Solutions Employee Spotlight: Controller Jan Whitson on Taking Risks, Taking Time Out, and Taking Stock of It All

The world needs bean counters. And we especially need Jan.

Since 2016 Jan Whitson has been the Controller here at Solutions 8, which is just a formal way of saying she handles all things financially related. (Or, as she tells it, “I spend money and collect money.”)

But Jan is so much more than your average number cruncher. Her answers to my questions had me laughing out loud one second and tearing up the next, so if she ever tries to tell you she’s boring—which she will—you can just give her a big ol’ “Pfft. Yeah, right.”

Let’s start with how she came to be part of this wild and crazy team.

In October of 2016 Jan and her husband closed their business and retired. Shortly after, she realized she wasn’t quite ready for full retirement and answered an ad that seemed too good to be true—doing what she loved AND working from home. The business, of course, was Solutions 8, and she and Kasim hit it off immediately.

“He told me during our interview that he ‘hated’ the accounting and reporting end of the business and since I love that kind of work, we seemed to be a pretty good fit!”

I imagine there are no “typical” days for Jan, whose daily task list includes payroll, accounting, invoicing and collection, credit card processing, out-of-state payroll tax filing forms—ugh, my head hurts just thinking about that—and pretty much any other remotely finance-related task Kasim might come up with. Still, she says the best part of her job is our amazing team, and I definitely can’t argue with her there.

Did you know Jan was a swim instructor once … er, twice?

She says it’s the most interesting job she’s ever had, and it definitely came with its surprising moments. Like the time she was teaching a “tiny tots” class and a 2-year-old jumped off the diving board and landed on her face, giving her a split lip. Later, when she was attending Indiana State University, she taught college guys who needed to learn to swim as part of their PE major. (Incidentally, she worked a second job at ISU in the quad dining hall and says the 4:00 AM breakfast shift really cramped her partying efforts.)

But let’s go back to the beginning…

Jan was born in Valparaiso, Indiana and married her high school sweetheart, Doug, during their senior year at ISU. One night, he told her to dress up, took her to the best restaurant in town for lobster and filet mignon, and finally put a ring on it. He even asked her dad for her hand earlier that day, to which Jan says, “Actually he got all of me, whether he wanted it or not!” Apparently he did, because they’ve been happily married for 45 years.

By the way, Jan says the secret to long-term happiness is in these 13 words:

“Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”

I’ll let that sink in a moment while you contemplate every silly relationship squabble you’ve had recently. (Don’t worry; I’m doing it, too.)

Doug and Jan have a son, Shawn, who apparently rides mountain bikes “much too aggressively” for Jan’s taste. That made me LOL. Moms are the best. Shawn works for Stage 3 Motorsports, based in Phoenix, and is “simply the best kid anyone could ever hope to have”—proof that the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.

As for her four-legged children, Jan has a cat named Quigley (formerly Maybelline, until they found out “she” was a “he”) and another named Angus, who is apparently 29 pounds of the coolest cat you will ever meet. Plus, he has seven toes on each front paw and actually uses his thumbs to pick things up. My dogs are looking pretty inadequate right about now.

Okay, but the stargazing club!

Jan has a lot of hobbies, but this one is my favorite.

How cool is it that she and Doug spend several Saturday evenings a month with a stargazing group up in the mountains? Apparently, they get to look through telescopes “as big as civil war cannons” to get a close-up view of different constellations (her favorite is Orion) and even the rings of Saturn. Not to judge your Saturday night plans or anything, but this seems infinitely more awesome than binge-watching Netflix.

Jan’s also a die-hard Cubs fan, and she and Doug try to get to as many Cubs games as they can—both spring training and regular season. She also loves cooking and traveling, especially road trips. Her dream vacation is packing up the car, tossing a dart at a map, and just going where it points.

“It’s not always the destination for me, but the journey. We have had the most fun when we were lost, and I have worked to make Doug understand that it really is perfectly okay to get lost.”

Her favorite place, though, is Yellowstone National Park. She says she simply can’t get enough of it and has been there several times. She has also hiked and explored Zion, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Grand Tetons and Bryce Canyon, but says none compares to Yellowstone.

Biggest pet peeve? People who lie.

“Life is short, people, and generally the truth can’t kill you so just be honest.”

Sage advice these days.

Still, she says people inspire her—and not just the ones she likes. For Jan, it’s all about getting to know one another’s differences and finding the common ground in between.

One last thing: When I asked who would it be if she could switch jobs with any person in the company, Jan said, “Not even remotely interested. I LOVE what I do. Order and balance are my lifeblood.” And it’s true. She’s the yin to our crazy yang here at Solutions 8, and we couldn’t get through a day without her.