Former Zywave executives disperse to pursue own ventures

Cover Story

Jim Emling

As Dave O’Brien took over Zywave’s chief executive officer role close to two years ago, other leaders pivotal to the company’s launch set off in their own directions with new entrepreneurial ambitions.

Bill Haack
Bill Haack
Jim Mueller
Jim Mueller
Jim Emling
Jim Emling

Among them was Bill Haack, CEO of Zywave from 1995 to the end of 2013. Haack, who had also served as owner, chairman and CEO of Zywave’s predecessor, insurance broker Frank F. Haack & Associates, exited Zywave at the time he felt was right, as O’Brien positioned himself as a strong successor.

Most of Haack’s professional focus today centers on running Haack Ventures, a Wauwatosa-based private investment company located in the same building as Zywave. Haack, chairman and CEO, said he invests in a wide range of companies but primarily skews toward software companies, since that is an industry he knows well.

Haack also remains involved with Zywave at a strategic level as vice chair, board member and shareholder. Additionally, he is a shareholder and director for Advicent, the new company that formed from Zywave’s split in 2013.

Jim Mueller, who worked as president and chief operating officer of Zywave from 1996 to 2005 and had also been president and chief operating officer of Frank F. Haack & Associates, moved on to invest in a variety of other companies and establish his own health benefits consulting firm, Mueller QAAS. His business, founded in January 2013 in Waukesha, aims to ensure that small and mid-sized employers get objective insurance advice and satisfy compliance.

Before he caps his career, Mueller is determined to have contributed more than 1,000 jobs to southeastern Wisconsin. He estimates he has already helped bring at least 850 jobs to the region, with the bulk of those belonging to Zywave.

Mueller also remains a shareholder in Advicent, and is investing in the new building that will house Zywave’s headquarters.

Jim Emling, president of Zywave from 2008 to 2013, left to open a new career chapter after having been with the company for nearly 19 years – first as an intern.

Since leaving Zywave, Emling has focused on independent consulting and angel investing and has also served on the boards of other software companies. At the forefront of his career today, he heads Pewaukee-based SilentBooth Consulting Group, through which he helps software companies grow to the next level.

Emling said that since Haack granted him a great opportunity to advance his career early on, he is now interested in paying that generosity forward to help other area companies achieve their own success stories.

He points to Zywave as a clear success story, one that overcame the doubts of people who deemed it impossible to grow a company of Zywave’s size in the region.

“We just proved them dead wrong, and it’s just fantastic,” Emling said.

O’Brien, who was also one of Zywave’s core instigators, plans to continue at the helm of Zywave into the foreseeable future.

“I’m having a blast doing it,” O’Brien said. “It’s very gratifying to see the results of what all these folks are doing.”

Haack, Mueller, Emling and O’Brien all have childhood ties to southeastern Wisconsin.

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