Originally published in Staffing Success Magazine Nov-Dec 2000
By Luanne Crayton
Once you meet Judy Zacha, you won’t soon forget her. Energetic, extroverted, and ebullient, she loves to laugh and is adept at making others laugh along with her. But beneath the fun-loving exterior lies a gutsy competitor who built a successful staffing business from the ground up. Unlike the hearts of many such competitors, however, hers is filled with warmth—she loves people, and her vision for the staffing industry is that it be renowned for helping people.
Zacha (pronounced ZEE-kay), founder and CEO of Beacon Services, based in St. Joseph, MI, was sworn in as president of the American Staffing Association at the 34th Annual Convention & EXPO in October.
“There is no one in the staffing industry who has more passion for this business, this association, and the millions of people we employ than Judy Zacha,” says ASA executive vice president Richard Wahlquist. “I know our members got a real sense of that when they heard Judy’s banquet speech at the convention. She is an unparalleled industry ambassador and we look forward to sharing her with the rest of the world in the year ahead.”
Known for her down-to-earth style, Zacha says she has no “lofty platform” for her term as president, but she does plan to follow the advice of friends and colleagues who have told her, “Whatever you do, be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else because it won’t work.”
To Zacha, being herself means spending time with and listening to people—her staff, friends and family, and ASA members—and she plans to visit as many ASA chapters as she can during her term.
“Judy brings common sense to her role as president, and she will be the members’ voice in the leadership of the association,” says ASA past president Kathie Hanratty-Masi, co-founder, president, and corporate secretary of Jaci Carroll Staffing Services. “She understands the operational issues that staffing firms deal with every day because she deals with them herself. She’ll listen to the questions and concerns of ASA members, offer advice, and bring their concerns back to the leadership.”
“I see myself as a message bearer for the association,” Zacha says. “And I plan to carry the message of ASA and promote the association to nonmembers as well as members.”
The message she bears includes this advice: “Don’t wait until disaster strikes to get involved in the association. Participation is not just for the few, it’s for the many, and it benefits all of us,” she says. “And we need to be involved not just with our actions, but with our checkbooks, supporting StaffingPAC and policymakers who are pro-business.”
“Judy brings enthusiasm and a can-do attitude to everything she does,” says ASA board member and past president Tim Doherty, founder and CEO of Doherty Employment Group. “The staffing industry will always face challenges, and she has the personality and ability to take on those challenges.”
A year from now, when Zacha reflects on her presidency and the accomplishments of the association, she wants to see the staffing industry with an image that is even more polished than it is today. “I want us to have pride in what we do,” she says. “Staffing professionals are people who care about and help others. We all have stories to tell of people we have helped by providing jobs and training. And we need to tell those success stories. We need to make our industry known for them.”
Inspired to Begin Again
Her career in staffing began nearly 30 years ago, after several years of teaching school followed by a break from the workforce. “My husband and children eventually decided that I should go back to work,” she says. She was hired as a receptionist for a staffing firm. “Even though my typing speed was about 25 words a minute with 11 errors,” Zacha says, “I took the job because I believed I could do anything.”
Over the next several years, she worked her way up in the company, bringing in millions of dollars of business along the way. Then one day, she was fired. So she started over again—on her own. “I used the American Staffing Association (then NATS) as a resource in starting my business,” she says. She joined the association in the early 1980s, and was instrumental in starting the Michigan chapter.
“I go full tilt,” Zacha says, “but sometimes I need to take a step back and seek quiet time.” It was during one of these times of reflection, watching a lighthouse on the shore of Lake Michigan, that she was inspired to name her company Beacon Services. “I love lighthouses.” she says, “because they’re always there, steadfast and reliable, lighting the way.”
Not Spoiled by Success
During her career this entrepreneur has been honored as business woman of the year by the YWCA and was named one of the top 25 business owners in Michigan by the National Association of Women Business Owners. And she holds the distinction of being the first female member of the Rotary in her area. Still, her definition of success remains simple: “When you’re as good as your word and people know it, that’s success.”
But success in business would mean nothing if it were not accompanied by close, caring relationships with family and friends. “Being a wife, mother, and grandmother are the most important roles in my life,” she says, “and knowing that my friends can count on my loyalty is important too.”
And after many years, the advice of her father still rings in her ears, helping her to keep her perspective: “When you get too big for your britches, young lady, you’d better sit down and think about it.”
“I came up the hard way,” she says, “and I want people to know that I’m one of them. I want them to know me as a person, not as the president of the association, and not as the CEO of Beacon Services. I want them to believe in me, and through me, to believe in the staffing industry and the success stories we create every day,” Zacha says.
“Judy has a great ability to rally people, and she has shown her devotion to the staffing industry through her relentless commitment of time and energy to the association,” says Doherty. “ASA members should know that Judy cares about them as people and about how their businesses are doing,” he says. “She’s a fantastic leader for ASA.”
Judy Zacha—a source of inspiration for the staffing industry, just like that lighthouse shining on the shore of Lake Michigan was for her.