Jane Catelani Howard of Traditional Medicinals wins CFO award

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Jane Catelani Howard

Chief financial officer

Traditional Medicinals

1400 Valley House Drive, Suite 120, Rohnert Park 94928


Jane Catelani Howard of Rohnert Park’s Traditional Medicinals wins one of North Bay Business Journal’s 2017 North Bay CFO Awards.

Education: Bachelor of Science with a concentration in accounting, California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo

What do you see as the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?

The financial leader is an executive, and as such I believe that we need to lose our past identity as “just” financial people and broaden our view to encompass the entire company and all its activities, systems, process, financial or otherwise.

To be a successful financial executive, we must look beyond “protecting” assets, which gives the impression that we are hoarding cash and not allowing resources to be used. I see it as my role to make sure the assets and resources of the total company are being used to their best ability. It is essential that we bring balance to the conversation, to balance all the needs the company against the availability and cost of resources, be they human resources, capital/equipment or the cost of capital/banking resources, to accomplish our agreed upon strategy.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your industry?

Well, first I have to state that “my industry” is the organic food and beverage industry. Finance is not my industry, it is only one of the skills I bring to my industry. That said, I am in the best industry! The organic movement is huge and growing. People are becoming more and more attuned to eating healthy, and to taking care of their bodies in a more “natural” way.

The biggest change is that people are demanding authenticity and transparency in their food and beverages…and we are so happy because we have been delivering authenticity, transparency in an organic product that actually and truly works for many years now, and people are finding us.

Tell us about the particular challenges and opportunities your organization has met in the recent past.

We have gone through some fairly monumental challenges:

1) analyzing, obtaining Board approval and implementing a transfer out of an ESOP program, truly to save the company,

2) searching for, working through a long due diligence process with, negotiating, and obtaining our first 2 equity “impact” investors for a non-controlling minority interest in our company on the path to creating a liquid market for an on-going minority interest in a company that will never go public,

3) creating a fully-funded incentive and retention plan without the use of company stock,

4) selecting our first major ERP system to replace a 15-year-old system (in process of implementing right now!),

5) creating a Strategic Plan process that incorporates the whole company’s input, including marketing insight, market research, and innovation into goals, strategies and tactics that drive establishment of supporting projects and budgets from a detailed current year view to five- and 10-year plans that are living documents being updated on an on-going basis, and finally,

6) engaging our experienced, market-leading Board in a manner that allows them to understand our challenges and opportunities in a way that they can best respond to, to give us their best insight.

What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?

Work harder and smarter, help others no matter how busy you are, look at situations from all sides, especially if you think the answer is obvious, think with the future in mind — play out your decisions forward, be flexible, don’t be afraid of being wrong, leave your ego at the door, embrace change and continuous improvement (that’s why mistakes are okay, you will just fix them in your next iteration), and above all, keep a positive attitude and thank others!

Jane Catelani Howard

Chief financial officer

Traditional Medicinals

1400 Valley House Drive, Suite 120, Rohnert Park 94928


What’s the best advice for weathering today’s economic environment?

Be the best. Make a difference. That works for your company’s products as well as for every person.

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

More people will discover that TM’s products are the best, that our products work! We will be more than the best wellness and medicinal tea, we will be the best botanical wellness company with new products in addition to tea.

We will be more efficient, adaptive and agile, with the capability to quickly integrate outside processes and varied contract manufacturing structures, as we grow our core strengths of herbalism and formulation. Likewise our staff and financial systems and reporting will need to be insightful, adaptive, and agile.

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

I promoted someone who had a lot of potential. I saw so clearly what they could be capable of, that I ignored the other things that were missing. I learned the hard way that potential isn’t enough, they need the attitude and drive to realize that potential. But thanks to a great boss, he let me make that mistake and helped me learn that lesson. Along these same lines, I have learned that if I am not “sure” about a candidate, I definitely shouldn’t hire them because those are the hires that I have always regretted!

What is your most memorable business experience?

I have had so many memorable experiences, both good and bad, it is extremely hard to recount the most memorable. Nonetheless, off the top of my head – the most memorable negative experience would be discovering fraud (NOT at my current company of course), and the most memorable positive experience would be leading an Acquisition team and writing and negotiating the contract to acquire a telecom company in Santiago, Chile.

What is your greatest business success?

This would probably be the least recognized by anyone else as a “great” success, but I would consider closing down the ESOP as the greatest business success I (and the CEO) accomplished. I truly feel like we saved the company by what we did. I created a 20 year model that demonstrated what could happen, and then the CEO and I presented it to the Board. I believe we brought insight and clarity to a potentially fatal situation and gave the Board the information in a honest and straightforward manner.

What was your toughest business decision?

All decisions are tough, because I never try to make any decision lightly. I am a person who listens to my “gut”, so sometimes it appears that I am making a quick decision, but I always back it up with research, analysis and modeling, as appropriate. The decisions that have been the hardest to deliver, are decisions regarding people – especially having to fire good people, like in layoff situations. I once had to lay off a great person, someone who had quit her job and moved to San Francisco for the job I hired her for. It was awful. She was so talented, I knew she would get another job and I told her I would give her a great reference … but decisions that hurt good people are the toughest to make.

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

In my younger years, I think that there was plenty that my friends would be surprised to find out, but now I think I am pretty much an open book…no pretenses here

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