Corporate leader becomes CEO at nonprofit Loaves and Fishes
Mike Havala of Naperville knows his way around a strategic plan.
For 15 years as the CFO of a Chicago real estate investment company, he managed finances, capital, strategy -- everything his MBA from Michigan State University prepared him to handle.
These days, he's overseeing a strategic plan of a different sort. It's the plan for Loaves and Fishes Community Services, the Naperville nonprofit that dates to 1984 that he recently took over as permanent CEO and president.
Havala, 56, had been filling the role in the interim since March, when former CEO and President Megan Selck moved away. But now, in a move Marketing Manager Michelle Iskowitz calls an instance of corporate greed -- in reverse -- Havala has swapped the big-time career and his own gig as a business adviser for a leadership post atop a $14 million nonprofit.
"It was a big choice for me," he said. "But not necessarily a hard choice."
The past six months helped make up his mind.
When he became interim CEO and president, Havala stepped up the time he was spending at the organization for which he's been a board member since 2009. And he became even more impressed.
He saw dedication among 20 staff members and 1,600 volunteers helping provide food, financial assistance, job training, transportation and computer skills to roughly 19,000 people a year.
He saw kindness among corporate and community partners who donate food, time, talent and money.
He saw it all, on a daily basis, and decided he wanted to help more.
"If you have a passion for the mission, which I've always had," he said, "and you feel like you can contribute to the organization ... it's just absolutely amazing."
Havala is stepping out of the corporate realm, but he's not done using the skills that made him successful. Hence, his continued focus on the driving document of the business world: the strategic plan.
The Loaves and Fishes version of the ever-important road map has five areas of focus called aspirations.
• Providing better access to food to clients across DuPage County.
• Offering more nutritious food to promote health.
• Finding more ways to help clients become self-sufficient.
• Ensuring a positive experience for volunteers.
• Building on the philanthropic backbone of the Naperville community.
Now that Havala is permanent CEO, each of these aspirations is his own. The first three are of particular importance.
To provide better access to food, the nonprofit at 1871 High Grove Lane in Naperville might consider expanding hours or partnering with charities to offer nourishment at other locations.
The organization's headquarters since 2011 is a major step up from its tiny old office on 5th Avenue, but at 18,500 square feet, it's still not a giant space. On busy days, when clients are shopping the open-market distribution center that was reconfigured last year, the pantry bustles and booms with grocery carts and shopping bags and clients waiting their turn.
The reconfiguration allowed more space for fresh produce, but Loaves and Fishes still wants to up its nutritional value. It might do so by increasing partnerships with people like Havala's wife of 32 years, Toni, a registered dietitian at Edward Hospital in Naperville.
Loaves and Fishes already has progressed toward the third aspiration of increasing self-sufficiency by merging with Naperville CARES in July and rolling the smaller group's emergency financial assistance and car donation programs into its own.
Iskowitz, one of three employees who came to Loaves and Fishes from Naperville CARES, says the transition has been "seamless," just as amicable as the merging of two families into the Brady Bunch.
"Everyone has worked together for the common good," Iskowitz said.
Having a leader with a bird's-eye view and a flair for the financial has helped already.
As "a man who has dealt with millions, even billions, in a very lucrative financial corporate America executive position," Iskowitz said Havala is "well-positioned and well-qualified."
He's focused, too, excited that he has wrapped up the last of his business advisory clients and now can devote 100 percent of his working time to Loaves and Fishes.
It's a lifestyle shift from his days commuting to the city, spending hours in transit instead of in the town the Michigan native has made his home for 22 years. And that's exactly how he wants it.
"I didn't spend as much time in the community as I liked to," Havala said, reflecting on the corporate CFO days that gave way to nonprofit leadership. "When I left there, one of the first things I did was join the board of Loaves and Fishes ... The organization needs someone on an all-in, committed basis."