Will Kimmerle knew he wanted to work for the family business, but his father had some rules laid out: before working for the business, he needed to work for another company for a minimum of three years and get at least one promotion during that time.
Kimmerle did just that, and then made his way back to the family business, Baker McMillen, a manufacturing company in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. A few years and promotions later, Kimmerle’s father came to him again, but this time with a larger request: if he wanted to become president of the company one day, he would have to go back for his executive MBA.
“That’s really what sparked me to go searching for an EMBA program,” Kimmerle said. “I found Weatherhead’s program and I’m extremely happy that I did. Looking back on it, even if I didn’t have the incentive to do it, I would hope I would have made the same decision.”
With the curriculum in the first semester of the program heavily focused on emotional intelligence and the psychological side of leadership, Kimmerle says he and his cohort immediately hit the ground running, which really set the tone for the rest of their experience.
“It’s hard to say exactly why we were so cohesive and why we worked so well, but everyone really enjoyed each other,” he said. “It was fun. Our cohort had a lot of classroom discussion and we all challenged each other, which is exactly the type of environment we enjoy.”
Students in the Executive MBA program at Weatherhead participate in an intensive, 10-day international trip during the summer between the first and second year. Kimmerle and his cohort traveled to Ireland and Scotland where they met with companies and collaborated with international business leaders.
During the trip, Kimmerle was shocked to discover how Ireland was exploding in tech and how big of an issue cybersecurity is in Scotland, but says that the cohort bonding stands out the most to him.
“The best part of the entire trip is that it really brought our cohort together,” he said. “I connected with people who I had not spent time with. The goal of the trip is for us to grow together and that’s exactly what happened.”
The application project spans the last two semesters of the EMBA program. Each student explores design change opportunities within their organization while considering the effects of new resources and different capabilities. Students collaborate with a coaches provided by Weatherhead who offer coaching sessions during the project’s development and implementation.
As a unique feature of Weatherhead's EMBA program, the capstone project is directly tied to the "leading design in organization" course. The project incorporates the process, principles and methods that were taught in class throughout the program. The coaches are adjunct professors at Weatherhead who are design leaders in their organizations. Students approach their business challenges through design inquiry, a powerful method that was developed at Weatherhead.
While looking to identify a challenge in his own company, Kimmerle knew that organic growth was difficult, especially when the company had such a large market share already. Because of this, his original plan after speaking with his coach was to look into acquisition opportunities.
“We have a great sales and operations team, but really no R&D team,” he said. “We continued to drill down and I started to go to some tradeshows, asking people if they’d be interested in an acquisitions opportunity.”
After several conversations with other companies, Kimmerle didn’t see any real potential opportunities coming out of his acquisition conversations. What did stem from these conversations was a company that needed help getting its product into mass retail. Kimmerle took this idea to his coach, and that’s when it clicked.
“We essentially developed a partnership agreement,” he said. “With this agreement, we are able to make an extremely cost-effective route for our partner and create a win-win situation. From starting the project in September, we had this partner signed in December, and we actually got their physical product into the largest US retailers by early April.”
From there, a new business plan for the company was born.
“These partners that we find are either entrepreneurs, innovators or international businesses who don’t have a presence in the US market,” Kimmerle explained. “We’re helping get new technology into the hands of consumers faster than ever before. Our ability to accelerate technology to market is exciting for everyone involved.”
Kimmerle graduated from the EMBA program in the May 2019, and says that it has not only impacted his professional life, but also his personal life.
“I’ve found that my relationships with everyone, my family and my friends, have actually been stronger since the program,” Kimmerle said. “It’s been a huge benefit to my wellbeing.”
“This program is for the next generation of leaders,” he continued. “The return on investment of this program is very fast, and I think the investment is actually very minimal compared to what you get in return.”
Learn more about that Executive MBA program at Weatherhead. Now enrolling for Fall 2020.