As executive vice president, general counsel, corporate secretary, and chief compliance officer at Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona, Mona Stone has the longest title in the company, with the responsibilities to match. It is a fitting position for a hard worker like Stone, who has been in the workforce since she was seven years old and has always found ways to take on more.
She shares her journey to the legal profession, the values that have helped propel her to leadership, and highlights from her time at Goodwill.
How have previous work and life experiences prepared you for where you are today?
My parents taught me that hard work never goes to waste and raised me with a strong work ethic. I got my first job delivering newspapers at age seven with my brother! I continued to work throughout school. When I first graduated from law school, I secured a job as the sole in-house attorney at a security services company in Chicago. I learned the business inside out, and I had a limited budget, so I did not have the luxury of calling outside counsel for every question or issue.
Accordingly, I taught myself to issue spot, prioritize matters, and solve problems that met the business needs. This approach let me offer practical and sound advice to my internal clients. I went on to private practice at large law firms in Chicago and Phoenix, where I was able to counsel my external clients by viewing issues from both a legal and business lens. As in-house counsel at Goodwill, I am able to rely upon the foundation I built in my prior roles.
Can you talk about the scope of your role at Goodwill?
In my current role, I plan and direct all aspects of Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona’s legal and compliance affairs and ensure protection of its legal and regulatory rights and interests. In alignment with business goals and needs, I provide legal expertise and counsel to executive staff and make recommendations to all departments as needed. I provide counsel in the areas of risk management, corporate governance, employment law, contract law, real estate law, workplace safety, security, asset protection, and compliance. I am responsible for identifying and analyzing legal issues, drafting key documents, presenting clear recommendations, and managing the work of outside counsel, as needed.
I serve on the executive leadership team, lead governance and board work, and act as the key legal advisor to the CEO and for major business transactions. I also wear a business hat and help develop key objectives for the organization as a whole, monitor performance of our retail thrift stores, support our mission services department, and ensure the overall success of Goodwill.
You believe in serving others with integrity and irreproachable character. How have these traits contributed to your success at Goodwill?
Leading with integrity has earned me a sterling reputation, and people know they can rely on me and trust my guidance. The various business units have learned to be proactive in coming to me and our legal department with issues or questions. Rather than being seen as the “department of no,” we encourage the teams to involve us early in the decision-making process so that we can offer practical advice and navigate a practical solution.
Through leading by example, I have developed a team with high employee satisfaction and engagement. I also have helped the organization grow from $150 million in annual revenue to $325 million, increased our retail thrift store count from 75 brick-and-mortar stores to over 100 locations, and successfully concluded two mergers that expanded our operations and geographic footprint in Arizona and Maryland.
What’s one project you’ve had a chance to work on at Goodwill that you’re really proud of?
One of my recent key projects was helping to enact legislative reform to create the Excel Center, a tuition-free high school for adults. Several hundred thousand adults in Arizona lack a high school diploma, thereby limiting their job opportunities. I have led several business units to launch the Excel Center in late 2021, where free services are provided, including childcare and transportation. Though there were many challenges along the way and this endeavor actually required entirely new state legislation, my determination remained steadfast.
My dedication led to its success given the impact it will have on so many people—to me, I am building a legacy that will turn generational poverty into generational affluence. By the school’s midterm exams in December 2022, students demonstrated significant academic gains in math and English proficiency. In math, the student population that met the standards expectations grew from 16 percent to 30 percent. In English/language arts, growth was from 25 percent to 43 percent. It is truly rewarding to see people transform their lives in such a meaningful way.
“Mona is an intensely smart, practical, thoughtful, and dedicated General Counsel who embodies, protects, and enables the great visions and humanitarian missions of her organizations. We are proud to partner with Mona and GCNA.”
–Jon Zimring, Shareholder