CEO Connect: The next generation of IDC takes the stage 

Keith Leclerc is still, officially, chief executive officer, and president, of International Diamond Center, but the succession plan is in full motion. 

The next generation of leadership at IDC includes one Leclerc and two Leclercs “by marriage.” Together, Brian Leclerc, Brian Stamey and Chad Masters are being groomed for a future of diamonds and gold. 

Bridgette Bello, publisher and chief executive officer of Tampa Bay Business and Wealth, interviewed Stamey and Masters, at Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park, in front of a live audience. This transcript has been edited for length and brevity. 

Bello: What’s it been like being on the cover of TBBW this month?

Masters: My mom is proud.

Stamey: Really, Chad and I, both, don’t deserve to be on this stage. I wish Brian [Leclerc] was here, our other brother-in-law, because we really are the three amigos…but it’s a dream come true. It really is. 

Bello: When we talked, in preparation for this, you both shared that you were working on something big. Can you share anything about that

Stamey: We’re working on something that will continue to establish the IDC legacy and set us apart from other retailers, and other wholesalers, in our industry. Last summer, we went to Africa, specifically Namibia. We were invited by De Beers to go on the Benguela Gem, which is their newest, and latest, ship that goes down 125 meters to the ocean floor and mines diamonds. We were establishing connections there, to have provenance to the diamonds and where they’re sourced. Knowing about the good that diamonds do is very important to our family. 

Okavango [Diamond Company] is the local diamond trading company that the Botswanan government has that’s 50/50 partners with De Beers. And, we’re working on establishing a direct site in that country with them. We would be one of the first, if not the first, retailers to actually establish a site with the Botswanan government. 

Bello: Chad, you’re very much in the grind [at the business]. You’re dealing with the customers every day. You’re a big part of the growth that has happened. Talk about it from that perspective. 

Masters: Our business isn’t anything without the retail clientele. We don’t get to have a personal relationship with every client, but we do our best and we try to find clients along our business ventures. How can we make an impact with our local communities? So, how can we plug you in with someone that we know that we build a relationship with and how do we make that introduction? So, in order for us to be able to do that, we have to be able to listen to your needs when you come in. 

Our heart is to make sure you find something you love. We are here to listen to your needs, but also educate you with what your needs are and see if it can be done. I’m a little bit more transparent than my wife. She’s always told me that I shouldn’t be so honest. I’m not the one wearing the piece. At the end of the day, I want you to love it. It may not look great on your finger, so be it, but if you love it, that’s all that matters.

Stamey: This is why Chad runs the coin department. [Stamey and Masters banter about being like brothers and missing Leclerc.] 

Stamey: I will say the beauty about having a family business, and that we can do it together, is that we can bounce ideas off of multiple people who understand [and] that if you have your own business and you’re a [CEO], or a business owner, you have yourself. You’re kind of boxed in. And we have that freedom with one another to say, listen, is this right for us? Is this right for the business? Is this right for our family? And I think that’s the beauty about it. 

Bello: So many of us in this room are running businesses where we have memories of trying to survive. But part of what I really loved about [this] story was how when Keith started [the business] and Peggy was home, being a mom…

Stamey: I wasn’t there at the time.

Masters: Me neither.

Stamey: I think one of my favorite pastimes is sitting around the dinner table. My kids love this as well. And just hearing Keith share stories about how he got started. Keith, literally, is the epitome of the American dream. 

Bello: I have a lot of favorite team members at IDC, but I must admit that Helen is one of them. And Helen’s job is to keep you guys on track in your philanthropic efforts. The way I first met her was because we were recognizing her for how much you do for this community. Talk about how Helen’s role keeps you guys on track.

Stamey: Well, Helen used to be one of our, and still is, one of our best customers.

Bello: You should see this girl’s diamonds.

Stamey: We were giving to so many different organizations, but I don’t think we were really giving in a meaning, and impactful, way. I think when Helen came on board, it really added structure. The agency that we worked with, in Orlando, came up with Fifth C (IDC’s charitable giving arm). I wasn’t smart enough to come up with it, but they were. We didn’t do much with it until Helen came on board. We started our family foundation and it really added organization to it and it allowed us to give to what is near, and dear, to our family. And we have three tenents: supporting military families, giving kids a chance and [helping prevent] any human trafficking. 

Masters: We weren’t really making a true impact. She’s been able to narrow it down and keep us focused. 

Bello:  What I love about [the IDC story] is the competitive strategy that was involved. Keith was supplying the whole east coast of the United States, in my understanding, before he decided to open his first store. I’m going to let you tell the story.

Stamey: Keith was supplying a local jeweler that’s very close to our store, in Clearwater. And I guess there was disagreement over the strategy and the focus. Keith’s very focused, if you can’t tell, when he is traveling 125,000 to 140,000 miles a year. Keith decided to open a new store, our first location. Keith, would you give me the date and time and the hour that you decided to open it?

Bello: I love that. He said 1990, March 26, 2 p.m.

Stamey: He has a memory.

Bello: He has chutzpah. 

Stamey: He decided to open a store a couple doors down from another jeweler. And that was in 1990, in March. And by God’s providence and blessings, we have grown from one store to 12. We also, as a part of that separation from that partner, got a few stores in Orlando, that partner got stores in Atlanta and we’ve continued to grow and been lucky, and blessed, to have 12 stores. That’s my very serpentine answer.

Bello: Very diplomatic.

Stamey: I only got one throat clearing on that, which means steer clear.

Bello: You made a conscious decision not to go down the path of lab-grown diamonds. What was the business decision behind that? 

Stamey: There really was no decision. I remember sitting in our conference room with Keith, Brian and Chad, and there was really no discussion about it. It was why would we bite the hand that’s fed us for, at that time, almost 40 years? Keith is always saying, what we call, “Keithisms.” And he’s always said, ever since I met him in 2000, my job is not to sell you, it’s to protect you. And, he said, I cannot in good conscience sell my customers something that is worth nothing. I will not, no matter how much money I forego. And I said, Keith, I do not want to be sitting here at the train station five years from now and the world has passed us by. And we had our heads in the sand. And he literally looked at me and said, “BS, I don’t care. I will not sell my soul to make an extra buck.” And he was right. ♦

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