Meet The Civitots: Sandy Hendon
As we continue our “Meet the Civitots” series of posts, this time around we’re shining a spotlight on a slightly different role within Civitas – Business Manager Sandy Hendon – without whom our firm (literally) would not function, our studio members would not receive paychecks or benefits, our designs would not be insured nor certified, our lights would not turn on, and so much more. Design school doesn’t really teach us about the business side of the design industry, yet as our unsung hero, Sandy shows us on a daily basis that design can’t succeed without it. Because of Sandy’s impact on Civitas, Civitas can continue having an impact too.
WHO OR WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO CIVITAS? WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO WORK HERE?
I’m a Colorado native, born and raised in Lakewood. I married my high school sweetheart, and our families are still nearby. This sense of home is very meaningful to me, and it’s kept me close. My first job out of college, where I’d studied business management and HR, was in the payroll division of Pace Membership Warehouses before they were bought by Wal-Mart and converted to Sam’s Clubs. It was a huge company with thousands of employees and yet it was hard to get to know anyone outside of your own department. It didn’t feel like home. I moved on to a smaller (but still large) mechanical engineering contractor, where I was payroll manager for 9 years before I decided it was time to shift again. For a few years I supported the finance and administration of a 4-person office, but ultimately in 2007 I found an opportunity with Civitas (advertised on Craigslist!) and the stars immediately aligned. I was drawn to Civitas’ community focus and environmental stewardship, and soon interviewed with Mark Naylor, who I liked right off the bat. I loved the culture of a smaller company where I could have a connection to every individual. Civitas has been my home ever since.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR ROLE AND THE WAY YOU APPROACH IT?
I manage Civitas’ human resources, finances and accounting, insurance, staffing and budgeting, client contracts, building management and more. I handle payroll and benefits for our team members, taxes, certificates of insurance for clients, visas and green cards for our global colleagues, and basically anything else related to the firm’s business operations. I look at my role as customer service. While the team of Civitots are servicing the firm’s clients, they – the Civitots – are my clients, so I try to be as responsive to them as I can.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE TYPES OF PROJECTS TO WORK ON, OR CHALLENGES TO SOLVE?
Though I’m not a designer, I love the kickoff of a big new project with great clients. I love hearing about the work that we do, and the impact that our work has on people, neighborhoods and whole cities. It’s fulfilling to listen to design reviews, and sometimes even offer a different perspective in those conversations.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT SO FAR… AND WHAT DO YOU ASPIRE TO ACCOMPLISH IN THE FUTURE?
My husband and I have two successful daughters – one a teacher currently earning a master’s degree, and the other working with a master’s in public administration – and I’m proud of them every day. I was always motivated to raise strong, independent women and to be a good example for them, even when the world doesn’t always make that easy.
At Civitas, my goal is to keep things running smoothly, and to keep people happy with the benefits we offer. Sometimes it’s hard to offer competitive, cost-effective benefits as a small firm with 22 employees, but Mark Johnson is smart about looking forward rather than forcing old policies and practices to remain in effect. For example, he embraced flexibility during and post-COVID, and recognizes that flexibility is typically the #1 request of younger team members. When we could have put our money toward other things, we invested heavily in the IT infrastructure that we needed to empower new ways of working.
WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING WITH DESIGNERS, I.E. BEING A NON-DESIGNER IN A DESIGN FIRM?
I feel lucky to work with such a diverse group of people and personalities, and to know everyone individually. In general, there are two types of people in design roles. One is the creative and dreamy free spirit; the big thinker who you often have to remind of the little details like time sheets. The other is the extremely detailed and organized designer who takes a rigorous approach to their work. I love the balance. We couldn’t achieve our goals without both types.
HOW WOULD YOUR COWORKERS DESCRIBE YOU?
After fifteen years in my role, I think many consider me like the mom of Civitas. I am the oldest female in the office and have some typical “mom” personality traits. I try to be easy going and warm, but also try to offer strong, solid advice and hope they feel comfortable coming to me when they have problems that need to be solved.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING OUTSIDE OF WORK?
Even though most of my work relies on very systematic business processes, I consider myself a creative person. Outside of Civitas, I run a small home décor and crafting business, which helps me balance my day job. Who knows, maybe one day when I retire, I’ll grow that little business and do more with it. I have a dedicated crafting studio in my home, where I spend a lot of my free time, often watching video tutorials to learn new crafting skills.
I also love going to Broncos games. We’ve been season ticket holders for years, and always enjoy tailgating with friends. We also have a group of friends who love going to live music events, especially country music.
DESCRIBE ONE NOTABLE OR INTERESTING ITEM THAT’S CURRENTLY ON YOUR DESK.
Since 2011, my desk in the office has been shared with our resident cat, Gonzo. He plays a big role around here too, not only catching the occasional mouse, but he also ran the office while so many of us were working from home during the height of the pandemic. I still work from home occasionally, but when I’m in the office, Gonzo is right by my side.
WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT?
I’ve reached the point in my life where I can’t leave home without my reading glasses, but I also don’t go too many places without my daughter, who is my frequent chauffeur. As a mom, it’s pretty fulfilling to have life come full circle in that way – deepening that ever-present feeling of home.