Kesslers Diamonds names Joe Gehrke as new president
Kesslers Diamond Center, Inc., today announced that Joe Gehrke will join the company as president. Richard Kessler, founder and current president, will transition to the role of chief executive officer.
"Joe has been a trusted advisor of Kesslers Diamonds for several years. His understanding of our business coupled with his appreciation for our culture make him uniquely qualified to take on this important role in our company," Kessler said in announcing the transition.
Gehrke joins the company from Associated Bank, where he worked in commercial banking for the past 17 years. During his tenure, he provided financial guidance and services to variety of corporate customers, including Kesslers Diamonds.
"I've had the benefit of an aspired career at Associated Bank, which has a similar culture to Kesslers Diamonds. Both organizations are focused on growing their businesses in a manner that benefits their customers, employees and the communities they serve," Gehrke said. "The commitment of Richard and his entire team of employee-owners have helped Kesslers earn its place as the largest seller of diamonds and diamond engagement rings in the state of Wisconsin."
In 2011, Kesslers Diamonds transferred ownership of the company to its employees with the formation of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Last year, the company formed a succession committee comprised of Kesslers Diamonds employee-owners and two external advisors, including Gehrke, to discuss future leadership of the company.
"We wanted to define the characteristics of the next president. Our final description fit Joe to a T," Kessler recalled. "He has a wealth of financial knowledge, understands how businesses operate and appreciates the importance of providing value to customers, which is something I experienced first-hand working with Joe the past several years."
While Gehrke was not interested in leaving the bank, he appreciates the opportunity move beyond to role of financial advisor to actually running a business. As president, he will help build the company's executive team and its growth strategy. Goals include increase the number of diamond centers from its current seven locations, and grow sales revenue.
"Though his leadership at Associated Bank will certainly be missed, I am excited for Joe's future," said Associated Bank executive vice president, Milwaukee market president and head of Corporate Banking John Utz. "Kesslers Diamonds is one of the most distinguished organizations in our region."
As CEO, Kessler will remain very active in the business – that includes being the "voice" of Kesslers Diamonds in the company's radio ads. After that? It will be something, but not retirement.
"The idea of retirement doesn't have a lot of appeal to me; I'll do something," Kessler said.
Gehrke, a native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, lives with his wife and three daughters in Grafton. He holds a bachelor's degree in finance and economics from the Haworth College of Business at Western Michigan University.
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