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5 business leaders who worked their way from bottom to top

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Ziemer went from freight elevator operator to CEO

3. James Ziemer

1969 – 2009

James Ziemer began working at Harley-Davidson as a freight elevator operator and completed two college degrees while working there. In 1970, he took a short vacation to join the army for two years, after which he came back to work in manufacturing and engine operations. But his climb to the top didn’t stop there. With degree in hand, he soon rose to the position of vice-president and CFO in 1990. 

“Out of my 37 years here, I started in the Union. I worked in the factory as a salaried worker. I’ve worked in engineering. I’ve worked in parts and accessories. So with that balance, I think that’s given me the ability to go beyond just being an accountant. I often share a joke with the Union presidents, who saw the same posting for an elevator operator, that they should’ve posted for it first,” said Ziemer.

He also served as president of the Harley-Davidson Foundation from 1993 to 2006. Ziemer, who became a director in 2010, was the president, CEO and director of Harley-Davidson from 2005 to 2009.

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