Executive at Frog’s Leap Winery in Napa Valley wins 2020 North Bay Business Journal CFO award

Shannon McLaren, CPA

Chief financial officer

Frog’s Leap Winery

8815 Conn Creek Road, P.O. Box 189, Rutherford 94573


Read more profiles of North Bay CFO Awards winners.

Keeping staff at Frog’s Leap Winery safe required regular monitoring for the latest from regulators about COVID-19.

The North Bay Business Journal is honoring Shannon McLaren with a CFO Recognition Award, one of leaders recognized from a variety of businesses and nonprofits throughout Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties. Award winners were honored Aug. 28 in a Business Journal Virtual Event.

Number of company employees: 70-plus

Professional background: Chief financial officer at Huneeus Vintners and Crimson Wine Group’ Corporate Controller at Wente Family Estates; senior business analyst and accounting manager at The Clorox Company; and senior internal auditor at Altera Corporation and audit manager at KPMG.

Education: CPA (U.S. and Canada) and bachelor’s degree in business administration, concentration in accounting from Cape Breton University

How has the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic disruption changed how you carry out your job at your current employer?

Having only been in my role for two months before the initial Covid-19 shelter in place orders were issued, how I carry out my job post Covid-19 is what I consider to be my “normal.”

As a member of the executive team, we are meeting regularly to ensure the safety and well being of our team and guests as well as to better understand the ever-changing guidance from the CDC and Napa County.

In addition, being in charge of Finance, HR and IT, I am constantly revising cash flow and income projections, regularly ensuring we are following the guidelines for the safety of our team and ensuring that those that can work from home are set up to be able to do so in a secure manner.

What changes have come because of the pandemic in the industry you work in? Identify which changes are temporary and which, if any, are lasting.

There have been many changes but the most significant I have seen is the ability to pivot the in person tasting room experience to on-line ordering and the extreme popularity of interactive tastings.

I believe the success of on-line will be lasting as our interactive tasting series has taught us how we can engage our customer in a meaningful way from afar.

Tell us about a recent success your company has had: The ability to keep all of our employees working and paid during these extremely challenging times is a huge success for us.

What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?

Be authentic, bold and fearless. Take chances and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, they are your best learning opportunity. Don’t accept the status quo, always challenge yourself to be better, to learn more and to grow both personally and professionally.

How do you think your business will change in the next five years?

There was already a lot going on in the wine industry pre Covid-19 that was going to introduce dramatic changes (Cannabis, the impact of generational shifts on consumer buying habits, renewed focus on health and organic farming practices, M&A, distributor consolidation).

Now, as we adapt to a Covid-19 world, how we react to and survive channel shifting is going to be key.

What is a decision you wish you hadn't made? What did you learn from it?

I truly believe that every decision I have made has contributed to where I am today and, therefore, I don’t wish to go back on any of them. The best way to learn is through making mistakes and I tell my team that all the time.

What is your most memorable business experience?

Many years ago, when I worked with KPMG, one of our consulting engagements was in Northern Labrador in Canada working with an Innu community.

I arrived on a small prop plane on an ice and snow filled landing strip with my audit bag and was greeted by snowmobile and taken to my hotel, the local RCMP officer’s home.

Later that evening, we went out to see the Northern Lights. I’ve been fortunate to travel to many audit engagements all over the world including Malaysia, Japan, Ireland, Germany and England but none of them can compare to that experience.

What is your greatest business success?

Recently, with Covid-19 shelter in place orders, I had to figure out how to set up many of our employees to work from home, immediately. Some of the many challenges included that the vast majority of our employees only had desktop computers, we only had 2 VPN licenses (which meant that only 2 people could be on the network from outside the winery at any one time) and many other companies were scrambling to get more VPN licenses.

I was able to work with our outsourced IT vendor to get these employees set up within a matter of days.

What was your toughest business decision?

Right now, and the daily navigation of the impacts of Covid-19.

What would your friends and family be surprised to find out about you?

I’m an open book so there is very little that my friends and family don’t know about me. Perhaps that I was selected for this award as I’m not the best at sharing my successes.

Personally, what is the biggest lesson you have taken from the events of the last few months?

An increased sense of gratitude. I am thankful for my family and friends and our health, I am thankful that I have a job that I love with amazing and supportive coworkers, I am thankful that I am surrounded by picturesque vineyards, nature and mountains, and so much more.

Tell us about your community involvement activities: I volunteer as a Life Coach with Girls on the Run, which is an amazing program that teaches young girls to be confident and active. I’ve also worked with Whiskers, Tails and Ferals in Napa to help trap, neuter and release feral cats and have volunteered with Junior Achievement’s Elementary and High School Programs in the past as well.

Quick takes

Most admired businessperson outside the company: Carolyn Wente

Current reading: “The Girl with the Louding Voice” by Abi Dare

Most want to meet: Past generations of my family

Stress relievers: Mountain biking, my Peloton bike and the Leaderboard, the Calm app and lots of deliciously yummy Frog’s Leap wine!

Shannon McLaren, CPA

Chief financial officer

Frog’s Leap Winery

8815 Conn Creek Road, P.O. Box 189, Rutherford 94573


Read more profiles of North Bay CFO Awards winners.

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