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2014 CFO Awards: Scott Smith, Silverado Investment Management Company

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Chief financial officer - compliance and risk855 Bordeaux Way, Napa 94558; 707-253-1776; WGIMGlobal.com

Employees: 20

Professional background: Various corporate and partnership accounting roles, Phoenix Leasing, San Rafael, 1985--1988; financial reporting, accounting manager, corporate finance manager, director brand finance and vice president of sales and marketing operations, Robert Mondavi Winery, Napa, 1988--2003; vice president of sales and marketing finance, Fosters Wine Estates Napa, 2003--2006; chief financial officer, Silverado Investment Management Company, Napa, 2006--current.

Education: B.S., business, San Francisco State University

Age: 55

[caption id="attachment_96414" align="alignleft" width="240"] Scott Smith[/caption]

What do you see as the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?: During the last eight years in my current role, the company has been under constant change, either from growth or ownership changes or both.

In managing this change, a leader must love a changing environment and communicate with all stakeholders. Employees, owners, lenders and other stakeholders must have a clear picture of what impact the changes will have on their interests. Communication is sometimes difficult when you do not have all the answers, but I believe stakeholders appreciate even limited information.

As events come into focus, continuing communication is vital.

What are the biggest changes you've seen in your industry?: In my 25 years in the industry, the biggest financial changes are vineyards and wineries becoming mainstream investments options for institutions and large beverage companies, and that change inspired greater financial rigor in the industry.

As an industry, we then needed additional financial and accounting resources in the North Bay.

Tell us about the particular challenges and opportunities your organization has met in the recent past?: Our organization has been fortunate to capitalize on investment opportunities since 2008. Our investment partners have been very supportive of growth during tough economic times, believing as we do that buying at the right time and selling at the right time are crucial to realizing a good return on an investment.

The challenges for us revolve around Mother Nature's delivering us good weather for a profitable harvest. We try to control as many variables as possible, but a freeze or rain at the wrong time has a major impact.

What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?: Find an industry you are excited by, as all companies need good financial leaders. Once in, volunteer for any assignment that exposes you to other aspects of the business besides accounting and finance. For me, that was exposure to vineyards, production, and sales and marketing. I use all the experiences and contacts in my work today.

What's the best advice for weathering today's economic environment?: Keep your leverage modest and continue to nurture your current customers while identifying new customers that you can help grow. We have many instances where a customer is small at the beginning and it grows to become very profitable for us.

How do you think your business will change in the next five years?: I believe the changes will continue to be more consolidation in all levels of the business. We will have larger companies as well as smaller and entrepreneurial ventures, but a shrinking number of mid-sized companies.

The mid-sized operations will have more difficulty competing in the marketplace and cannot be as nimble and flexible as a smaller operation.

What is a decision you wish you hadn't made? What did you learn from it?: I made a decision to implement a new sales software system. While the software implementation was good from a technical standpoint, I did not have full user buy-in to the new process or software. What I learned is many people do not like change without being provided input to the process and believing it would deliver a good result, either by providing valuable information or saving time in their job responsibilities.

What is your most memorable business experience?: Being part of a team raising equity for investment. From the financial modeling to the business presentation, it was the most challenging aspect of my career. And being able to provide the investor a return that was anticipated is a great reward.

What is your greatest business success?: My greatest business success is not mine, but being able to work with smart, creative and innovative people who have taught me about the business and life. They have made my career fun and challenging.

What was your toughest business decision?: The toughest decisions have always been personnel-related, either hiring or downsizing. The most difficult was during a merger of two companies and I had to decide between employees I was already managing and employees from the other company. When I had to let go colleagues that currently worked for me that was very difficult decision.

What would your friends be surprised to find out about you?: I am more outgoing and talkative in the business environment than in my personal life.

Most admired businessperson outside the company: Mark Cuban. I love the entrepreneurial spirit that he brings to his ventures, how he rewards his employees and his ownership of a sports team.

Current reading: Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

Most want to meet: Anthony Bourdain

Stress-relievers: Bike riding

Favorite activities outside work: Tennis and travel

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