Get to know Willow Creek Wealth Management’s Kelly Noonan, winner of a North Bay Business Journal CFO award.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE ESSENTIAL ROLE OF A FINANCIAL LEADER IN THE CURRENT ENVIRONMENT?
To keep the company focused on our strategic plan. This necessitates ensuring that all financial decisions are in alignment with our company goals and values, while always being mindful of protecting our profit margins.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHANGES YOU’VE SEEN IN YOUR INDUSTRY?
The biggest changes I have seen in my industry are around new technology and the integration of technology platforms to enhance and improve our client experience. The more that technology can help us systematize processes, the more freedom our advisors have for creatively serving their clients.
TELL US ABOUT THE PARTICULAR CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES YOUR ORGANIZATION HAS MET IN THE RECENT PAST.
We recently acquired an advisory firm who’s founder was looking to retire. It was both an opportunity and a challenge to incorporate all of the new business and make sure that the whole transition stayed profitable for our firm.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG EMERGING FINANCIAL LEADERS?
Set realistic goals, and then exceed them. Work hard and keep it simple, don’t over complicate issues by losing track of the big picture. Have a mentor, someone who can help you put things into perspective. Be honest and transparent, and always be willing to admit your mistakes.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE FOR WEATHERING TODAY’S ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT?
Have a plan and stick to it, while remaining alert for potential opportunities. Don’t get distracted by the media, which tends to exaggerate the negative, have trusted experts to rely upon.
HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR BUSINESS WILL CHANGE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
I believe that the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule will fundamentally shift the advice landscape. Registered Investment Advisors, like Willow Creek, have always been held to a fiduciary standard, but there will be a lot more public awareness coming to this issue.
WHAT IS A DECISION YOU WISH YOU HADN’T MADE? WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?
We hired an advisor to focus mainly on business development,and it turned out to be a wrong decision for our business. I learned that we needed to create a strategic plan and stick with that plan, and not get distracted by opportunities that don’t fit in with our business model.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BUSINESS EXPERIENCE?
Most memorable would be envisioning an ideal structure for the success of our organization, finding all the right people to make that vision possible, and then seeing how the execution of an amazing team makes a vision reality.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST BUSINESS SUCCESS?
Successfully bringing our company and our clients through the 2008 stock market crisis. We stayed focused on our investment philosophies and were able to endure the crisis with no reduction in staff or staff salaries. Our clients ultimately profited from our actions and advice during that time.
WHAT WAS YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS DECISION?
My toughest business decision was to separate one of our four partners from the firm, who’s vision for our company did not align with the other three. We managed to uncover and quantify our differences, reach a decision to separate, and all the while remain amicable.
Chief financial officer and chief operating officer
Willow Creek Wealth Management
825 Gravenstein Hwy. N., Ste. 5, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Professional background: 23 years with Willow Creek Wealth Management