Mark Rudolph

Chief financial officer, Amy's Kitchen, Inc., 1650 Corporate Cir., Ste. 200, Petaluma 94955; 707-781-7618; amys.com

Employees: 1,800

Education: Bachelor's degree in finance and accounting, Sacramento State University; MBA in accounting, Golden Gate University

Age: 55

Professional background: Chief financial and operating officer with branded consumer goods companies. 

Amy’s Kitchen is a leader in natural and organic foods, making vegetarian packaged foods from organic, natural, non-GMO and preservative-free ingredients. Sales top $350 million. Mr. Rudolph leads the strategic and financial planning efforts for Amy’s Kitchen.  Amy’s has production plants in Santa Rosa, Medford, Ore., and a new plant in Corby, England to serve the UK and Western European markets.

Before Amy’s, Mr. Rudolph was chief operating officer of Pacific Cheese Company, CFO at Forklift Brands, CFO and vice president of operations at Peet’s Coffee & Tea. He was with Peet’s for more than 15 years and led its initial public offering of stock in 2001.

Amy's Kitchen set up a production plant near Medford, Ore., converted a purchased plant in England for European sales, purchased a baking plant in Greenville, S.C., for East Coast distribution and is evaluating a major production expansion in Sonoma County.

What's the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?: Being the balancing-act orchestrator between the timing of growth initiatives, the economic pulse, the demand and availability of capital, and staying just ahead of the curve.

[caption id="attachment_78051" align="alignleft" width="200"] Mark Rudolph[/caption]

What are the biggest changes you've seen in your industry?: There is a constant struggle between the positive attributes of organic foods and the economic challenges farmers face.

Tell us about challenges and opportunities your organization has recently: Both keeping up with our growth demands and supporting the continued development and expansion of our organic supply chain have been our biggest challenges. Our solutions have been phasing in expansion capacity and becoming a hands on partner to farmers.

What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?: Flexibility and fluidity is the key to success. Business demands change constantly. You need to be a master of multi tasking and be able to understand those changing dimensions quickly and deeply.

What's the best advice for weathering today's economic environment?: Don't over extend yourself. It's important to be on top of changing demands, but also be able to quickly shift gears if things aren’t heading in the direction you expect. Make sure you have the proper metrics and reporting systems to understand the pulse of your business.

How do you think your business will change in the next five years?: Amy's started out in the natural/organic world. We're now at a size where we're playing in the main stream channel. The business demands and challenges are different here. We will need to be sharper and more deliberate about our efforts in this new environment.

What is a decision you wish you hadn't made? What did you learn from it?: This might sound cliche, but all decision are good ones, otherwise you wouldn't have made them. Some produce great results and others produce learning experiences which influence future decisions. I guess my biggest learning is to never generate repeatable learning experiences.

What is your most memorable business experience?: Taking Peet's Coffee & Tea public.

What is your greatest business success?: My experience at Peet's. We took a very small company in a niche industry and turned it into a nationally recognized branded consumer good in a newly developing and growing industry. We saw the specialty coffee industry become main stream coffee. What a great ride.

What was your toughest business decision?: Business is all about decisions. The tough ones are the one that are not popular by other constituents, but necessary for your business. It happens all the time and it's part of the deal. Taking them in stride and being able to reasonably and passionately explain your position goes along way to building consensus and creating stress relief.

What would your friends be surprised to find out about you?: That I spent a year touring with the international musical group Up With People, singing and dancing.

Most admired businessperson outside the company: Jerry Baldwin, founder of Starbucks and believer that "if you lead with quality, all other good things in business will follow". He's also the guy who taught me to "be comfortable with ambiguity".

Current reading: What ever the internet can offer up, it's all there, you just have to go find it.

Stress relievers: Piloting my airplane. This is the ultimate in multi tasking. You need to shift gears quickly and comprehensively, the same attributes that make you a good business leader. No room for any other distractions.

Favorite activities outside work: Flying