Since then, Mike has successfully led Kolbe through some of the most challenging times in the history of the window and door industry and the residential building industry.
During Mike's decade of leadership, Kolbe has risen to become a leading manufacturer in the North American high-end window and door market. Kolbe has become especially known for being at the forefront of introducing innovative products and services to the market, and is recognized as one of the true leaders in Continuous Improvement, also known as Lean Manufacturing.
A home-grown boy from Rothschild, Mike went on to obtain both his Law degree and MBA degree from the University of Notre Dame. After 24 years serving as General Counsel for several world leading manufacturing companies, Mike returned home to join Kolbe, a Company he frequently refers to as "a very special place".
Over the years, Kolbe and Mike have been heavily involved in the local communities and have supported many worthwhile causes. Lori Weyers, President of North Central Technical College, had the following comments regarding Mike and Kolbe: "Mike is an outstanding friend and partner to NTC. Personally and through Kolbe, he has been a strong supporter of the NTC Foundation/Residential Building home project, student scholarships and NTC's new Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Center of Excellence. He is a true friend to education and I want to express my deep gratitude for his leadership, generosity and commitment to this community."
Mike has a very special rapport with the people of Kolbe. He insisted on referring to employees as "Team Members" and officially removed the use of the word "employee" from the Kolbe terminology. Likewise, Mike has established a special relationship with many of Kolbe's more than 500 distributors throughout North America. Tom Sanders, President of Shenandoah Sash & Door in Purcellville, Virginia had this to say about Mike: "The direction Kolbe has taken under Mike's leadership, despite the economy and downturn in the building industry, has postured itself for continued growth."
Mike commented regarding his future retirement: "It is always very difficult to make the decision to step away from a job and a company you love. However, it is time to provide others with an opportunity to further the successful strategy that has driven Kolbe to be a recognized leader in the high-end window and door industry. I began working with the two other members of the Kolbe Board about a year ago to plan for my succession, and we know that we have excellent people in place to carry forth our plans for growth."
The Company has announced that Jeff De Lonay will be succeeding Mike as President upon his retirement at the end of March. Jeff has been with Kolbe for 29 years, and for 13 years served as the Company's Vice President of Manufacturing and its Executive Vice President the past four years. He and his wife, Lori, reside in Wausau, where they have raised three sons.
Mike and his wife of 36 years, Mary, will continue to reside in Wausau. They plan on devoting as much time as possible to charitable causes they have supported in the past, and to spending more time at their cottage and with their two sons. Their oldest son and his wife are expecting their first child in early March.
Judith Gorski, CEO and daughter of Herb Kolbe, one of the founders of the Company, stated: "We have been very fortunate to have Mike's leadership to continue the great tradition that Kolbe has earned through the years. While we will miss Mike's presence at Kolbe, we are also pleased that he had the foresight to plan for his succession in a way that will provide a seamless continuation of the strategy that has made Kolbe one of the real success stories in the window and door industry."
What began in 1946 as a two-brother team has grown into an internationally respected manufacturing company. Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co., Inc. is one of the nation's leading manufacturers of windows and doors for residential and commercial markets. After more than 65 years, Kolbe products are best known for superior quality, custom craftsmanship, attention to detail, as well as innovative and unique designs.