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Ann Nolen of Petaluma’s COTS wins CFO award

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Ann Nolen

Chief financial officer

Committee on the Shelterless (COTS)

900 Hopper St., Petaluma, CA 94952

707-765-6530

www.cots-homeless.org

Employees: 35

Professional background: Twelve years at local nonprofits (Sonoma County Museum, Blood Bank of the Redwoods, R House Inc, Sonoma Humane Society, COTS). Fourteen years managing her family’s auto repair shop, Nolen Automotive, where she did everything except fix the cars. Ten-plus years as accountant for large corporations in Southern California.

Education: Accounting, Loyola Marymount University

Get to know Committee on the Shelterless’ Ann Nolen, 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?

Nonprofits are a small business and their best business tool is being able to adapt quickly to changes. Having strong planning and budgeting skills gives you the ability to do this well.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHANGES YOU’VE SEEN IN YOUR INDUSTRY?

There have been big changes in government funding for nonprofits. Nonprofits are shifting to diversify by adding multiple revenue sources including fundraising, foundation grants, and fees for service.

TELL US ABOUT THE PARTICULAR CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES YOUR ORGANIZATION HAS MET IN THE RECENT PAST.

The government funding from the state was severely cut for homeless programs in Sonoma County this year. We have adapted by obtaining one year local government support and collaborating with other nonprofits. Now we are working on next year.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG EMERGING FINANCIAL LEADERS?

Be well rounded in all areas of business and build a network to match that. Keep tech savvy, dig in and know the operations side of your business, and collaborate often.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE FOR WEATHERING TODAY’S ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT?

Basics. Budget and live within your means. I believe in spending only the money you have, and resist having any debt. Be flexible and look for upcoming risks and opportunities.

HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR BUSINESS WILL CHANGE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

As the government funding trends change, our challenge will be to find a reliable source of revenue to give our homeless clients the programs that transform their lives and give them a skills to stand on their own two feet.

WHAT IS A DECISION YOU WISH YOU HADN’T MADE? WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

In past years I had a job that was not personally fulfilling and I decided to stay in the hope it would improve. I learned I need to trust my instincts more.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BUSINESS EXPERIENCE?

I think that has to be deciding to take the CFO job at COTS about a year ago. I love they are a team management style, and I feel I am making a difference in our community.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST BUSINESS SUCCESS?

I am always intrigued when solving business puzzles, and untangling them can often save substantial amounts of money. I love when that happens.

WHAT WAS YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS DECISION?

It has been a few years, but the hardest business decision for me was to leave operating a local family business and to go back to being an employee. It took me a while to find my place with my new entrepreneur skill set. In the end, it made me a much better CFO.

WHAT WOULD YOUR FRIENDS BE SURPRISED TO FIND OUT ABOUT YOU?

I am a pretty open book, so my friends know too much about me already. I think most people I meet are surprised when I tell them I have been married 43 years.

QUICK TAKES

Most admired businessperson outside the company: Lynette Boisvert, owner of the Classic Duck store.

Current reading: David Baldacci novels. I listen while I drive to work.

Most want to meet: Michelle Obama

Stress relievers: I often foster bottle-fed kittens. They are wonderful stress therapy.

Favorite activities outside work: I hand-paint coins and turn them into jewelry. I have an Etsy store.

Ann Nolen

Chief financial officer

Committee on the Shelterless (COTS)

900 Hopper St., Petaluma, CA 94952

707-765-6530

www.cots-homeless.org

Employees: 35

Professional background: Twelve years at local nonprofits (Sonoma County Museum, Blood Bank of the Redwoods, R House Inc, Sonoma Humane Society, COTS). Fourteen years managing her family’s auto repair shop, Nolen Automotive, where she did everything except fix the cars. Ten-plus years as accountant for large corporations in Southern California.

Education: Accounting, Loyola Marymount University

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