From growing an ad agency to growing grapes


When did you first have a martini? One of The Flint Group’s longtime employees, Susan Hogen, had her first martini with Harold Flint (yes, the founder of Flint Communications) in Bismarck at a North Dakota Newspaper Association meeting.

“Let’s just say I enjoyed the olive, but couldn’t get the rest down,” Susan recalls with her signature bright smile.

That was in the 1970s.

Flint Communications just celebrated its 65th year of business, and Susan has been part of amazing growth and transformation in the communications world—and with the agency.

Susan, left, with Connie Ness of Radio Fargo Moorhead at the Flint Holiday Party earlier this month

Susan, left, with Connie Ness of Radio Fargo Moorhead at the Flint Holiday Party in Fargo earlier this month.

Today, Susan continues taking care of clients, mainly on the AdFarm side of our business, and she still fills in as the Fargo office receptionist. Away from the office, she and her husband Rodney manage Red Trail Vineyard in Buffalo, N. D.

Rodney and Susan in the Gift Shop and Tasting Room at their vineyard.

Rodney and Susan in the Gift Shop and Tasting Room at their vineyard.

Rewind to 1979
“The first time I met anyone from Flint Communications was at the Gas Light bar in Fargo, which was a hangout for the agency gentlemen,” Susan recalls.“I started working at Flint Communications as the receptionist in May 1979. Since I was the receptionist, I was in charge of making sure the coffee pot was always full, which is also the reason I started to drink coffee,” Susan says. “When I started at Flint, many of the employees smoked at their desks. I remember Harold smoking his pipe and telling stories about the circus.”

Susan in the days of typewriters and piles of paper.

Susan in the days of typewriters and piles of paper.

Receptionist to first female account executive
Susan continues: “I soon became a project coordinator, making sure media contracts and materials were sent out in the mail correctly, and then I became Flint’s first female account executive. I worked on various client projects, including Bobcat Parts and any other projects. I coordinated the schedule for Roger (Reierson, now leading the agency) and filled in as receptionist from time to time.”

Again, the martinis
“Back then, there were many long lunches on Fridays, and I only had time to go back to the office and do the mail for the day,” she says. “We had electric typewriters and when you typed anything you used carbon paper to get two copies and white out to fix the mistakes. We also hand wrote our statements first, and then someone would type up the invoice to be mailed to our clients.”

Work hard, play hard
“During those years, we had two Christmas parties every year,” Susan says. “On Tuesday, we hosted our suppliers and media representatives. Then on Thursday, we hosted our clients. One other employee and I did most of the planning for both of them.”

“We also had birthday parties for agency employees. People with birthdays in the first six months planned parties for people in the last six months, and vice versa,” Susan recalls.

Some things haven’t changed
Flint employees still work hard and play hard today. Susan, far right, with agency friends in the photo booth at our 2011 Holiday party:

Susan and agency friends a 2011 Flint Holiday Party


Get to know a Flintster: Q + A with Susan!

Tell us about a memorable work experience.
We were the agency for many political candidates and campaigns. The big three media options at that time were newspaper advertisements, radio and TV commercials. One time we needed final artwork to The Farmer magazine, so I hopped a plane to Minneapolis in the afternoon, rented a car and drove the material to the publisher’s house so the ad would be printed the next morning.

I was back on the plane the next day to Fargo and arrived in the office before most others.

How does your passion outside of work fuel your work?
Coordinating all the details of events at Red Trail Vineyard is similar to my time at Flint. It gives me the opportunity to be involved with many organizations. I love meeting people and like to find out what their passion is in life.

What do you do on a typical night or weekend?
In the evenings I look forward to dinner, as Rodney prepares it most of the time. I have gone back to sewing for items to sell in our Red Trail Vineyard Tasting Room. In the summertime we have group dinners, wine tasting, mowing the vineyard and helping with pruning and tying the vines to the trellis. Each year, we host the North Dakota Grape & Harvest Festival the third Saturday of August. I continue to help organize and coordinate vendors, entertainment, wagon rides, wine tours, wine tasting and all the other details.

What was your first job?
Working as a car hop at A&W Drive-In. Some of the nights became quite challenging when the bars closed and people came to get a hamburger and fries. Growing up, our family was very active with 4-H and the high school band, so marching in parades was a summer highlight.

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