The Interview: Jacob Mrugacz

Jacob Mrugacz
Jacob Mrugacz Credit: Lila Aryan

Jacob Mrugacz was named president of Wolf Paving in January after the business was acquired by William J. Kennedy Holding Co,  an affiliate of Janesville-based Rock Road Co. Inc., in late 2018. Mrugacz recently talked with BizTimes associate editor Arthur Thomas about the paving industry and taking over a family business.

Eight months in now, what are you working on?

“The good thing that I stepped into is this was a successful company. It wasn’t sold at a fire sale where the owners needed cash for something. It was good that (we) were stepping into a successful situation. … We had a lot of good people, they’re doing well. We’re refining some things. I kind of tell our people, even if you hadn’t had new ownership, you’d be taking a hard look at some things anyway; it’s just good business and that’s what you’ve been doing over the years.”

What made this an attractive position?

“It’s almost an overly simplistic way to say it, but I was a little boy who grew up playing with trucks in the dirt and now I kind of get to go do that for real life, right? There’s something about being able to drive down a road after your company constructed it. It’s so tangible to easily touch and feel … I also knew the family that had bought this company very well and was very attracted to working for them. I respected both their personal and their professional character a lot.”

What is the current state of industry demand?

“I think it’s very strong. I think we hear the same thing from our competitors. It’s not like we’re overbooked or anything like that; we can always take a little bit more. We’re still bidding, there’s still good competition out there.”

What’s it like taking over a family company?

“That family-owned feel of a company is not necessarily because of the last name. They did a good job here. People felt loyal to the previous owners, probably even after the sale. The one part I’ll tell you is that building that culture is important no matter what company you have and what last name is on the president’s door and the owner’s name, if you will. … That family atmosphere is really feeling like your company cares about you, your fellow employee cares about you and that you have some sort of purpose in what you do. I think we’ve been able to get through that. It was an interesting first couple months. Everyone is always asking what’s going to go on, when are you going to change stuff, are you going to do layoffs, all that sort of stuff, but we’ve been able to work through that and for us there’s nothing better than actually getting out and doing some paving work.”

What challenges are there going forward?

“… For me personally, I actually moved from northern Illinois to come up here and take this job, so I moved the family and, for me, literally every relationship was new. It’s only a couple hours away but all the suppliers, all the manufacturers, all the competitors, all the employees were all brand new relationships, so that’s taken a lot of people time to get up to speed and get there. ”

You just have to work on those on a daily basis?

“Starting in winter was a good thing because we weren’t up and running all the way yet, so I got to develop some of those relationships before the gears were turning … it does take some time. It’s not like it’s done yet by any means.”

612 N. Sawyer Road, Oconomowoc
Employees: 150

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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