Dick Palmersheim

The Interview

Credit: Jake Hill

Dick Palmersheim   

Chief executive officer, Perlick Corp.

8300 Good Hope Road, Milwaukee

Employees: 370


Credit: Jake Hill

Dick Palmersheim was named chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based Perlick Corp., a family-owned manufacturer of custom bar and refrigeration equipment, in October. BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Arthur Thomas sat down with Palmersheim, a former executive at S.C. Johnson, Bombardier Recreational Products, Broan-NuTone and ASQ, to find out more about his new role, his background and running a family company.

What attracted you to the position?

“… It’s in its fifth generation now of ownership and management engagement of the company. Having worked for family companies in the past with most of my career spent at S.C. Johnson, I’ve come to realize the unique and very special advantages and benefits that a family company offers versus other types of companies. Family companies, they manage from generation to generation, whereas public companies manage from quarter to quarter. That gives a family company, in my view, a lot of unique advantages that are leverage-able in the marketplace, so that was a very key factor that was attractive to me. The family culture and family values that the Molinari and the Bergum families (part of the Perlick family tree) continue to infuse within the organization are very attractive and make this a special place to work.”

Did you feel like your background fit well with Perlick?

“Yes, it absolutely did. My background has been largely with family companies but also with public companies, but the common denominator across those experiences has been companies that have grown based on the strength of their brands, the strength of their products and the ability to innovate within their channels. The values of the company that drive passionate employees and engaged employees, those are all common denominators of my background experience, so as I looked at the Perlick opportunity, I looked at it as a great fit to leverage those background experiences to the future success of Perlick.”

What are the biggest challenges for Perlick to overcome moving forward?

“… In the near-term … the tariff situation and what that is doing to our product costs. We have in our product lines, as you can imagine in a bar environment or a refrigerator-type of appliance, there’s a lot of stainless steel in those products. … So that’s a key area, headwind, that we’re working through right now in terms of how to mitigate those risks and how to maintain a profitable business moving forward, but it’s presenting its own set of very significant challenges that we’re grappling with over the next six to 12 months.”

Do you feel an extra sense of responsibility managing a family company on top of the economic realities?

“I’m a big believer in servant leadership and that’s what’s guided me and motivated me and caused me to want to get into roles like I am now with Perlick. In that, I and my team have a responsibility to the employees of Perlick and to the family, to the employees to ensure that Perlick remains a great place to work and a place that their families can feel confident will represent an opportunity for them to have the jobs that will allow them to live the lifestyles that they want to live. And obviously to the (Perlick) family, the family is moving now into the fifth generation and is intending to keep this a family company for generations beyond. It creates an added sense of responsibility that is very, very consistent with what motivates me as a servant leader.”

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