CEO Juckett balances work, family, life

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By Austin Crosier / NYVT Media staff

Kathy Juckett has been Telescope’s CEO for 20 years. She succeeded her father, Robert Dudley Vanderminden Sr. (Jeff Foley / For NYVT Media)

Kathy Juckett has been the CEO of family-owned Telescope Casual Furniture for 20 years, and she’s been with the company for 42.

Juckett, 64, became the fifth company leader in Telescope history in December 2001, joining President Henry J.W. Vanderminden Sr., President Henry J.W. Vanderminden Jr., President Henry J.W. Vanderminden III, and CEO Robert Dudley Vanderminden Sr.

Robert Dudley Vanderminden Sr., Juckett’s father, passed away in 2018.

Juckett, a fourth-generation family member, sat down with NYVT Media for an exclusive interview this past summer, and she talked about her passion for the company, her family and the Granville community.

The following are excerpts from that interview, which has been edited for brevity:

Q. In a society where it’s hard to find women as CEOs, especially in the manufacturing industry, what distinguishes you from anyone else, regardless of gender or identity?

A. I grew up in a family with my father, who did not even consider gender. It was more about performance, who was getting the job done and who did the people want to follow. For me, there are a lot of women in management in my organization, not because they are women, but because they are capable.

The family tree in 2003, two years after Juckett became CEO. The family has expanded since then. (Courtesy of Telescope Casual Furniture)

Q. What drives you to keep your family legacy going?

A. My kids and my grandkids, obviously. The opportunity to raise my kids here has been tremendous. . . . All of the people that I work with, I don’t want to let them down. Plus, you don’t want to be the generation to screw it up.

Q. Where does your passion to give back to the community stem from?

A. I was raised in my lifetime that you do things because they are right – not for credit, not for notoriety. You do it because it makes you feel good and it’s the right thing to do. . . . (Then) you go on about your life and do the next thing. 

Q. NYVT Media observed on a tour of the Granville factory that your children who work at Telescope call you by your first name, and not by “Mom.” Is that something you like, or is it something done to keep things professional in the office?

A. It is something they do when I don’t answer to “Mom.” I don’t mind either way, but it all started when they would be trying to get my attention calling me “Mom,” and for whatever reason, I didn’t respond. Then they would say “Kathy” a little bit louder and I would answer. That’s the way it goes!

Q. Growing up working with your older relatives and family members must have been a unique experience. Describe what that was like then, and what it’s like to work with your family now.

A. All of the old-timers who were here when I came here, the things that I learned from all of them out on the shop floor, in maintenance and everywhere in the organization, they were very important teachers to me in my lifetime. We kind of grew together through all of my early years here. I had some great teachers for both good things and bad things during those times. I think working with family now is different; it’s a lot smoother. There’s a whole lot less of the chain-of-command stuff that was present in business in general during those times. I think the people who are here are people who have earned their spots, and it’s such a big business (277 employees) that we have lots of opportunities for people and family members to shine in their own areas in their own way.

Q. What’s next for Kathy Juckett and Telescope?

A. Well, where do we begin? Obviously, I plan on continuing to be involved in the business for the foreseeable future. However, I have been working hard to have more balance in my life and spend more time away from the facility than I used to because I think it’s really important to work on my art, which is my passion and has kept me sane my whole life. I just learned early on that the way I could stay in touch with myself was through my art. . . . Mostly, I want to give my team and my kids an opportunity to do their thing because the mark of a good leader is to be able to walk away from your organization and things carry on like you’re there. Whether I’m here or I’m not here, things go on the same. That’s the kind of organization you really want to build if you really want to make sure it carries on in perpetuity.”

PODCAST: Listen to Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of an informal conversation with CEO Kathy Juckett from November 2020.