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2021 Women in Business Winners Guide Growth

Last October, the Business Journal honored five women business leaders from diverse industries at the 27th annual Women in Business Awards.

The event recognized outstanding professional women who have made significant contributions to their organizations, their professions and the Orange County community.

Their backgrounds and industries are varied—from nonprofit leaders feeding or educating local residents to a business owner helping to address the labor shortage—but all remained resilient throughout the pandemic and have kept their respective firms in growth mode during the challenging economic environment that followed.

The Business Journal recently caught up with the five winners to see just how they’re managing this as their worlds changed in the past year.

The next Women in Business Awards is scheduled for Oct. 20 at the Irvine Marriott. Beacon Pointe Advisors CEO Shannon Eusey is the keynote speaker.

Bios for the nominees for the upcoming event begin on page 66.

Tiffany Ketterer-Buchanan: Leading During Volatility

Tiffany Ketterer-Buchanan began her career with CrowdStrike Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: CRWD) nine years ago as the first finance hire, working beside the CFO and one of CrowdStike’s co-founders.

She has since worked her way up from accounting manager to controller to senior vice president of finance, making her one of the most promoted people at Austin, Texas-based CrowdStrike, which got its start in Irvine and still has sizeable operations in the city.

She’s helped the growth trajectory of the rapidly growing cybersecurity company in turn.
The firm reached $2.1 billion in annual recurring revenue at the end of the second quarter, up 59% year-over-year and a 145% jump from 2020.

Since winning a Business Journal Women in Business Award in October, “CrowdStrike has continued to grow its platform that protects and enables people, processes, and technologies that drive modern enterprises,” Ketterer-Buchanan told the Business Journal this month.

The company, whose cloud-based technology is used to detect and prevent breaches, is now valued at nearly $40 billion. The company’s stock has fallen 12% in the past month, and is off about 43% from its 52-week high of $298.48 seen in November 2021.

“Today, most enterprise software organizations are facing similar macro-economic headwinds,” Ketterer-Buchanan said.

She attributes her success to being able to lead during challenging times, and has proved successful before, having led the company through the largest cybersecurity IPO in history.

Organizations today are prioritizing investments during a time of market volatility, and are “looking to standardize with a security partner they can trust, like CrowdStrike, to achieve better protection with less time, fewer resources and lower total cost of ownership,” she said.

Dawn Maroney: National Expansion for Alignment Healthcare

Since being honored at the Business Journal’s 27th annual Women in Business Awards in October, Dawn Maroney has seen her responsibilities and reach grow as CEO and Markets President of Alignment Health Plan California, a unit of Orange’s Medicare services provider Alignment Healthcare Inc. (Nasdaq: ALHC).

In April, Maroney received a newly expanded role with oversight of new market management and development.

Adding to her previous duties managing provider contracting, pharmacy, sales and marketing, product development and membership eligibility, Maroney is now helping Alignment scale nationwide.

“Our team is focused on scaling our senior-first vision and developing new approaches to advance the quality of care for seniors,” Alignment Healthcare CEO John Kao said in a statement. “Investing in our talented leaders is a crucial part of our long-term path toward sustainable growth.”

Alignment took additional steps in scaling in June. If approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the company plans to expand to four Florida counties and two Texas counties in 2023.

Alignment also plans to ramp up its presence in eight counties across Arizona, California, Nevada and North Carolina. Starting Oct. 15, the same day Medicare Advantage enrollment opens, coverage will be available to an additional 1.1 million Medicare-eligible seniors, bringing its total to 8.2 million seniors.

“We are continually perfecting a model where seniors can enjoy the benefits of ‘having a doctor in the family’ while upholding our quality of care as we grow,” Maroney said in a statement. “Our members consistently tell us they love our diverse plans that cater to where they are in their health journey, with benefits that take care of more than just their clinical needs.”

Last month, UCI Health joined Alignment’s provider network, with Medicare Advantage members now with access to services at UCI Medical Center and to over 900 UCI Health primary and specialty care physicians.

Charlene Garza: Touting Top Jobs Internally, Externally

Horizon Personnel Services says its top five trending jobs this year are: machine operators, material handlers, warehouse associates, customer service reps and on-site supervisors.

The Orange-based company owned by Charlene Garza, a Business Journal Women in Business Award winner in 2021, this year is also touting jobs like commercial drivers, warehouse workers and janitors. Most of Garza’s staffing work is in food manufacturing, logistics and warehouses that supply large clients like Walmart.

The company, too, is looking to hire.

“Join our team as a recruiter,” says a February tweet. “Hiring ASAP. Full-time & benefits. Great pay.”

Garza formed her first company, StaffChex, in 2004 in Sacramento before moving to Orange County because of demand.

Since insurance rates are so much higher in California than other states, in 2012 she formed Horizon Personnel Services, which now holds all its California offices. Meanwhile her offices in Georgia, Arizona, Missouri and Nevada are run through StaffChex.

Her two companies provide “a workers comp solution” where she assumes responsibilities, a practice that helps companies avoid liabilities such as insurance lawsuits. In turn, Garza is a keen observer of insurance trends.

Garza’s industry is also a bellwether of future economic activity.

“We usually can forecast and see what’s going on based on what our business is doing,” she told the Business Journal last year. “Most companies, when things start picking up, they hire us.”

Her two firms last year employed 6,630, including 130 internal employees and had a run rate around $250 million.

Jill Griffin: New Tech, Higher Wages, CEO Role

Advantage Solutions Inc. Chief Executive Jill Griffin is raising wages and investing in internal tech to combat labor market instability.

The Irvine-based marketing organization (Nasdaq: ADV), which is Orange County’s largest and most valuable marketing firm, has deployed a new recruiting software that has accelerated its hiring speed by 50%, according to Advantage officials. The company is also investing in wages to improve its retention rate as wage inflation remains at historically high levels.

“Our success continues to hinge on our talent, and at Advantage, we are talent first,” Griffin, who was promoted to CEO earlier this year, told analysts on an earnings call.

“It’s really important that we’re constantly a place where we can attract and retain the very best talent to come and innovate and grow,” she told the Business Journal last November, after being honored at the Business Journal’s 2021 Women in Business Awards.

Services at Advantage range from helping companies such as Unilever and McCormick & Co. on their individual product sales, to working directly with giant retailers like Walmart and Kroger on their own sales and marketing strategies.

The company, which went public in 2020, reported a 15% year-over-year increase in second-quarter revenue to $981 million. The growth was primarily driven by its marketing and sales segments, which saw gains of 31% and 8% from the year prior, respectively.

Griffin, who has worked at Advantage since 2008, was promoted from chief commercial officer and president to CEO in April this year. She succeeded Tanya Domier, who assumed the role of executive chair after running the company for nine years.

Griffin “has many special qualities that will help her succeed as our next CEO,” Domier said in a letter to Advantage employees.

“Not only is she extraordinarily intelligent with great energy and passion for the business, she is a deeply strategic thinker with great vision for the future and a respected leader who lives and embodies core Advantage values.”

Sloane Keane: Getting Big Brothers Big Sisters Back in School

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire (BB&BS) is back to pre-pandemic measures and in-person programs.

The nonprofit was able to maintain its community-based programs by going virtual, but its school platforms were more directly impacted.

Chief Executive Sloane Keane pointed to reports of learning loss, mental crises and negative behavior because of the lack of support.

“The youth we have not been able to serve are crying out,” Keane told the Business Journal.

This year, the organization has been granted access to 45 elementary campuses across 21 districts, marking a much-needed return.

Facilitated by BB&BS staff, the after-school programs are back on-site once a week for elementary students to be tutored by fellow high school students.

The goal is to be back to pre-COVID numbers by December, approaching 1,400 matches. Almost 75% of the nonprofit’s site-based matches should be filled by the end of 2022 which would be a 10% increase in matches from 2020, according to Keane.

The organization has also continued its post-18 program for graduating mentors transitioning from minor to adult, focused on upward mobility.

“We have a responsibility to invest in the future,” Keane said.

By January of next year, BB&BS of OC will have 100 employees across its two offices, a 25% increase from the prior two years.

Keane is now looking to volunteers to help meet community needs post-COVID.

More than 100 youth are awaiting a mentor in OC and the Inland Empire, according to the nonprofit. On July 1, BB&BS began its “100 mentors in 100 days” campaign which now has about 250 inquiries and over 50 new volunteers.

“We cannot do this without people raising their hand and people investing in their community,” Keane said.

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