From “Freak of Nature” to a Pure Chief

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“I speak so much. However I would not have been CEO for the previous 22 years if I did not hear fastidiously and ask the appropriate questions,” stated Kathy Juckett, recipient of the 2023 Worldwide Informal Furnishings Affiliation Lifetime Achievement Award. An avid horse lover, as a teen, she wished to be a veterinarian till weighing her need for a big household towards the calls for of that profession. By no means planning to, she joined the household enterprise, Telescope Informal Furnishings, in Granville, N.Y., after faculty.


Kathy’s great-grandfather, Henry J.W. Vanderminden Sr., based the corporate over a century in the past. His son, Henry J.W. Vanderminden Jr., continued his legacy, main the corporate till his nineties. His son, Robert D. Vanderminden, Sr., then grew to become CEO, and named his daughter, Kathy, as his successor in 2001. Kathy’s grandfather, who died in 1993, predicted her management path. “As a girl with a head for enterprise, you’re a freak of nature, however the best way you juggle the priorities of an government, mom, spouse, daughter and granddaughter, and make it look really easy, tells me that you just had been born to be a supervisor,” he instructed her early in her profession.


“Working within the household enterprise was by no means my ambition rising up. I landed there on the finish of my senior yr at Skidmore Faculty due to a credit score concern. I needed to full an unbiased examine to have sufficient credit to graduate,” stated Kathy. “I used to be majoring within the pioneering space of Industrial Social Work, so a professor helped me develop an unbiased examine program to help the human sources workplace. My first day was Might 21, 1979, and, 44 years later, I am nonetheless right here.”


Kathy’s duties weren’t restricted to her HR venture – serving to workers with alcohol dependancy search rehab slightly than firing them – however entailed working for a harsh taskmaster within the stitching room, studying how the machines operated plus listening to administration and employees clarify their challenges. “I completed my venture and graduated,” stated Kathy, including, “I discovered extra in these few months than throughout my 4 years of faculty. It grew to become apparent to me that this was the place I belonged.”


As soon as she was a full-time worker, though unpaid for six months, Kathy put her listening abilities to wonderful use, absorbing as a lot administration recommendation from her grandfather and father as attainable. “They had been each extraordinary pioneers in furnishings manufacturing,” she stated. “Henry Jr. was formally blind, with early onset macular degeneration, however was amongst a number of prolific inventors like his colleague, Henry Ford, who created the meeting line manufacturing system. The developments he skilled and impacted between 1896 to 1993 had been astounding! He was beneficiant along with his time and recommendation, and I used to be really blessed to have him as my mentor. Dad adopted in my grandfather’s footsteps, difficult me at each flip.”


Kathy used her listening abilities all through the early years of her profession to get to know the workers, their households, aspirations and issues. She additionally reinstated a number of guidelines that had been disregarded. “I helped create a tradition the place we enforced eight-hour days and made habits like consuming on the job and continual absenteeism unacceptable.”


Decision of labor points was essential as Telescope Informal Furnishings confronted competitors from Asian firms that appropriated iconic designs like their world-recognized director’s chairs to flood the market with lesser-quality merchandise. “One main retailer switched from us to an abroad vendor and ended up getting so many returns from livid clients that they needed to discontinue the product line,” stated Kathy. “We felt the impact of the growing availability of cheaper, lower-quality out of doors furnishings and needed to make a major pivot.”


“My goal has at all times been to create a tradition the place change is not scary however embraced as we attempt for steady enchancment. By being a nimble manufacturing operation that maximizes alternatives and minimizes downsides, we are able to survive and thrive,” stated Kathy. As CEO, she steered the corporate by a number of transitions that drove success. As the brand new century started, Telescope Informal underwent a revolution, shifting from the mass manufacturing mannequin of her grandfather and Henry Ford’s day to mass customization to satisfy the needs of Twenty first-century customers.


“We introduced in a workforce from Honsha that helps rework firms utilizing the philosophy discovered at Toyota. We fully redesigned the manufacturing unit. I created boards to take heed to these whose enter would information our repositioning. We began bringing in 10 retailers yearly to ask what they had been considering and experiencing. We listened to their suggestions, took detailed notes and acted on their options. One of many earlier insights was that our cloth designs had been too masculine. That yr I banned all the lads from the room after we made the quilt choices,” stated Kathy, laughing. 


Flash ahead to the COVID pandemic, which required a seismic shift in priorities to maintain the doorways open and the workforce collectively. Staff had been paid out-of-pocket throughout the first three weeks of the shutdown, with a PPP mortgage masking wages for the following 10 weeks till the manufacturing unit opened once more. The whole Telescope Informal workforce and Granville residents rallied to assist by providing to construct IV poles, beds, chaises, dividers and robes made out of Sunbrella cloth. After many makes an attempt to contact a number of New York State officers and TV interviews through which Kathy made public appeals to assist, a response by no means got here. Undaunted, the corporate produced masks from Sunbrella cloth, distributing them to native faculties, companies and retail companions nationwide.


After the peak of the pandemic, Telescope Informal was impacted by provide chain disruptions, however not as severely as others within the business because of their American-made and -sourced coverage. “We confronted some provide chain points, however our lengthy term-relationships with our suppliers actually mitigated them. We will’t stress sufficient how {our relationships} with our suppliers helped get us by these very troublesome occasions,” stated Kathy.


Discovering and protecting good workers is a problem that, by Kathy’s management, Telescope Informal has confronted head-on. “We present our individuals our gratitude for his or her arduous work and loyalty as usually as attainable. We host a Meals Truck Tuesday each month and we’re at all times there catching up with everybody about their lives and household information. After we rent a brand new worker, three high-level managers and I meet with them as soon as per week for 4 weeks after which as soon as a month till they full their 90-day probationary interval. We initiated this follow after COVID and it leads to a a lot larger retention price,” she stated.


Kathy’s 4 daughters and son are a part of the household enterprise. Her 4 daughters not too long ago purchased into the possession and, together with Henry Vanderminden IV, are minority shareholders.  “You do not have to know every little thing or fake to have all of the solutions. Be humble – it’s a precious trait. Construct a bunch round you that may do all of it and reply all of the questions. Discover individuals with particular abilities, put them in the appropriate positions and nurture them with out micromanaging,” stated Kathy. “We have now constructed a tradition the place if I’m away, nothing modifications as a result of I belief my workforce to maneuver ahead efficiently with out me.”


Kathy is not planning to go away quickly, though she admits she is blissful spending extra time together with her 10 grandchildren, “I am nonetheless a 14-year-old lady at coronary heart, so now we have a number of adventures collectively!” Her marriage to her husband, Dave, is sort of a Hollywood rom-com plot. They met by pure likelihood 20+ years after a breakup that resulted in each marrying completely different individuals and Kathy having 4 daughters. With shared historical past and passions like road-tripping to seek out and revive flea market offers, they rekindled their romance, have been married for 26 years and have a son, Maxx. 


Kathy additionally enjoys and excels at portray, pottery and knitting. Her artistic retailers present steadiness and preserve her in contact with herself. She has additionally served on the small enterprise advisory board to the Federal Reserve, on the regional board of Glens Falls Nationwide Financial institution, been a 35-year member of the Granville Little League Board and most not too long ago the Advisory Board of the Granville Neighborhood Basis. As she prepares the following technology to steer the household enterprise, she shares her philosophy of life: “By no means do something for appreciation; give attention to what you are able to do to make a distinction in a means that’s significant and useful to others, as a result of it’s the appropriate factor to do.”


Kathy will obtain the Lifetime Achievement Award on the ICFA Awards Gala on July 11 on the Georgia Aquarium. Tickets can be found at and a wide range of sponsorship ranges may be secured at



About The Worldwide Informal Furnishings Affiliation

The Worldwide Informal Furnishings Affiliation, primarily based in Excessive Level, N.C., represents producers, retailers, gross sales representatives and designers of out of doors furnishings plus suppliers to the business.



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