Student Profile: Susan Bassi Brown
When Susan Bassi Brown graduated from Colby College, she and a friend started a small business. Her friend handled sales and Susan was the “everything else” person. They formed a corporation because people told them they should. When she consulted a tax accountant and was asked for the books and records, Susan had no idea what he was talking about. She took an accounting course at Thomas College and found herself enjoying it.
“Something about the logic in it clicked with me,” she says. She liked the way accounting solved problems. “You can take something apart to see how it works, then make it work better.”
She worked on an MBA at Thomas College, but stopped the study in the midst of a busy life. Twenty years later, she picked it up again at USM, and earned her master’s in 2007. Along the way, she also earned insurance and investment licenses.
Today she is the chief financial officer of Garrand, a Portland ad agency.
Susan has repeated this process several times in her career, continuing her education whenever a new situation called for new skills. The process will result shortly in Susan’s earning a USM Certificate in Human Resource Management. Susan had thought of HR as a narrow and not particularly comfortable business necessity. She decided to go for the certificate anyway. HR comes under her supervision, and she had no particular background in it.
It’s been an eye-opener. “I’m enjoying it. It’s not at all what I thought. It’s tremendously valuable to me,” she says. “I have new respect for HR.” Now she finds herself advising fellow managers in a variety of ways that used to be handled through guesswork.
Human resources, she notes, is the largest cost item in a people-centered business, “a huge expense,” and her new understanding of its breadth has helped her help the Garrand organization: “We have integrated it into all the business planning we do, all the business modeling we do.”
She has found a comfortable fit as the financial officer in marketing organizations, where the creative culture is quite suited to a person of her nontraditional approach. She held that position for 18 years at CD&M in Portland, and has been at Garrand for six years.
Susan speaks highly of the open and supportive culture at Garrand. The organization has won national and state recognition for its quality as a place to work.
As a not-your-typical financial officer, it suits her just fine.