DIAMONDS are FOREVER
Rebecca Kleefisch visits Kesslers for Employee Ownership Month

By Alex Beld - Conley News Service

Oct. 13, 2016

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch smiles as she speaks with Richard Kessler, left, and lead diamond setter Abe Mok of Milwaukee in the goldsmith area Tuesday morning at Kesslers Diamonds in Germantown.
John Ehlke/Daily News
>>VIew slideshow of Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch's visit

GERMANTOWN — Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch visited the employee-owned Kesslers Diamonds on Tuesday to show support for the business during Employee Ownership Month.

Kesslers has been 49 percent employee-owned since 2011 and is expected to become 100 percent employee-owned some time in 2017.

Founder Richard Kessler said the transaction would have happened sooner, but the company has grown quickly, adding several stores in the last few years.

Kessler began to look into planning his succession in 2007-08 and found it would be easier to pass cash on to his kids rather than the business.

Selling the stock to the employees is the route he chose to accomplish this.

Richard Kessler shows Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch the goldsmith area Tuesday morning at Kesslers Diamonds in Germantown.
John Ehlke/Daily News

Only one of his kids works at Kesslers, which would have left three owners who aren’t involved in the business.

Kessler said this would leave them looking at the bottom line, rather than focus on the customer. “Trying to pass on a business is really difficult,” he added.

So when Kessler made the choice to give the company to the employees, it became the only employee stock ownership plan jewelry retailer in North America.

“I have an allegiance to this type of company,” Kleefisch said during her visit. “These jobs will probably never go away.”

Assistant team leader Ashley Hennecke said the feeling of ownership is nice and the company is team-based, even in sales.

Richard Kessler Tuesday morning at Kesslers Diamonds in Germantown.
John Ehlke/Daily News

Employees also think more about how their actions will affect the success of the company.

“You think a little harder about spending money,” lead diamond setter Abe Monk said.

Through their warranty and the occasional mistake working with diamonds, Kesslers spends about $500,000 a year replacing jewelry. The company is working through training to reduce this number.

“There are folks who are perhaps not as invested in the bottom line as you are,” Kleefisch said. She also stated companies like Kesslers are an integral part of the economy and she hopes to see more in the state.

Email: abeld@conleynet.com