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The leadership team of McMillan Electric pose at the company headquarters

Focusing on the Family Business

Spencer McMillan ’17 MBA has worn a lot of hats in his career. But when you help run a family business, you don’t just work in one department, you work in many.

At his family company -- McMillan Electric Company, an OEM of custom designed electric motors -- McMillan has worked in Engineering, Quality, Manufacturing and Sales. He’s designed and drawn product, written work instructions and gained leadership experience managing people. While the on-the-job learning was great, he couldn't stop thinking about how an MBA could help his personal development and contribute to the success of the company.

McMillan chose Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas to help him progress in his career. He graduated from the Part-time Flex MBA program in 2017, and his MBA degree has already paid dividends in the real world. Some of the biggest takeaways were from his classes on organizational communication, competitive strategy and leadership.

Before starting his MBA program, McMillan Electric had recently implemented a new management system that changed how the company operated. McMillan knew that communication during the transition was crucial for buy-in. His course in Competitive Strategy and Organizational Behavior helped him understand the importance of repeated and consistent communication within an organization.

"It's not good enough to say a message once or twice," he said. "It needs to be continually and consistently communicated." It’s also critical to establish the right lines of communication between each department. St. Thomas reinforces the importance of organization and cross departmental communication, and McMillan continues to draw on these lessons to help drive the company forward.

“During the implementation of the new management system, it was challenging to make sure everyone was on board and understanding the new system,” he said. “But after my classes at St. Thomas, I understood the importance of a clear vision and consistent message within the organization.”

McMillan used these lessons to help promote a successful transition and start a new era for the company. Every day he uses what he learned to improve his communication and how he approaches the company’s strategy. “A company cannot be successful and grow without effective communication.”

McMillan also cherished his time with Adjunct Faculty member David Hirschey in his Leadership class, calling it life-changing. He was forced to define his values and the trajectory of his life, which made a dramatic impact both professionally and personally.

“The program helped me develop my principles, philosophies, leadership skills and organizational communication to help me grow as a person and in my career. All of these things are critical to running a business and I'm forever grateful for the values and knowledge I learned at St. Thomas.”