George Handler, GB’17, recently completed his Capstone Project helping create a business growth plan for Colonna’s Shipyard in Norfolk, Va.

“They are a company that has been around since WWI, they do private and public ship maintenance and repair work on large marine vessels,” Handler said. “And my goal was to create a plan so they can expand and grow 50 percent of their revenue in the next five to 10 years.”

While completing the MBA program, Handler worked full time as a senior staff engineer at Nestle-Purina, which helped him understand what Colonna’s would need to grow.

 “A lot of the firms I worked with shared the core competencies with Colonna’s,” Handler said.

He recognized early on that the shipyard would need to acquire new companies and expand its business in order to be successful down the line. 

“As a senior staff engineer, I learned how to make sure a plant runs smoothly, and is cost-effective. I knew what the organization needed in order to grow,” Handler said.

Handler also had many connections at other companies similar to Colonna’s, and used those resources to determine growth opportunities for the shipyard.

“That project would have been really tough if I didn’t do the kind of work that I was doing,” Handler said. “Debbie noticed the field I was in, and paired me with a firm to highlight my experiences. I was able to reach out to a bunch of people in my industry, and it was not hard to find firms that matched the core competency at Colonna’s.”

Overall, he presented three possible acquisitions for the shipyard, as well as cost-cutting options to help the nearly 100-year-old company save money down the line.

“George gave an excellent presentation in Norfolk,” Fisher said. “His research was thorough, and he gave the Shipyard a clear path forward, with multiple options for success.”

But completing the program wasn’t all Handler was juggling at the time. He recently accepted a new position as operations manager at a factory in Mississippi, and he and his wife are expecting their first child.

“It’s been a struggle for both of us, going back and forth to the doctor’s office and school, as well as preparing for a job transition,” Handler said. “But, I was really thankful to the faculty at Richmond, because they understood everyone works in a different environment. They were always understanding, and did a very good job of keeping classes lively and involved.”

Handler said he is grateful to the MBA program for teaching him more than just professional skills, but also time management and work-life balance practices.

“It was one of the best things I could have done, because it was a big building block from adding on to the technical undergrad degree I had,” Handler said. “I thought going in I was prepared, but it was a completely different experience than what I expected.”

Fisher says that those skills are some of the hallmarks of The Richmond MBA, and are what help set students apart when preparing for a new job.

“George is destined for great things, with the new opportunity in Mississippi, and a baby on the way! I am sure everything he learned from the MBA program will help him to succeed in his new ventures,” Fisher said.

Handler is set to begin his new job in Mississippi in October, and his daughter, already named Hadley Hayden Handler, is due in December.