CEO, Jewish Family Services of Delaware
CEO since 1996
DBT talked with Zatuchni, CEO of Jewish Family Services of Delaware. Zatuchni has been at the helm of the health and human services agency since 1996, growing the agency from a small staff with a single computer to an interconnected group of 37 employees. Their mission is to strengthen individuals, families, and the community through a variety of counseling and support services.
Are you really in a corner office?
No — I used to be. Because it was very large, we now have three people that occupy that space. I don’t have a window in my office so I had (local artist) Lou Marshal come in and she drew a fabulous picture of a hill with the JFS building. She drew a Dr. Seuss tree connected to the wall art.
The environment here is very important to my employees’ well-being, but also for our clients and guests. I hope that we’ve cultivated a culture that’s inviting and warm.
What are some of the surprises that came with being a CEO?
When you have a vision and you’re so thrilled to be in a position to impact change, you’re so focused on that vision. We were a mom-and-pop organization. I think we had approximately five to eight staff members and our revenue was $350,000. In 1996 we had one computer — it was a different world. We documented things manually.
What’s interesting is when we were accredited by the Council on Accreditation (the council promotes best practice standards in human services) in 1988, we were the 235th agency. Now that number is up in the thousands.
Our training program is also different. Today we have an online training library of 500 evidenced-based courses. We have orientation and cultural diversity programs — everything is so robust and documented. That was unheard of in 1996.
I also had to wear every hat. Most everyone did direct services — there were no secretaries. Even now, the two people that sit at the reception desk do so much more, the job is so much deeper.
I always said, “I need to take a breath,” and that breath never came.
What is the biggest challenge?
The hardest thing is just juggling demands of the stakeholders, regulators, customers, and employees. Everyone thinks it’s fundraising — it’s not about fundraising.
What are some of the best things about your job?
I love going to work every day. You’re working in a culture that takes a look at complex socioeconomic challenges. Everyone you read about is our client. They’re not just people in the paper, but they’re guests in our facilities. It’s the idea that we can change a culture. We have special relationships and we can impact change.
We have a food pantry for clients we know can’t pay for co-pays. What we do is have bags of food they can take. They never have to make a decision between paying and eating. The culture of JFS says, “Come in, we’re going to help you.”
Another strength of our agency is transparency. There are board and employee portals, and they see senior management minutes. The staff has access to our budget. They have to talk about it. Every day I feel there are new ideas and it’s my job to galvanize my staff.
What do you wish someone had told you?
It wouldn’t have changed anything and I don’t know if I would have believed it. Personnel is challenging because of different personalities and expectations. We want to accommodate because we believe we hire the best of the best.
But part of it is making sure you have the right people in the right positions and they’re comfortable doing what they’re doing.
Stay focused on the mission. There are so many opportunities to deviate from that. Master the context of your work.