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How it all began: an interview with Willy Jacob

(*27.01.1914 † 19.01.2011)

Willy Jacob, the managing partner of Jacob GmbH for many years, grew up in a family business that was founded in difficult economic times and has expanded into a successful futer-oriented company. He has dedicated his life to this legacy. The 96-year-old senior manager talks about the history of the company:

Mr. Jacob, you were still a young boy when your father founded the company. What do you remember from those early days?
Willy Jacob: I was born in Schwenningen in January 1914, but my family moved to Stuttgart in 1917. It was a very hard time when my father Wilhelm Jacob (1886-1960) decided to found an electrotechnical company in April 1922, for which he rented out the basement of an apartment building in Stuttgart. There were shortages of lots of things in the interwar period and my father had great difficulty in acquiring a Fasson automatic lathe, which was necessary for the production process. The production programme had to be changed often in order to adapt to the demand.

How did you enter the company?
Willy Jacob: My father brought work home with him now and then and everyone helped. As a schoolboy, when I was around twelve years old, I had to collect brass rods from Kreidler and Bosch. And in order to transport them, I put them on the step when I caught the tram. It was hard work! Following my apprenticeship, I joined the company as a merchant in 1938. The Second World War interrupted my professional career, as I was conscripted for military service. I was only able to return to work at my father´s company in 1946 following a period of captivity as a prisoner of war.

How did things go at the company after the war?
Willy Jacob: The period after the war was heavy going but successful. In 1951, my father constructed a factory in Fellbach with an office and an apartment building. In those days, we used to manufacture cable glands from brass, stainless steel and plasic.

You assumed sole responsibility later on. How did you lead the family business?
Willy Jacob: When my father died in 1960, and shortly thereafter my sister, I assumed sole responsibility for the company and became Managing Director of the family business. In 1973, we constructed a new building at Gottlieb-Daimler-Straße 11 in Rommelshausen. It was a risk, but a necessary one that we coped with. The manufacture of plastics began in an underground garage. This was a good decision as, with this, we became an industry leader. I retired as Managing Director in 1982 at the age of 68. My successor Werner Becker has since retired as well. Michael Pietsch successfully took over the management and direction of the company in 2005. Aside from myself, two family members still influence production today: my daughter, business studies graduate Ursula Jacob, and Petra Gunkel, a daughter of my brother Kurt. However, they are not directly active within the company.