For David Bjornson, nurturing a business through its life cycle is personal
(Disclaimer: Law, Blogging & David Bjornson does not own the rights to this article. This article was originally published in November 2007 by the Missoulian newspaper in its Movers and Shakers feature for the InBusiness column. We are also in no way affiliated with the newspaper and/or the author.)
Family: Father of a 15-year old son, Chase
Hobbies: Loves to ski big powder in places like Whistler, British Columbia, Jackson Hole, Wyo., Park City, Utah
Key traits: Notorious for downplaying his own brilliance, according to colleagues.
Employee interaction: Participates with staff in themed casual Friday, such as Hawaiian, pirates and disco.
Companies he’s helped: Sun Mountain Sports, Pyron Technologies, Hatch Film Festival, Community Development, Inc., Sparrow Development, LLC
Five keys to success:
- Success is to seek resolution, not conflict and battle.
- Providing personal care for the people I work with. It’s having a good bedside manner and honoring my own values about humanity.
- Dedication. I will go to the wall for clients.
- Surrounding myself with key people. I can’t do it alone and finding great people to help is crucial.
- Creativity is important. The law is molding clay. There are infinite ways to do things. I don’t accept the way things have always been done.
By Lori Grannis
David Bjornson doesn’t consider himself a mover or a shaker. But according to colleagues, his unique approach to practicing law — a view that some in his field do not share, he said.
“A lot of attorneys are dispute-oriented,” said Bjornson, 51. “I’m a different personality—a lot softer and more resolution-oriented,” he said.
Bjornson works with everyone from families separating business interests, to the area’s burgeoning entrepreneurs.
A graduate of the University of Montana School of Law, he is also a certified public accountant in Montana, and earned a master’s degree in taxation law from New York University School of Law.
“I’m a different personality—a lot softer and more resolution-oriented” – David Bjornson
Bjornson has practiced law since 1988. Eight of those years were spent in big firms in the shadow of Seattle’s skyscrapers. The rest have been spent serving clients in Missoula.
He still practices law in both places, and focuses collective efforts on business and commercial law, taxation law, and probate and estate planning.
“Creativity is the common denominator with David in almost all cases,” said Pamela English, a paralegal who has worked with Bjornson for several years.
Shelley Boutelle, Treasure State Bank president and CEO, spent months preparing applications with Bjornson to pass muster with regulators like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in order to open the locally owned financial institution.
She found his energy for problem-solving boundless, and his creativity in approaching relationships with regulators, innovative.
“He’s adept at quickly establishing key relationships and really aggressive about figuring out how things work,” said Boutelle.
It’s why entrepreneurs seem to get on so well with him.
Bjornson says that his desire to nurture a business through its life cycle is personal.
Treasure State Bank filled a community need in that part of town, he said. But it wasn’t the sole reason for involvement.
“Community banks are a big movement in this country because people are sick of being a number at the big banks,” said Bjornson. Treasure State’s growth within the last year has been phenomenal because of that team.
Bjornson’s eyes light up when he talks about collaboration, partnerships and teamwork—especially when that talk turns to entrepreneurs.
He’s helped bigger fish as a part of his Washington state practice, but it’s local grass roots enterprise that seems to most inspire and drive him.
When he met Paul Miller, president of Sustainable Systems Inc., back in 2001, the company was no more than an idea. There was no organizational structure in place, no revenue coming in, and a skeletal business plan at best.
“I remember David saying, ‘I like what you’re doing. I want to help you do the right things and I want to ride this wave with you guys,'” says Miller.
Six years after meeting Bjornson, Sustainable Systems Inc. employs 28 people, and just gave the go-ahead to a $7 million budget to expand their Culbertson oil-seed crush operation.
The company stands to do a little more than $8 million in revenue this year, Miller reported.
A few years ago, Bjornson met Liquid Planet creator Scott Billadeau at lunch, and helped him form the legal structure of his coffee, crepe and beverage shortly thereafter.
This fall, Liquid Planet will ink deals with the Denver Civic Center and the Los Angeles Zoo for exclusive outlets in both locations.
For Bjornson the interest lies more in how things will unfold over the haul.
“Business is fascinating. It’s a whole life cycle that you get to be a part of during good times and hard times,” he said. “To me, that’s the exciting part of my practice.”
David Bjornson said he finds it enriching to participate in people’s lives in myriad ways. “I’m getting paid to help clients achieve things and it’s very rewarding.”
Lori Grannis is the InBusiness reporter for the Missoulian. She can be reached at 523-5251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.