When it comes to challenges, the task of organizing the company's response to the recession probably won't be rivaled any time soon, says Derrek Gafford, CFO of TrueBlue, a $1 billion industrial staffing company.

"We had to make some very difficult decisions in short order: deciding which branches to close and consolidate, how to reduce head count," Gafford says. "At the same time, you have to keep top talent. And from a liquidity standpoint, we compacted a number of decisions in a very short time."

Gafford, 39, managed to cut TrueBlue's operating expenses by $70 million, or 20%, in 2009, allowing the Tacoma, Wash.-based company to post a profit despite a 25% drop in revenue.

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