Laura Willoughby, Senior VP of Finance
Laura Willoughby, front, is Senior VP of Finance for Holloway. Joined from left to right by President Vard Terry, COO Dan Allen and CEO Brian Maxted, Holloway was named Inc. Magazine’s fastest-growing Ag & Natural Resources company in 2021.
While some might flee from their problems, Laura Willoughby runs at challenges head on.
When she’s not balancing the books at Holloway, the Senior Vice President of Finance is an avid runner who competes in marathons at both the local and national level – running in everything from the Bakersfield Marathon (finishing second in her division in 2016) to the Boston Marathon (one of only six Kern County women to finish the event in 2018).
Holloway’s resident marathon runner says she enjoys running six days a week to sort out the details in her day.
“I started running in college and for me, it is as important as brushing my teeth,” Willoughby says. “It is a great way for my subconscious to take over, and I have solved so many problems on my road runs.”
Willoughby heads up the accounting team at Holloway, recently named Inc. Magazine’s fastest-growing Ag & Natural Resources company after seeing revenue growth of 383% from 2017 to 2020.
Willoughby has more than 25 years of experience in accounting both as a public accountant and internal finance manager. Prior to joining Holloway, Willoughby worked as a public accountant at a large firm with offices in Bakersfield and the Bay Area. At the Bakersfield office, she was able to grow many different skill-sets from preparing tax returns and conducting audits to financial planning for privately held companies. She started as a staff accountant and worked her way up to partner. And while she loved her work, there was a lot of it, and Willoughby needed a stronger work-life balance.
“I’m a manager who will not ask people to do what I am not willing to do,” Willoughby says. “I could not leave at five if my staff is working 14 hours-a-day. The workload was not going to change, and so I needed to find a different balance.”
Willoughby had built great relationships with her clients as a public accountant, so when it came to look for another opportunity, she signed on with her former client, Kern Federal Credit Union, now Strata Credit Union. She spent five years as the finance and operations manager at the credit union. Willoughby is unique in that she actually likes tax planning and with the credit union being a non-profit, that skill set is not as necessary as it is in the private sector. Laura was eager to find an opportunity that allowed her to geek out on taxes, audits and planning, while still getting plenty of time to run her marathons and spend time with her grown daughter.
“The opportunity to work at Holloway presented itself and here I am!” Willoughby smiles. “We are always doing something new and exploring new opportunities. I am very challenged on every level with all our changing and growing companies, and it keeps me busy.”
Willoughby interviewed with CEO, Brian Maxted, and COO, Dan Allen right before Christmas three years ago. She was very excited about the company because it is so diverse with entities in mining, logistics, energy and ag, and she could really see that Holloway cares about their people.
“I am very drawn to the family environment of Holloway,” Willoughby says. “They know the employees are key to the success of the company and not just filling a role. Each employee is treated as a person with ideas, and that is important to me.”
Willoughby goes on to stress that the Holloway leadership believes that everyone brings something different to the table. Sometimes people in a totally different role will bring insight to a situation that had not been thought of before.
As the Sr. VP of Finance, Willoughby and her team of four are responsible for making sure all of Holloway’s finances are in top shape. She works directly with Holloway’s bankers and external CPA partners. As a senior member of the team, she is largely responsible for managing audits and tax planning, two of her favorite problems to solve.
“I look at tax planning/budgeting like a big puzzle,” Willoughby says. “At Holloway, we are a for-profit business, so there are taxes that have to be paid. My job is to be creative and thoughtful about it all so we can continue to grow without taking on too much risk. And with such a variety of industries under one company, that is a real challenge!”
Willoughby has been a fan of numbers and problem solving for as long as she can remember. She holds a degree in accounting from Fresno State and took and passed the CPA test before even graduating. She is an incredibly detailed and analytical thinker, which makes her perfect for such regulated work. She doesn’t mind getting in the weeds, in fact she prefers it.
“There is so much gratification in getting things done properly, like when you work on the annual budget and it gets approved, or when the books are closed for the month and it’s a good month!” Willoughby smiles.
Sometimes her past world of being a public accountant collides with her current role at Holloway.
“I worked with a lot of ag clients as a public accountant and sometimes I see names on our receivables and I think, ‘I recognize that name, that name, that name!’” Willoughby says with a laugh.
Always on the run and hurdling challenges with a smile, Holloway is thrilled to have such a bright and thoughtful mind running our books (no pun intended), and keeping our finances sustainable for current and future growth!