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CPA firm transitioning to new, local owners

Hatton, Reese working with Sobolik, Friedt to ensure future of accounting, tax work in county

By Anna Jauhola
Over the next few years, the next generation will be taking on accounting and tax preparations for Hallock and the area.
Dahl, Hatton, Muir and Reese has been a household name for tax prep and accounting since 1993. In the last decade or more, the partnership went from four to two as Conrad Dahl and Patricia Muir passed away.
Remaining partners Mark Hatton and Jeff Reese had long been searching for someone to continue the practice when two local men approached them.
“We’ve been looking for a transition plan for a long time,” Reese said. “Finding competent people in this remote area for anything is difficult. Then, low and behold, these two came knocking on our door.”
Brett Sobolik and Jay Friedt met with Reese and Hatton not long ago about the possibility of buying into the business with the intent of taking it on one day. Sobolik worked the busy season for the last couple of years at Dahl, Hatton, Muir and Reese, and got his certified public accountant status about a year ago. He is also a certified financial planner and owns and operates Sobolik Financial.
Friedt worked four busy seasons in the Twin Cities handling taxes for a firm until he switched careers into banking, most recently at American Federal in Hallock.
“I worked for an accounting firm and did four years’ worth of busy seasons, which I’m still wondering why I’m going back into busy seasons,” Friedt said with a laugh. “I enjoyed the work. It was just a lot of work.”
Friedt is currently working toward becoming a certified financial planner, and after that, he will work toward becoming a certified public accountant.
One of the biggest reasons Sobolik began considering the tax business was the public’s desire to keep that type of service in town. He serves on the Hallock Mainstreet Board, and people have said they’d like to keep services here rather than have to drive out of the county.
“Working the last two busy seasons, I could see it was a good service provided,” Sobolik said. “I’ve done my taxes here forever so I know both Mark and Jeff, knowing what they have for business and I wanted to get into it. I could see how big of a business it is in town, how much of a service it is for people in town. With what we both do, it just seemed like a good fit to keep it going.”
Friedt agreed it seemed a natural fit for both of them.
Much of what Dahl, Hatton, Muir and Reese handles is day-to-day accounting for businesses and farms, including payroll, billing, invoices and taxes. They also handle regular tax preparation for businesses and individuals. In the past, they also did governmental and business audits, but that portion was cut — a service Sobolik and Friedt do not intend to resurrect.
For now, Sobolik Financial will remain in a separate location until they can figure out how to house it within the accounting firm.
Over the next three years, Reese and Hatton will work with their clients and introduce Sobolik and Friedt into the mix.
“This type of business is very personal,” Reese said. “We’ve been working with the same people for 40 years, and their families. There’s a trust and loyalty that’s built up there that people don’t want to give up.”

Even as the business transitions, they want patrons to know Reese and Hatton aren’t going anywhere. Despite rumors that have been flying, including that Reese and Hatton were done Dec. 31, they want everyone to know they aren’t going anywhere – and neither are the rest of the staff. The only change is the additions of Sobolik and Friedt.
“They are slowly buying in, so they are partners now,” Reese said of Sobolik and Friedt. “Within three years, they will be full owners. I’m still going to be around as an employee. Mark is too, to various extents. We’re not going to leave our clients high and dry.”
He and Hatton emphasized their relationships with clients are too important, too valuable for them to just up and leave.
“We’re not flying off the face of the earth,” Hatton said. “You build a relationship with them, you call them clients, but they’re not — they’re part of the community, you’re part of the community. And sometimes the community gets you through things.”
As Sobolik and Friedt look toward the future of their business, they know they have a solid foundation to build on.
“I’m looking forward to molding it because you’re not changing a whole lot. The services are here,” Friedt said. “There are core services we want to keep. So then, it’s just molding it into a practice and firm that we want, or we kind of look at from a financial picture.”

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