Profile: Cliff Kersker
Master of Business Administration, 2001 | President, Graphel Corp., West Chester, Ohio
Upward Bound | In 1980, Kersker began working as a machine operator at Graphel Corp., which provides electrodes and machining services to the electric discharge machine industry. He was promoted to foreman in 1985 and shop manager in 1989. When the company changed hands in 1999, he asked about opportunities for growth. The new owner encouraged him to round out his education by taking some master’s-level business courses.
Critical Discovery | The new owner didn’t stipulate that Kersker get an M.B.A., but “when I began to investigate my options, the opportunity to earn an M.B.A. as my first college degree was too great to pass up.” Even though he didn’t have a bachelor’s degree, Xavier’s executive M.B.A. program accepts individuals with significant work experience and specific scores on the entrance test.
Back to School | Kersker was both nervous and excited to return to school. He originally enrolled in Edgecliff College after high school, but dropped out to become a full-time musician. “I always did pretty well in school and had been taking work-related classes off and on over the years, so it wasn’t too overwhelming. I began to use things I learned immediately.”
Practical Application | As part of his international business class, Kersker went to Singapore where he was able to meet with a Graphel supplier. His class-project paper—ultimately presented to Graphel’s owner—evaluated the company’s relationship with that supplier.
Instant Benefits | Kersker was promoted from manufacturing manager to vice president of manufacturing after one year in the program. “I believe it reflected my efforts to expand my value to the company, and my improved performance in analysis as the result of utilizing new skills I picked up.”
Long-term Benefits | In 2004—24 years after joining Graphel—he was named president.
Planning Success | As president, Kersker led the Graphel team in the creation of a five-year plan “to grow our business to $25 million—more than double our 2003 level. In 2005, we completed a merger/acquisition that added a key component to making our growth plans a reality. I have several other projects in the works—plenty to keep me fully engaged for a few years.”
Bonding Experience | In spite of the impact of an M.B.A. on his career, Kersker says learning was only part of his University experience. “I started the program at age 45, and I never would have guessed that I would have made new lifelong friends at that age. The bond I developed with ‘team uno’ is the best thing I took away from this experience.”
Last Word | “On many levels, the Xavier experience was one of the best of my adult life. I learned a lot about business, about people and about myself. I developed a new sense of self-confidence that has allowed me to take on challenges I may not have attempted before.”