BENNO READER, GASSAN

Involved from day one with MASTERS EXPO, the largest diamond dealer in Amsterdam, a household name in the industry and a family business that you can admire. MASTERS HQ is talking about Gassan Diamonds. Benno Leeser, patriarch of the family, grew from a rough diamond to become the President and CEO of GASSAN. Who helped him with the most important aspects of his career? Text: Mical Joseph
Image: Gassan Diamonds

What was your very first job?

“When I was about fifteen years old I sold croquettes and ice cream at AFC, where I played football at the time. I also worked in the catering industry at baseball club ABC. I really enjoyed making money at my own clubs where I spent a lot of time. I did selling for about three years during high school. In the summer of 1973 I started my career at Gassan Diamonds and in 1983 I took over the company together with my brother Guy.”

If you had not taken over the family business, what profession would you have pursued?

“If I had not entered Gassan, I would have succeeded my father in the women's fashion clothing store in Leeser. When I started working for my grandfather Samuel, I explained that I wanted to try it for a year, but then also want to say goodbye without any family drama. Now, 46 years later, I have never regretted taking over Gassan. I think it's fantastic as President and CEO.

Here in the corridors, according to my family, it's better that I didn't go into fashion: according to them, I don't have enough taste. Anyway, if I had followed up the fashion store, I would have made something beautiful out of it too.”

Who was your wheelbarrow during your career?

“The biggest wheelbarrow during my career was Mr. Delsing. He was the Chairman of the company and appointed by my grandfather to guide me. My grandfather felt that he was not objective enough to judge his own grandson. I learned from both gentlemen that hard work, being correct and doing what you agreed are very important. Always be on time and if someone calls you, call back. All these points all have to do with discipline and that must be within you, but you are never too late to learn!”

What is your greatest passion in your profession?

“I really like the airport shops, the events we organize and where we are, with the highlight being Masters of LXRY every year. During the five days of the fair, I am the first to arrive at the stand and the last to leave. In all of this my overall passion to ensure continuity. Outside of my profession, my family, going on holiday and football are really my passions.”

What has been the biggest learning moment in your career?

“The biggest learning moment is that I still learn every day and that I also learn from making mistakes. But, in essence, mistakes should not be made twice. My grandfather taught me that if I did more things right than wrong, I was already well on the right track.”

Also read: 'The Wheelbarrow Of…' Debora Huisman-Leeser

What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?

“Over the years I have become calmer in my communication, this is something that was different at that age. It is also a fairy tale to think that everything in life always works out, but a certain stability in life is important to me.”

Have you been a wheelbarrow for someone?

“In the company I always try to be good to my employees and help them develop. We have a staff of twelve people, of which at least ten people have grown internally. I think that is the most beautiful and gives satisfaction. For people who want to go far, I tell them that hard work, consistency and the necessary creativity are important.”