By NANCY KIMBALL
The Daily Inter Lake
A specific focus on Indian Country and a golden-rule set of core values help define Kalispell's newest accounting and auditing firm.
Joseph Eve - certified public accountants, fraud examiners and management consultants - opened its doors on the upper floor of the Whipps Building in mid-June.
Founded by an energetic young Joe Eve in 1985, the firm has grown to four partners and 70 people working in Billings, Great Falls, Salt Lake City and Kalispell.
Eve, a Great Falls native, set out to gain a national reputation by excelling in the tribal government specialty niche of accounting.
Today, the firm works with tribal gaming, governments, colleges, housing authorities and other tribal-owned enterprises in 24 or 25 states.
It is doubling revenue volume every three years and now stands at $11 million. And it's on target to do $100 million in business by 2016.
"We have a narrow focus because it makes your life a lot easier," Eve said. "You can become very good in that niche and very knowledgeable about it."
Few others target such a market. There are some much-smaller firms in the tribal field and some "super-regional" firms with divisions handling tribal matters, Eve said, but no others in their size range has a tribal focus.
It's a focus that likely will continue paying off.
As a whole, Eve said, the tribal market across the nation has $50 billion in disposable income. Of the 562 federally recognized tribes, 227 operated more than 400 gaming operations by the end of 2005.
Comprising 95 percent of Joseph Eve's business, tribal concerns have an unlimited potential for education.
Staff members and expert guest speakers present between one and three seminars a month. The August seminar is on the Tribal Gaming Commission and background investigations, September's will cover federal regulatory issues, October's is internal controls for casinos. Typically, 30 to 60 people attend a seminar.
A new video on money laundering gives tips on recognizing suspicious activity and complying with federal law.
Eve said the firm produces the nation's only report on the cost of doing business for Indian gaming operations, a comprehensive study of the bottom line for more than 80 tribal casinos in 2005 and 2006.
A major challenge to doing business in Indian Country, Eve said, is travel. So, to reach a goal of cutting employee travel by up to half, the firm is using more video conferencing, presenting "Web-inars" and making the shift from file cabinets to zip drives.
The firm itself went entirely paperless in 2001, and now staff carry scanners when visiting clients who still stick with paper.
"By and large, we have been encouraging people to give us documents electronically," and more of them are doing so, Eve said. "It's a change in culture."
Joseph Eve's specialty in tribal work began in 1997, when Eve decided to fixate on tribal issues "instead of trying to be all things to all clients," he said. "And we focused our hiring and training on that niche."
Several American Indians work with the firm, he said, but Eve isn't one to focus on a person's heritage.
"There are cultural issues employees need to grasp. But growing up in Montana we were raised in a lot of prejudicial ways, and we need to deprogram that," he said.
"We try to have a diverse employee base and cultural base," but Joseph Eve sees clients and employees as individuals with unique needs and skills.
Eve is the firm's managing partner. Todd Timboe and Tim O'Dell both work in Great Falls as accounting and auditing partner and as marketing partner, respectively. Tiffany Madden is the Billings partner and office manager.
The partners pull the entire staff together three times a year for training, and provide a mentoring program for new employees to give them opportunities to hone skills and move up in the firm.
Finding the best employees and keeping them satisfied once they're on board was part of what prompted the opening of the Kalispell office.
"With both Salt Lake City and Kalispell, our offices are centered on where our employees want to live," said Eve, who moved here himself in 2005. But with the Flathead's labor shortage, staffing the Kalispell office hasn't been easy. Eve and IT Director Tracy Bratcher are it so far.
"It's a talent war out there," he said.
Each employee who does sign on with the firm enters a work culture based on keeping promises, accepting responsibility, improving continuously, supporting each other and treating others the way they want to be treated, Eve said.
With these core values built into the firm's plan for doing business and choosing clients, Eve said he and his fellow partners expect to make an impact on an ever-widening region in the years to come.
"We encourage creative ideas and creative thinking," rather than painting all tribes with a broad brush, Eve said.
Reporter Nancy Kimball may be reached at 758-4483 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org