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Brandy Evans

Chief Operating Officer, Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire, 651 Yolanda Avenue, Santa Rosa; 707-523-0550; www.gire.org

Company employees: 350+

Education: All Sonoma County! Santa Rosa Junior High, Santa Rosa High, Santa Rosa Junior College, Sonoma State University

Age: 48

Professional background: My first professional position was with Shamrock Materials while I finished college, followed by relatively brief stints with Arthur Andersen (Business Enterprise Unit), Gallaher Construction and Aegis Assisted Living, and Chancellor Health Care. My experience with long-term health care manifested as an interest in considering the not-for-profit sector. I originally joined Goodwill in 2004 as CFO, exited for a 3 year return to real estate development and then I had the lucky opportunity to return to Goodwill in 2008!

What do you see as the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?: Financial leaders need to speak up and be present on their leadership team. Too often we are viewed merely as compliance managers with nothing to add but overhead costs. Get engaged with your business, spend time thinking about what you can do better, and be prepared to be active in the process.

What are the biggest changes you've seen in your industry?: The severe downturn in the global economy altered the financial landscape of grant giving, governmental funding and even thrift retail. Granted funds declined from all sources, generally speaking, but thrift retail had an unexpected surge. A plus, the depressed real estate market provided huge opportunities to own property.

[caption id="attachment_78039" align="alignleft" width="200"] Brandy Evans[/caption]

Tell us about the particular challenges and opportunities your organization has met in the recent past?: One of our biggest challenges is educating the community on how we use their donations to provide support in the local community. Goodwill is about supporting people. How we do that is reselling used goods. Whether it is job skills training, diverting millions of pounds of materials from landfill, providing hundreds of job opportunities, or supporting local vendors – supporting the people in our community is why we exist.

What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?: A career in finance offers so many opportunities that you can’t begin to imagine yet! Say yes to every one of them – the only limits are those you set for yourself.

What's the best advice for weathering today's economic environment?: Finance people are always in demand, even today. Practice your craft, be consistent in your goals and no matter the economic environment you will thrive!

How do you think your business will change in the next five years?: Competition in thrift retail will require us to offer a different experience for our donors and shoppers. In order to maintain the revenues needed to support the many programs we provide in the community, we will need to generate more revenues because the numbers of people trying to re-enter the work place will demand more support than we have ever experienced.

What is a decision you wish you hadn't made? What did you learn from it?: I chose to stick with accounting rather than pursuing professional avenues that interested me because the exit costs of changing careers was high. I learned two valuable lessons actually, 1) pick a job you enjoy at all costs because you spend a lot of life doing it, and 2) even second choices can work out pretty good!

What is your most memorable business experience?: Getting to present the financial statements to the board of directors at Shamrock Materials when I was 20 years old. And being so nervous that I couldn’t read the documents. They were very kind.

What is your greatest business success?: Becoming COO for Goodwill. Lots of successes over the years but finally reaching the goal of getting to use my financial background to shape, rather than report on, a business is the most incredible thrill.

What was your toughest business decision?: Still is tough -- deciding to terminate someone’s employment. Money is one thing but the real impact is psychological and both the employee and the employer experience it for a long time.

What would your friends be surprised to find out about you? I hate endings! I routinely skip the last couple of chapters in a book, or turn off a movie before the end. Even happy endings leave me melancholy.

Most admired businessperson outside the company: Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx body shape wear

I admire the simplicity of her concept and the tenacity with which she pursued it.

Current reading: An occasional Press Democrat, NBBJ or North Bay Biz is all I have time for.

Stress relievers: Stone massages, and quiet time

Favorite activities outside work: Golfing with my dad