Grow a Nonprofit
There should be plenty of reasons
Lyn Jensen would want to leave finance altogether.
After all, the former CFO of Napster was
put through the wringer as the online-music
pioneer was bombarded by lawsuits and eventually
plunged into a near-fatal bankruptcy.
But she doesn’t. Although Jensen admits
that her time at Napster — where she was literally
the last employee — was “a roller coaster,” she
insists that her new position, as CFO of Habitat for Humanity International, is not her way of turning her back on Corporate
America. Instead, she says that accepting the position at the home-building organization was a matter of timing. “Some people
get called to a mission at an earlier stage,” she says. “But God wanted me here.”
At Habitat, Jensen, age 61, is on a mission to bring corporate best practices to the nonprofit, which operates in 92
countries and took in about $357 million in revenues last year. “We’re [upgrading] technology so we have end-to-end processing,”
she says, adding that “on the people side we are adding the right skills to run the group to scale.”
The ability to scale is crucial at an organization that has doubled its revenues since 2004 and has had to respond to
such monumental disasters as Hurricane Katrina and the December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. Case in point: previously
the organization manually processed its donor checks. But with 2 million of them pouring in annually, Jensen is currently
automating the procedure. At every step, however, the challenge is to “build an infrastructure that will allow exponential
growth” and to do it “within the framework of a ministry,” says Jensen, who started as controller of HHI in June 2003.
Jensen seems suited to the task. In describing her experience at Napster, she says, “It had lots of intense times, but I was
definitely the calming person and I tried to keep an even keel.” Bringing that influence to a rapidly growing nonprofit, she realizes,
would not be the choice of many finance executives. “They need to know why they want to go into the nonprofit world,”
she cautions, adding that for her, “it isn’t about the money. This is where I am supposed to be.” — L.C.
Return to Your Roots
Tom Sager grew up in a family-business environment. His
father, Howard, ran a milk-delivery business with a heavy emphasis
on customer service and small-town values — the very values that
Sager, who worked at six different companies, including two stints
as CFO, found lacking in Corporate America.
“I spent years building my credentials to get
to the top. And when I got there, I didn’t enjoy
it,” says Sager, who mostly blames the
“quarterly board-meeting mentality” for
souring him on corporate life. So in 2002, the
47-year-old left his position as CFO of Zoots,
a national dry-cleaning chain, to run his own
family business: Tri-Valley Sports, in Medway,