Beth Zastawny on Developing and Growing Through Lifes Hurdles

Beth Zastawny was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and raised in Grafton, Massachusetts. Beth currently resides in Ludlow, Massachusetts. At the young age of 11 she began playing sports and continued through high school and college. Being part of a team taught her the importance of enduring hard work and dedication, and most importantly a never […]

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Beth Zastawny
Beth Zastawny

Beth Zastawny was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and raised in Grafton, Massachusetts.

Beth currently resides in Ludlow, Massachusetts.

At the young age of 11 she began playing sports and continued through high school and college. Being part of a team taught her the importance of enduring hard work and dedication, and most importantly a never give up attitude.  During her high school years, she was raised by a single mother. From this she learned that nothing would ever be given to her – and she would have to work hard for everything.

 She graduated from high school with honors and in 2012 she was inducted into the Grafton High School Athletic Hall of Fame. Thousands of students have graduated from Grafton High and to have been selected based on her commitment and contribution to the school as a student-athlete is an accomplishment that she is proud of.  Her two nephews and niece who have also attended Grafton High often talk about how “cool” it was to see Aunties name on the “Wall of Fame” at the High School.

After high school she attended Nichols College, where she graduated in 1987 with a degree in Accounting.   During college she worked 3 jobs to put herself through school. After four years of hard work she graduated with academic Deans List honors and Athletic recognitions. She was voted by her college classmates “Most Likely to Succeed”. After college she was immediately offered a job during her on-campus interview from one of the “Big 8” accounting firms, Coopers & Lybrand now known as Price Waterhouse Coopers, which she accepted. Beth later earned her CPA designation.

Beth spent fourteen years in public accounting. During the time she had clients from different industry such as, manufacturing, retail, banking, healthcare and non-profit. Each industry had unique accounting guidelines and challenges. Having had the opportunity to be involved in different industry helped Beth realize that her passion was in manufacturing, especially privately-owned small to medium size businesses. She knew that the next phase of her career would be focused on this.

During her years in the work force she has volunteered her time to non-profit organizations – such as Junior Achievement – Big Brothers/Big Sisters – Springfield School Volunteers. These programs mission – focus on making a difference in a child’s life. Because she had a difficult upbringing, it was important for her to give back to children in the community and show them that they too could succeed.

Throughout her career, Beth has held positions in both public and private industry. Beth has over 15 years, as a CFO for privately held manufacturing Companies, ranging from start-ups to $30 Million in revenue. Over her 20 years in private industry, Beth has had a variety of experiences, from implementing accounting systems establishing human resource systems, health and safety program, implement cost systems which have resulted in savings of millions of dollars. In addition, she has raised capital through both commercial and bond-financing offerings. She has also been involved with expansion of operations in countries such as Mexico and China.  Beth applied for and was awarded a state grant for a company who was introducing a new product line and needed the funds to purchase equipment, hire and train employees. The funds from this grant will allow the Company to increase revenue by $5Million dollars.

Away from work, Beth enjoys spending time with her family, especially summer family vacations at the beach, working in her gardens and refinishing furniture.

What do you love most about the industry you are in?

Being part of a growing company allows me the opportunity to grow as well. The role of a CFO has changed over the last few years. I am no longer the person who just “crunches numbers” and reports on the results. I am the CEO’s business partner, involved in strategic planning, operational decision making, process improvements, to name a few.

An effective CFO changes the perspective of how things “get done” and implements new techniques that will help improve efficiencies throughout the organization.

What keeps you motivated?

I am motivated because I am driven by results. In accounting, you have a lot of data to analyze and from this data is the foundation to which I can be a part of driving change, improving operations and educating employees at all different levels of the organization.

During this process, being a valued resource and a “go-to-person” for all facets of the organization is self-rewarding.

How do you motivate others?

I have always had a “lead by example” mentality. I would never ask an employee to do something that I would not do or have not done myself.  I have an open-door policy and I make myself visible to the employees. For example, taking time to walk through different departments during the day to say “thank-you” and acknowledge their efforts. It is so important to share the company vision with employees, so I make them a part of the solution and how they fit into the overall success of the company.

One example, I chair our Health and Safety Committee. We meet monthly. This year I started to have a different employee lead the Health and Safety meetings.

I have two phrases I use often with employees – there is no “I” in TEAM and “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”.

What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?

I believe one trait that I often look on is that I have courage and I use this trait to help me accomplish my goals. I am not afraid to try new things without assurance of success. In doing so, should I have a setback or hit a roadblock having the humility to accept responsibility and not to look to find blame or excuses elsewhere is a second important trait. Another important

trait is staying focused and keeping the organization focused on valuable use of time and resources is essential in obtaining performance from an organization.

What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?

I would encourage new accountants to manage your career. There are so many opportunities for accountants both in public and private industry. You have just graduated and have technical book knowledge, however, to be successful you will need more than just book knowledge.

Never pass up an opportunity to be part of a new team or a new project. Take ownership for your work. If you make a mistake, that’s ok, learn from your mistakes.

Accounting professionals today are much more than “number crunches” they have influence on business decisions.

What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?

The loss of my father when I was 13 years old. Growing up with two brothers and being the only girl in the family – I was “daddy’s little girl” and nothing would ever be the same. Not having my dad alive to share in significant milestones throughout my life has been difficult. It’s been 40 years since my father died, so I think I can safely say I’ve been through it all; the shock, the sadness, the anger, the guilt, and, eventually, the acceptance.

When I’m reminded of my dad, I use it as an opportunity to cherish his memory.  I have learned to live every day and recognize my father is there no matter what I’m doing, and I’m grateful he touched my life even if it was for a short time.

I am active in promoting and supporting Mental Health awareness and Suicide prevention.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

My greatest professional achievement was completing my bachelor’s degree in 4 years with a 3.8 GPA. I had no financial support from my family and had to work 3 jobs while pursuing my Accounting degree. This taught me to prioritize my time, build great habits and stay focused on my goals. I’m proud of this accomplishment.

Question 16 – What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?

Recognize and take care of your emotional and physical stability as everything else is a byproduct of these two. For me, it was in 2017, when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. My doctor’s suspect I have had MS for over ten years. I do recall certain symptoms; however, I ignored these signs as I just thought it was stress and fatigue from working too hard and resting too little. Living with MS makes each day unique. I cannot predict the exact time or day my symptoms will worsen. I can’t foresee how I will feel from one day to the next.

As a result, I fight a daily battle with an enemy that is silent in attacks and strikes at any time.

I have had to come to terms that there is no cure for MS. I have had to accept this disease and I am learning instead of fitting my life around the disease I must fit the disease into my life. I must remind myself that I am not lazy – I am tired, I am not stupid – I have cognitive issues and I am not angry – I am in pain. 

I cannot control how MS will manifest in my life, I am committed to fighting this disease with the continued support of family and the best medical team.

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