President/CEO, CDS Life Transitions
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
There are several lessons: Think strategically. Be very organized and clear on expectations. People will respond positively to you based on your knowledge, expertise, and your ability to influence them. Authority and respect comes from what you know, not just your title. Pay attention to finance. Constantly, expand your circle of influence. Stay focused on mission. Show gratitude every day. Don’t let the failures keep you down. Someone said: “A life of safety is barren, but a life with risks has hope.” So don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t make the same mistake twice.
What’s been your biggest success?
My biggest success as CEO has been to build a very diversified company which is constantly innovating and growing. CDS Life Transitions is the “passive” parent and affiliate of several mission-based organizations: CDS Monarch, serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; Unistel Industries, operating a spice processing and packaging operation supporting the military; iCircle, a Managed Long Term Care Plan in 30 counties; CDS Housing, providing affordable housing; Warrior Salute Veterans Services; CDS Wolf Foundation; Prime Care Coordination; and CDSRx, a pharmacy.
Who have been the biggest mentors in your career?
My biggest mentors have been: Sy Zielinski, a senior NYS official who oversaw the services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Western New York. He has stood by me and he is a true friend. James Introne, a most distinguished colleague who served in NYS government helping shape Medicaid services. I have valued his counsel. The board leaders at CDS Life Transitions: Richard Ferrari, Gregory Gribben, Jennifer Carlson, and Mark Peterson, who served as board chair for 10 years and returned in 2021 as a board member, provide counsel and support, always.