Jim Ruffolo

President & CEO, Burger Boat Company

Jim Ruffolo is President & CEO of Burger Boat Company in Manitowoc, WI located on Lake Michigan. Over the past 31 years, Jim led the complete renovation of Burger’s new modern facilities, its equipment upgrades, maintained and added to Burger’s experienced talent pool and oversaw the implementation of Burger’s LEAN corporate culture. Prior to joining Burger, Jim co-owned and built four businesses, holding similar positions and gaining valuable experiences. The past twelve years he has served USSA as its Great Lakes Regional Board Member and has been an ISS member since 2008. Jim believes the only way to truly help shape the needs of our industry is to get involved and lead change through education and communication at all levels.


What does it mean to you to be an ISS judge?
I am honored to have been selected to assist in the ISS awards judging and for the opportunity to work alongside respected industry colleagues. Thank you!

What do you like about the ISS Design & Awards Gala?
I believe the ISS Design & Leadership Awards are the most honest and unbiased awards program of its type in our industry. I appreciate that industry members vote and have a large say in the award results. The Gala is a great event not only for the presentation of the awards, but it is a fun and uplifting social event.

How did you get your start in the yachting industry?
A bit by accident. From the mid 70’s to the late 80’s I was co-owner of a few businesses in a completely unrelated sector. In the late 80’s we were acquired and felt we were too young to simply retire. One of my then partners and I learned that Burger Boat Company was possibly available. We researched and found that the entire base of experienced employees remained, with the desire to come back and build boats again. We bought the assets and reopened Burger in February of 1993. Well, it wasn’t quite that easy, but it took place and here I remain 31 years later, at the helm of this renowned boatbuilder. We can discuss the details over a beer one day!

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
To have overseen the planning and execution of the rebuild of Burger’s entire shipyard and its new joinery fabrication center into the state-of-art facilities we and our clients enjoy today.

What is your biggest challenge?
Maintaining a large enough and consistent backlog of work to support the staff of experienced boatbuilders we employ. We have diversified our earlier business model to ease this challenge. In addition to maintaining our Custom Yacht Design and New Construction business, we have added Design and Construction of New Commercial vessels, as well as Repair and Refit for both Yacht and Commercial vessels and most recently, we offer High End Custom Joinery / Furniture Fabrications. All can be viewed in our Website: www.burgerboat.com

If you could choose one location for your next travel adventure, where would you go and why?
I would travel to a warm tropical island to thaw out from these cold hard Wisconsin winters, or to Lucca, Italy during its warm season, because I love Lucca.

What is your favorite part of your job?
Helping associates achieve personal growth which in turn, helps the company achieve its goals. We grow together, not alone. Who has influenced you the most? My family. I grew up in a loving, nurturing and nonjudgmental family of ten souls. We learned how to live, love, laugh and work together toward greater goals. From my parent’s humble beginning, we have grown to 116 souls, are still growing and remain well connected. We are blessed that our parents have shown us the importance of family. My mother just turned 96 and is doing exceptionally well, living at home by herself, with regular visits for us.

What advice do you have for the next generation?
Be more patient. Learn how to communicate effectively and then do so face-to-face, or at least verbally, with everyone, in every situation. Avoid long emails and texts, because doing so almost certainly leads to misinterpretation, miscommunications, and misunderstandings. Take responsibility and do not give up quickly. Be accountable for all of your actions. Understand that it is okay to be questioned about new ideas and that through open and honest conversations, we will improve. Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. (Steven Covey). Lastly, show up, and “be present.”

How do you manage life balance?
Pretty well these days and certainly better than even just five years ago. Although I am still driven to work hard and improve myself every day, I have learned to appreciate outdoor activities and I spend a great deal of time these days enjoying my wife, of 50 years, our four children, their spouses and our six beautiful grandchildren. We are still growing.

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve gotten?
Be humble; remember it’s not about you; do more to help others and the rest will follow; enjoy the journey because the destination doesn’t always meets expectations.