Darlene Brazil

Chief financial officer, Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery, Inc., 2064 Gravenstein Hwy N., Bldg. 1, Ste. 130, Sebastopol 95472; 707-823-8250; redwoodhill.com

Employees: 56

Education:BS in mathematics and a minor in business administration with an emphasis in accounting from Sonoma State University. Associate degree in mathematics from Santa Rosa Junior College.

Age: 43

Professional background: She started her accounting career in 1989 as a trust accounting clerk at a national company based in Rohnert Park. From there, she moved into a full-charge bookkeeping position in Santa Rosa. While continuing to work, she attended college to advance her accounting skills.

After receiving her degree she went to work for a prominent local accounting firm in 1998. While there, she earned my CPA and was promoted to manager. She then moved to another prominent local accounting firm and continued to work with a variety of clients in Sonoma County, various other states and countries.

While working for those two firms, she gained more than 13 years of experience. At the last one, she developed and organized training curriculum and taught new staff.

She served as the tax chair for a  national and international affiliation of CPA firms.

In May 2011, she accepted the position of CFO at Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery.

What's the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?: A financial leader needs to be aware of not only the finances of their company but also how the current environment is affecting customers, distributors and vendors.

What are the biggest changes you've seen in your industry?: The natural food industry has shifted from a partnership environment to a more corporate environment. This can make it difficult for small family businesses to compete with larger corporations.

[caption id="attachment_78029" align="alignleft" width="200"] Darlene Brazil[/caption]

Tell us about challenges and opportunities your organization has met recently: One of our biggest challenges is competition. We have a niche market in natural foods. There have been several companies branching into the natural foods market.

Fortunately, we maintained our focus on quality as well as relationships with our customers and vendors and have remained one of the top dairy products in the natural foods industry.

What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?: Always continue to learn, to be aware of financial and business trends. Also, understand their business environment and that it is not only about the numbers.

What's the best advice for weathering today's economic environment?: Be aware of not only your company’s economic issues but also those associated with you, and be able to accommodate for necessary changes.

How will your business change in the next five years?: We expect continued steady growth over the next five years and also anticipate adding new products to our line.

What decision do you wish you hadn't made?: Over the years, there have been decisions I wish I did not make, but each decision created an opportunity for learning and growth.

What is your most memorable business experience?: One of the most memorable experiences was at a conference that I was the facilitator. Upon arriving in Florida, I found that half of my speakers were stuck in their various states. In a two-hour window, I had to reschedule two days of speakers in order to make this conference a success. Luckily, most were flexible, and a great conference was accomplished.

What is your greatest business success?: Working with and helping to develop and mentor young professionals in their accounting careers.

What was your toughest business decision?: In general, the toughest business decisions revolve around staffing issues.

What would your friends be surprised to find out about you?: Not a whole lot. We are a pretty open group. Maybe that I am a fan of cheesy sci-fi movies.

Most admired businessperson: There are several business people I admire who have mentored and guided me throughout my career. Their advice and friendship helped me be the businessperson I am today.

Current reading: Industry journals and Danse Macabre by Laurell Hamilton

Most want to meet: chef Emeril Lagasse

Stress relievers: My dogs and walks in the country with friends

Favorite activities outside work: Camping, walks, traveling, watching live theater and spending time with my pets, family and friends