As executive vice president at Kurtz Bros. Inc., John Ziss Jr. has spearheaded a number of initiatives which have raised money to fight cancer, furnished low-income homes and provided food to the hungry, among other things. In 2020, he’d like to move forward with an idea to provide a pathway to employment for those who are homeless.
But in his eyes, there is still so much more to be done.
“My struggle is that I want to do something that is more hands on so our people can see who they are impacting and be touched by that,” Ziss says. “I feel like we don’t do enough of that.”
Family takes priority
Ziss is part of the fourth generation of Kurtz family members moving into leadership roles at the landscaping supply and delivery company. He joined the business more than a decade ago when his aunt, Lisa Kurtz, was diagnosed with PMP, a rare cancer that typically starts in the appendix. Lisa was an owner of the company and managed the finances, and her team was struggling to keep up in her absence.
“She asked if I would come back and help, and I don’t say no to family,” Ziss says. “I thought I would be here three years to stabilize the accounting department and then go back to the East Coast. What ended up happening was I got the family business bug and was energized with what we were doing.”
Lisa Kurtz died in 2012, but Ziss continues her fight through his work on the board at the ACPMP Cancer Foundation, which his aunt founded. He’s also on the board at I’m In Ministry, which helps furnish homes for low-income families. And he’s committed space at Kurtz Bros. to take in clothes, furniture, mattresses and other items used in this effort.
More to be done
I’m In Ministry was started by Deacon Lou Primozic. Ziss and Primozic have discussed the potential of an additional program the provides job opportunities to people who are homeless.
“I would like to find ways to get an integrated pathway so the individuals that work there can maybe come into our organization in various roles and have a career,” Ziss says. “We haven’t implemented it yet, but I think we’re just scratching the surface of what we can do to help. We’ve done a lot but, I know we can do a lot more.”
Show the way
The key to building energy around giving back is engaged leadership, Ziss says.
“I’m never into forcing my employees to do an in-service day or something of that nature,” Ziss says. “I don’t give my leadership team the option. Everybody has enough time to spare one day or half a day to get their hands dirty and give back.”