of CPAs, the American Institute of CPAs, St Francis of Assisi Church, the Brainerd Legion, and the Mid-Minnesota Builder’s Association. A portion of his vast volunteer activities include treasurer of the Crow Wing County chapter of the American Cancer Society, board member and chair for St Joseph’s Medical Center, board member and treasurer of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, volunteer coach in football, baseball, softball and girls basketball, pastoral council member and 20-year finance council member for St Francis Assisi Church, advisory board member to the Small Business Development center at the Brainerd Vocational School as well as at the MN Small Business Development and board member of the Northland Arboretum. Whether he is volunteering in a classroom, offering help in his faith community, or facilitating the work of the many boards and committees to which he belongs he sets a wonderful example of giving to the community and of doing so over one’s lifetime.

Bill currently lives on North Long Lake with wife, Cindy (Schilling). Their children, Brent (Traci and grandsons Cade & Jace), Natalie and Allison all reside in the Brainerd area and continue to be a big part of their lives.