Chief finance and operations officer30 Kawana Springs Rd., Santa Rosa 95404; 707-525-0143; councilonaging.com
Employees: 80, plus 350 volunteers
Professional background: 30 years of experience in consulting, banking, management and finance
Education: M.A. international studies, University of Washington; M.S., industrial administration, Purdue University; B.A., economics, University of Puget Sound
[caption id="attachment_96412" align="alignleft" width="240"] Hugh Robertson[/caption]
Mr. Robertson previously held CFO positions for a number of companies including Children's Council of San Francisco; CleanFish, Inc.; and the French American International School. Prior to working as a CFO, Mr. Robertson spent many years in corporate banking with First Interstate Bank (now Wells Fargo) and consulting with Arthur Andersen & Co. (now Accenture).
He and his wife, Kelly, live in Napa County.
What do you see as the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?: To be a strategic leader in an environment where the room for financial error is shrinking. To ensure financial sustainability while fostering a fulfilling and empowering corporate culture. To translate financial perspectives intelligibly and honestly to make sure all stakeholders are working consciously in the same direction.
What are the biggest changes you've seen in your industry?: I have worked in and with numerous industries. Generally, the biggest change is how much closer to the bone most businesses and households are operating. This systemic lack of resilience concerns me. And wherever you look in our society, the rate of change and the level of complexity are also markedly higher. I am not sure these changes are to our advantage. I am sure they test management acumen.
Tell us about the particular challenges and opportunities your organization has met in the recent past?: The deep recession put pressure on revenue from all sources. Council on Aging managed to maintain all 16 programs and even developed and launched a couple -- the Sonoma Wine Country Games for athletes over 50 and our retail, gourmet-to-go product line, Stage -- despite this pressure. COA is also championing a major Healthy Aging Initiative with other partners, including Sonoma County, to change the culture of aging.
What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?: Half of being a financial leader is being a leader. This means paying attention to the human, subjective element. Pay attention to the power the financial function holds in an organization and appreciate the integrity and responsibility this influence demands of you. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this job? What do I hope to accomplish?” You must have acceptable answers to these questions. Ask yourself, “Do I support the mission of the company? Do I share the values? Do I fit in with the culture? Do I enjoy the tasks I perform every day?” Make sure you can answer yes to these questions. Your job satisfaction will be critical to your professional success and personal happiness.
What's the best advice for weathering today's economic environment?: Our economy is heavily influenced by technology and short-term thinking. Therefore, it is essential to prepare for volatility on all fronts. Make sure you have reserves -- both in terms of assets and contingency plans. Keep leverage low and liquidity high.
How do you think your business will change in the next five years?: I would expect the portion of our revenue that comes from government sources -- roughly one-third at the moment -- will decline over time. This will require an entrepreneurial strategy and great creativity to develop new sources of recurring revenue and efficient operating practices to control expense growth.