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Explore Work-Life Balance
with Karen Droen

“Family is everything to me,” shares Karen Droen, CEL Finance Director. “Absolutely everything. And family-first is a CEL value. That’s what drew me here, why I’m still here. The company values resonate with me.”

Karen spent nearly 20 years working in the banking industry, raising her young children and watching them go through the school system. “I told my husband that one day when we were empty-nesters, I wanted to go back to our children’s elementary school and volunteer. I knew from being a mother how impactful early childhood education is for kids.” And she did just that, moving from banking to a volunteer position and eventually becoming a paraprofessional in a Minnesota elementary school. “I saw firsthand how the teachers nurtured and cared for kids. I loved working with Kindergarten and first-grade students; seeing them grow.”

It’s the CEL mission that drew Karen away from working within schools to supporting them through CEL. “Cindy Leines and I had been friends for years, but I didn’t know what she really did beyond owning a marketing business. She called one day to ask if I was interested in helping with their books. She was looking for someone who could help support the business side. That was more than eight years ago!”

As the finance director, Karen is separate from the day-to-day marketing work inside CEL. “I’m aware of the clients and the work that we do, but my role is all things finance. Accounts payable and receivable, invoicing, accounting, hiring, onboarding, offboarding, payroll, benefits, and budgets,” she laughs. “It all kind of lumps together into one big ball of fun. I see how things are set up, I see workload allocation, and I track client service percentages. I am not in the weeds with a client outside of billing and payments. I come in with a finance perspective, not a marketing perspective, so I have an outside view of the work completed and services rendered. Even though I am separated from the day-to-day work, I deeply believe in our mission of the betterment of family, business and community. Everything we do, every part of the business, is aligned with our mission.”

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is the key to Karen’s success and also her biggest challenge. “I knew from a long, long time ago that when my kids started having kids, I wanted to be involved. My mom took care of my kids when I was a young parent, and I see her deep relationship with my kids now; it’s a precious relationship. And now I feel like I can give back to my kids what my mom gave to me. I am so grateful that CEL has allowed me to give that back to my kids and balance family with work. Cindy and CEL knew how important this was to me up front and have always respected my desire for work-life harmony.”

That focus on balance helped CEL transition quickly when the pandemic struck. “I hired our first remote worker during the pandemic. I had to hire her while my granddaughter was in a bouncy chair at my feet. Just like every other company, we had to figure it out along the way. We’re not immune to the same challenges as any other company. We lose sleep. We worry. We want to provide the best services to our clients while balancing a happy team. But we got through it, learned, and found new ways to do things. From the HR side, I am able to focus on the employee as a person and what they need to thrive. It’s so important to me to have a happy, healthy team—that our team meshes and works together as a team.”


If you’d like to hear more about how Karen has successfully balanced work and family life  (or hear her lessons learned!), give her a shout at



Related topics: Five Employee Well-Being Strategies Your Organization Needs



Published on: February 8, 2023