Jessica Yurgaitis: In the Right Place at the Right Time
Jessica Yurgaitis is chief executive officer with Industrial Supply Company, which distributes maintenance, repair, operational, and production (MROP) supplies to the construction, manufacturing, mining, government, and industrial markets from eight locations
in Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and Wyoming.
RESPONSIBILITIES: Overseeing business strategy, supplier programming, marketing, advertising, and e-commerce strategy.
EXPERIENCE: President; senior vice president of product management and marketing; vice president of product management and marketing; vice president of sales and marketing; and vice president of procurement and marketing, all with Industrial Supply Company.
EDUCATION: University of Utah, B.A., history and anthropology.
I went to college to be a high school history teacher. While I was applying to master’s programs, my dad asked me to come work for the family business. I did and after a few months, I knew I was in the right place. I never did get my master’s degree.
Instead, I started in our warehouse. Over the past 25 years, I’ve done a little bit of everything in the company. It was when I took over procurement that I really learned the business—learning about supplier relationships and how to get products to our customers in a timely fashion.
Today, I oversee the movement of products, ensuring we have the right inventory for our customers in each location. I also manage our 240 employees.
I’m part of the fourth generation of this family business. Family businesses are complicated and challenging, especially for a woman. For 107 years, a man has run Industrial Supply. And in Utah, we don’t have a lot of women in professional roles.
I wouldn’t call myself a feminist by any means, but we do have to work harder. There has been a lot of progress for women in the work world, but not enough.
In my role as a board member for the Industrial Supply Association, I learned an awful lot by working with people from across the country who also run businesses. And it was good for my confidence because I was able to contribute and make a difference to our association and our industry.
We’re in the process of moving two branch locations to better serve our customers. It’s hard enough to move one at a time, but moving two is very challenging, as we are trying not to shut down our customers at the same time.
And about two years ago, we moved to a different Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. We jumped from a DOS-based green screen to the cloud, without a stop in the middle. That also was challenging. But technology is one of our strategic pillars.
We think about what’s coming next and how technologies like artificial intelligence will impact our business.
It’s challenging to move to new systems. For people who are having a hard time adopting, we train, train, train and make sure they’re comfortable asking questions. It’s also important to explain the ‘why’ behind the changes. In this case, the vendor was going to sunset the software, so we didn’t have a choice, but it also happened to be the right move. This helped people get behind it.
Plus, these changes are strong signals that our company is investing in the resources that will take us into the future. Employees know we’re not going anywhere.
At times, when I’ve been dealing with business challenges, I’ve thought maybe this is too much of a headache; that maybe I should have been a history teacher. But I’m in the right place. My great-grandfather started this business and I listened to my dad talk about the company growing up. I attended meetings with him. We entertained customers and suppliers at our house.
And it’s a fun business. Distribution is not exactly sexy, but it’s wonderful. Salt of the earth people work in industrial distribution. I love the people here.
Jessica Yurgaitis Answers the Big Questions
1. What are the first three things you check about the business when you wake up?
The first three things I check are the previous day’s sales, the cash balance, and the inventory.
2. If you could travel anywhere, without being constrained by time or money, where would you go?
I’d go to Italy again and again and again. It has a nice vibe and wonderful food. My husband is Italian and I love his cooking.
3. If you could throw a dinner party for anyone in the world—living or not—who would you invite?
Jesus. I’d love to have him over and see what he thinks of the mess we’re living in right now.
4. What would you tell your 18-year-old self?
You’re smarter than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can. Keep trying.