Stanton Lawson

Chief financial officer, Sequoia Senior Solutions, Inc., 1372 N. McDowell Blvd, Ste. S, Petaluma 94954; 707-763-6600; SequoiaSeniorSolutions.com

Employees: 150

Education: BA in Italian literature and business economics from University of California, Santa Barbara

Age: 55

Professional background: Corporate chief financial officer, specializing in mergers and acquisitions, corporate reorganizations and startups. In March 2003, he became co-owner and CFO of home care provider Sequoia Senior Solutions.

For two years previously, he was finance manager of the Worldwide Information Systems division of San Rafael-based Autodesk. That followed three years as CFO for Italian vermouth brand Cinzano.

What's the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?: I believe that the greatest role a financial leader can play to make his or her organization as successful as possible, is to provide relevant feedback to other managers concerning the financial results of their division, company and cost center. Many people, even seasoned managers, have a hard time interpreting financial statements. One of our main roles is to help them understand their numbers and make the necessary adjustments so the business that they manage will be successful.

What are the biggest changes you've seen in your industry?: In my industry, senior care, the biggest challenge is managing growth, and it will continue to be for some time. As the population ages, the need to care for our elderly loved ones will become greater and greater. Selecting, hiring and training qualified caregivers will be difficult and expensive.

[caption id="attachment_78045" align="alignleft" width="200"] Stanton Lawson[/caption]

What challenges and opportunities have your organization met in the recent past?: The cost of caring for seniors in their own homes is rising. As the economy becomes stronger and unemployment drops, hiring qualified caregivers will be a real challenge.

Keeping the cost of care affordable will require specific management skills as well as creative use of technology. This same challenge offers a great deal of opportunity for those who can devise innovative ways to approach the problem with technical innovations that seniors are willing to work with.

How would you advise young emerging financial leaders?: I would advise people to focus on providing excellent service to the organization they belong to. Be passionate about finding efficiencies in your organization while embracing opportunities for growth as they appear before you.

What's the best advice for weathering today's economic environment?: Connect with trusted partners with whom you can exchange business and ideas. Relationships mean everything when times get difficult, so build positive relationships with your co-workers, business partners and even  competitors.

How will your business change in the next five years?: I expect there will be considerable consolidation in my industry. As people age and their desire to continue living in their own homes becomes stronger, many of the companies that now work in the senior care industry will be expanding into the home care sector as the senior population grows.

What decision do you wish you hadn't made?: All in all, I’m very happy with the decisions I’ve made. I’m sure my wife could answer this question better than I can.

She likes to remind me that if we had continued living in Italy, we would both be very close to retirement now, with all the financial benefits that retired executives have in Italy. But we are here, have a wonderful business and both love going to work every day. So we really can’t complain at all!

What is your most memorable business experience?: I am the finance guy in our business. My wife does most of the interaction with our clients.

But one day, I went to visit a client in Santa Rosa. When I arrived, she opened her arms and gave me a big hug. She thanked me for the services we provide and said she couldn’t be happier with the people we sent to help her.

I can truly say that in my past experience as a mergers-and-acquisitions specialist, I didn’t get a lot of hugs!

What is your greatest business success?: Back in 2007, I had the opportunity to use my M&A background to acquire one of our competitors. They were three times our size, so overnight we quadrupled our revenues and our staff.

Other than the initial procedural problems that a merger of that magnitude entails, we survived the process, and within a couple of months we were again running very smoothly.

I am very pleased to say that many of the clients, who were quite elderly in 2007, are still with us today!

What was your toughest business decision?: My toughest business decision was to leave my job as CFO of Cinzano in Italy to return to my home town of Dillon Beach to run our family resort. It was quite a shock for my wife and me.

What would your friends be surprised to find out about you?: I think they would be very surprised to find out that I was chosen for this award! After all, how many Italian literature graduates receive a CFO-recognition award?

Most admired businessperson: Steve Jobs

Current reading: Hawaii by James Michener

Most want to meet: Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit

Stress relievers: Surfing and riding motorcycles

Favorite activities outside work: Traveling and playing with my three sons