Managing Partner – Non-Profits
"Getting non-profits back on track with refreshed systems and optimized staff to fulfill their mission."
As an Operational CFO, Jess generates positive change by creating and implementing new financial processes and best practices for non-profit organizations. In addition to assessing and fixing broken systems, he finds, trains, and mentors talented staff, empowering them through streamlined work processes and optimized organizations. His devotion to non-profits, enabling altruistic organizations to thrive and do their best work to serve their community, was built through a lifetime practice of personal and professional involvement in a variety of industries.
Growing up in Silicon Valley, Jess learned and appreciated the value of hard work and the opportunities afforded if you applied yourself. First in his family to go to college, he was encouraged to consider college by a kindhearted University rep at Santa Clara University where his father worked as a carpenter. This inspired Jess -- gregarious student-body president and triple sports letterman -- to apply to college. This decision changed the course of his life.
After graduating from Santa Clara University as a finance major, Jess was an assistant branch manager for Bank of the West. Jess was drawn to a start-up that launched him into a 17 -year career working in finance for the insurance industry. He honed his accounting and investment financial skills in various roles, ranging from Accounting and Finance Manager to VP and Assistant Treasurer. He transitioned to the Treasury department at Silicon Valley Bank, the premier bank working with tech companies raising B and C rounds to fund their growth. Jess took a tour of all the branch offices, working with the account managers and bankers to explain how the investment products worked, polishing his sales skills and gaining first-hand knowledge of what clients sought. His contacts and experience at SVB, lead him to an optical component company where he secured his first CFO position. The company wanted a CFO who could stretch their money. Jess had strong operational finance experience and it was a natural fit.
Throughout his career, Jess volunteered and got involved in a variety of non-profits. He served as treasurer and board director of various organizations in which his kids were involved. He learned the ropes for managing finance for non-profits. For six years, he served as Chairman of the Board of an insurance carrier for non –profits, bridging his professional experience with his volunteerism. Eventually, Jess turned to consulting as a CFO as his time spent working with non-profits on one side of the table led him to pursue working as an interim and part-time CFO, Since, he has supported more than 22 non-profits in their missions by building strong financial processes and talented, passionate teams.
Jess is a problem-solver – an operational CFO whose Executive Directors seek to identify the problem and find an optimal solution to get them back on track. He has a proven process he takes groups through to identify the problem, a method adapted from his varied experience with start-ups. His ability to turn around chaotic start-up operations has proven valuable with resource-strapped non-profits. Often non-profits are hampered by an individual who serves as an operational bottleneck, which manifests in a lack of timely or accurate information, or an unwillingness to provide certain information. Unfortunately, the staff is frequently ill-equipped to identify the problem or to make the necessary and often painful staffing changes. Jess believes you can’t make change without disrupting the status quo, but as he describes it, “It’s important to shake things up without creating a hurricane”. He leaves his ego at the door when taking on a new client and waits to make recommendations until he’s gathered information and observed the organization in action.
While he often comes in on an interim role, he views himself as an integral part of the team and works as if he is an employee there. By seeing himself as part of the group, he puts himself in their shoes while remaining neutral when making difficult decisions. With a comprehensive assessment as the foundation for change, he recommends changes that uphold the value of previous efforts and maintain the loyalty and passion the staff has for the organization, while also making tough choices.
Jess is a natural networker. His strong ties and exposure to a variety of people and roles benefit his non-profit clients in more areas than his expertise in accounting and finance. He acquired his sales skills during his time working in insurance and investment industries and has a knack for reading and appreciating people. His skill in streamlining organizations came from an early mentor who taught him to leverage successes from other industries. His gregarious and empathic nature makes the most impact when he is brought in to turn around floundering organizations. He brings whoever should be at the table into the conversation to get a consensus on the solution. Part of this is to ensure everyone is on board but it also fosters team ownership in the final solution.
As a problem-solver, Jess conducts a thorough assessment to identify areas of inefficiencies or weakness. Since bottlenecks are often one of the main culprits for inefficiencies in non-profits, Jess leads by example and decentralizes the work away from the CFO and onto the capable and too-often untapped support staff. By redesigning processes that empower, Jess ensures vital information with impact on the overall operation is shared and reported.
Jess plays numerous roles with his client organizations. He prefers serving as part-time CFO, as he did for The Family Giving Tree for a decade. He enjoys ongoing interactions and being a part of a group of passionate individuals focused on a mission. He equally enjoys making an impact as an interim and short-term change agent, turning around a struggling organization and setting it up with talented staff who can take over after the transition. Primarily, Jess mentors and builds up the talent. His extensive network provides him with a steady stream of talent to tap for building out organizations that are missing key roles, or to mentor existing talent to maximize the overall team’s potential.
The emphasis on small organizations has allowed him to be more hands-on than most CFOs and has provided invaluable insights into how things work downstream. He builds strong and lasting relationships with the Executive Director, who is on the front line and reporting to the Board of Directors. He mentors and assists Executive Directors to develop the reports that the Board of Directors is expecting, and works to determine the metrics that they can manage on a day-to-day basis to understand how operations work since operations flow into the numbers that they report. The Board of Directors want to see what is driving those numbers and Jess creates efficient systems and processes that allow teams to both manage and report on the operation.