Daniel Chin

Vice president and chief financial officer, Ghilotti Bros., Inc., 525 Jacoby St., San Rafael 94901; 415-454-7011; ghilottibros.com

Employees: More than 225

Education: University of California, Berkeley, 1987

Age: 49

Professional background: As CFO of general engineering contractor Ghilotti Bros. since 2006, Mr. Chin has developed a finance team to handle the increased annual volume from $50 million to more than $100 million.

From 1991--2006, he was vice president and CFO of Marelich Mechanical Co., a Fortune 500 subsidiary of EMCOR. He was responsible for all finance functions on the West Coast, and consolidated annual revenues that topped $250 million.

He is member of the Construction Financial Management Association, Institute of Managerial Accountants and a lifetime member of the CAL Alumni Association.

What's the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?: Construction is a tough business, especially in the public sector, where the low bidder gets the job. You have to keep the company focused on its core values. Observing and adapting to constant economic changes helps you stay in front of the competition.

What are the biggest changes you've seen in your industry?: Shrinking public infrastructure funding and more emerging "P3" (public-private partnerships) and design-built projects.

[caption id="attachment_78034" align="alignleft" width="200"] Daniel Chin[/caption]

Tell us about the particular challenges and opportunities your organization has met in the recent past: We took a public project where we left millions on the table -- we were the low bidder -- and worked with our team, our client and business partners to build the project within budget and on time, leaving everyone coming out ahead.

What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?: No one knows everything. Work hard and learn from your top executives and their business partners. Together as a team, you will reach your professional goals faster.

What's the best advice for weathering today's economic environment?: Stay focused on your goals and adjust your business plan as needed. We are still not in the clear with this low economic cycle.

However it’s also a good time to be ready for when it starts turning around. As always, “Cash is king.” Always make this a priority as you monitor, control and forecast.

How will your business change in the next five years?: The market for construction should start improving in the private sector, and there will be more public-private partnerships that will also help lead the way.

What decision do you wish you hadn't made?: You only have one life to live, and moving forward without regrets will make your life more fulfilling. Learning from your mistakes will prepare you for the next challenge and help you come out with better results.

What is your most memorable business experience?: Starting in 2006 at Ghilotti Bros., I was having to work 12-plus-hour days to restructure and prepare the finance department for reaching the next level. Eva Ghilotti, chairperson of GBI, said, "If you’re working late again, then so will I.”

There were a few times when Mario Ghilotti would call at midnight and ask, "You two working late again? Go home!."

What is your greatest business success?: Training, mentoring and developing my assistants and watching them eventually become CFOs, controllers and directors in their own right.

What was your toughest business decision?: Employees are a company's greatest assets. Layoffs during hard economic times affect everyone from the top down.

What would your friends be surprised to find out about you?: I’m actually a decent cook. It comes naturally from working in my father's and grandfather’s family-owned Chin's restaurants in Oregon and California.

Most admired businessperson outside the company: Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

Current reading: Search Inside Yourself by Google executive Chade-Meng Tan

Most want to meet: two-time Oscar-winner Ang Lee

Stress relievers: Playing tennis well, winning or losing hard-fought matches

Favorite activities outside work: Traveling around the world, playing a little Texas Hold 'Em now and then, and working on good causes, such as being a founding member of a nonprofit called AIDS Relief Fund for China (ARFC).

Is there anything we may have missed that you would like to add?: Ghilotti Bros. Inc. will be celebrating its 100th year in 2014. It’s a third-generation family business, and all its employees are part of the extended family. I’m honored to be working here and look forward helping pave the way for the fourth generation.