CFO of the Year Finalists (Nonprofits): Laine Harber

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Nov. 7, 2011 12:00 am  

Laine HarberChief Financial Officer and Deputy Director of OperationsArkansas Arts Center, Little Rock (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

After 17 years of working hectic schedules at for-profit companies, Laine Harber was ready to stop sacrificing for corporate success. He left an executive management job and took time off to volunteer and consider how he could find more satisfying work.

Harber, 43, had worked long hours and moved to other states for jobs with large companies, including Arthur Andersen, Alltel and Windstream.

“It just wasn’t fulfilling to me. It was kind of like I wanted a different type of shareholder,” Harber said. He wanted work that affected people of all ages locally, he said.

Now, as CFO and deputy director of operations for the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, he has taken on a wider range of responsibilities than he’s had in the past but for a much smaller, community-focused organization.

At Alltel, he led teams of up to 100 people in an accounting department. Currently, he has 12 people working for him, spread among the finance, facilities, human resources, information technology, security and retail store divisions at the Arts Center.

“It just feels very special to be a part of something that has an impact on people. It still has stress. I don’t work any less,” Harber said. “It’s just worth it.”

Originally from Memphis, Harber has made Little Rock home since 2000.

He enjoyed accounting classes at Christian Brothers University in Memphis and was recruited there by Arthur Andersen, where he accepted an auditor position. He eventually worked as vice president of financial planning for Windstream Corp. in Little Rock before leaving the corporate realm.

On arriving at the Arts Center in 2010, Harber had to pull together a plan for a balanced operating budget. He was hired in a year that the center lost $2 million, resulting in a $2.4 million debt. He was also replacing the previous leadership, was working under a temporary executive director and had yet to earn the trust of the Art Center’s board.

But for the 2011 fiscal year, he led a team that crafted a 2011 operating budget that balanced, even with interest payments on the debt.The center’s revenue dropped 3.5 percent during the 2011 fiscal year, but “the good news is, we’re on solid ground right now, even though it’s tight,” Harber said.

Quality communication and collaboration are important to a CFO’s success, he said, and he takes the time to be transparent and explain the Arts Center’s financial data so that department heads and other employees understand it.

Working for the Arts Center is inspiring, he said, and he enjoys not only putting his passion to work locally for the arts, but also seeing tangible results — like the children and school buses arriving to see performances at the center’s Children’s Theatre.

Outside of work, Harber also uses his financial skill. He serves on his church’s finance committee, the budget committee of the Gertrude Remmel Butler Child Development Center and as treasurer of Just Communities of Arkansas.



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