Douglas Kay of Santa Rosa’s Children’s Museum of Sonoma County wins one of North Bay Business Journal’s 2017 North Bay CFO Awards.
Professional background: Computer engineering, animation and visual-effects technology, business and management.
Education: B.S., M.S., Cornell University
What do you see as the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?
The financial leader is often the main business advisor as well. The CFO can insure that the company mission, vision and strategies have a sound financial and business basis and can be successful in an ever changing local and national environment.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your industry?
Children’s museums have an ever increasing essential role to play in the critical thinking development of our children in a world providing less time and resources for arts, sciences and creative play time, particularly for less advantaged families.
Tell us about the particular challenges and opportunities your organization has met in the recent past.
As a startup, born around a kitchen table of concerned parents who saw a critical need in our community, we have recently grown rapidly through the hard work of many and the generosity of our supporters and donors.
As we move into becoming an on-going, sustained business, we are challenged to maintain the entrepreneurial spirit and continued growth that have been the cornerstones of our success while insuring that our core business fundamentals will allow us to contribute to our community for many years to come.
What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?
Get as much experience as you can in as many disciplines as you can outside of finance. While strong fundamentals are important, it is essential to be able to quickly absorb key issues across the entire business and synthesize plans and strategies to achieve the company’s goals.
What’s the best advice for weathering today’s economic environment?
Hope for the best; plan for the worst.
How do you think your business will change in the next five years?
Fulfilling the Museum’s mission to inspire children’s creativity and stimulate their curiosity will become even more critical if current socio-economic trends continue. Community outreach will become an increasing focus of efforts and resources while continuing to grow capacity to meet the demands of the county’s residents and its many annual visitors.
What is a decision you wish you hadn’t made? What did you learn from it?
On a number of occasions I have hired people into key positions because I desperately needed a position filled, not because they were necessarily the best possible candidate. Invariably, those hires didn’t work out in the long-term. I now trust my instincts more and work to find the right candidate regardless of how long it takes.
What is your most memorable business experience?
Running a venture-backed startup during the dot-com boom of ’98-’00, both the highs and the lows.
What is your greatest business success?
Starting a department within the visual effect division of Lucasfilm that eventually went on to win multiple Academy Awards for its digital technology work in feature films.
What was your toughest business decision?
Having to ramp down a business and layoff people who had put their faith and hope in the business we were creating.
Chief financial officer
Children’s Museum of Sonoma County
1835 W. Steele Lane, Santa Rosa 95403