Thomas McShane: Crushing Boxes to Chief Marketing Officer
To understand anything about Thomas McShane, Chief Marketing Officer at City Electric Supply (CES), you’d have to start with the story of his very first PowerPoint.
At seven years old, McShane had one mission: convince his parents to take him to Disneyland Paris for his birthday. He also had a unique strategy: a PowerPoint with the rough title, “Mom and Dad, This Is Why We Should Go to Disneyland Paris for My Next Birthday.”
It was an impressive attempt that said a few things about his character — he’s passionate, he’s creative, and boy, does he love Disney.
If you were to step into his home office today, you’d probably get the same message. His walls, shelves, and desk are lined with Disney family photos and paraphernalia. To McShane, Disney is an example of a brand that knows its story and tells it well. And that’s exactly what McShane wants to accomplish for CES.
At 16 years old, McShane took a job at the CES in-house manufacturing facilities, TAMCO Group, in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
“I started out crushing boxes. I would take supplies out and crush the boxes in a cardboard corrugator,” explained McShane.
While crushing those boxes, McShane spent a lot of time thinking about how he would have designed the boxes differently if it were up to him and what projects he would love to try at the company. Those ideas stayed on his mind as he advanced at TAMCO, moving up next to the production line, then to assistant production manager, then to warehouse manager, and, finally, to assistant manager for RPP, a TAMCO brand.
And it was in that position, with ideas still fresh on his mind, that he had the opportunity to meet Thomas Hartland-Mackie, CEO of City Electric Supply.
“We actually took a trip to China together,” said McShane. “Over breakfast, we started talking about social media and digital marketing. He told me, ‘Try it for Tamlite. I’ll be down in Florida in a few weeks, and you can show me the results.’”
Those following weeks, McShane embraced the opportunity to implement the marketing ideas he’d been thinking about for so long. Specifically, he started working on TAMCO’s social presence. When Hartland-Mackie came back, the results impressed him. So much so, that he said he wanted McShane to do the same exact thing for CES.
“He invited me to present my ideas before the VPs in Dallas. Scariest meeting of my life,” confessed McShane.
The group was intimidating to McShane, who had grown up hearing about them from his dad, Frank McShane, another legend at CES.
“Growing up, I heard my dad talk about these VPs all the time. Then when I started working at TAMCO, I’d see them around the factories,” said McShane. “They’re almost like celebrities, and I just didn’t want to look foolish in front of them.”
To his relief, he presented, and they were all on board. As he left the meeting, VP of Operations at the time and current Co-COO John Gray said, “Congratulations! Looks like you just got yourself a new job.”
Thomas was stunned — he didn’t know his presentation would land him the job as marketing manager, but he ran with it. He immediately flew back to Port St. Lucie and took over the small marketing team that was doing mainly flyers and business cards at the time. Over time, he grew the team and explored new ways for the marketing team to serve CES and TAMCO.
And in 2013, he got another opportunity.
“They asked me to move to Dallas for the second time. I’d had an offer a while back that I had pushed off because I’d met this amazing girl, and I didn’t want to jeopardize the relationship for work,” said McShane. “It turns out I made the right decision, though, because I ended up marrying her.”
But this second time around, after being married to Amber McShane for a couple of months, he accepted the offer and the couple moved out to Dallas together.
There, he started growing a team again, and they moved CES headquarters to an iconic building in downtown Dallas called 400 Record. Thomas took on the role of Chief Marketing Officer, and the marketing team grew from just three members to more than 30 today.
“I love seeing team members grow with the company. I consider that a privilege,” said McShane. “Growing up, I always saw the impact my dad had on people’s lives and how he encouraged everyone to grow. So, that’s always been my goal.”
But it wasn’t just the team members that grew — it was the company, too. The company has grown to over 500 branches in the U.S. since McShane started, and, in an effort to keep communication strong across the entire network, McShane planned the first leadership summit event in 2014, shortly after his move to Dallas.
He and Hartland-Mackie saw it as a way to bring people from across the company together to learn about initiatives, talk to each other, build relationships with vendors, and celebrate the many branch teams that compose CES. Over 100 people attended the very first event, and the positive feedback flooded into the department through word of mouth, social media, and email.
“Watching that event go from ideation to implementation was incredible,” said McShane. “I remember standing at the back of the conference when my dad came up to me with tears in his eyes and said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’ That’s a moment I’ll never forget.”
And it’s those moments he continues to work for as he pushes CES toward new growth. Right now, he’s focusing on leveraging data, building awareness, and evolving the marketing technology stack.
“I love it,” said McShane. “I’ve spent 15 years doing what I love with the people I love for a company I love. We’re always working on something new. Every day is exciting, and no day is like the one before.”
McShane strives to keep things exciting, fostering the heart and energy of a scrappy startup for a global company. And it seems to be working, considering the marketing department has more than 100 global marketing awards to its name.
“Anything that comes out of the marketing department is something that was built and nurtured by many different people,” said McShane. “So, I attribute the success to the incredible team around me. I watch them work, and I am truly inspired.”
Another thing that inspires him? The electrical supply industry itself.
“This industry is so exciting,” said McShane. “Keeping up with everything going on is a constant challenge.”
But to McShane, every challenge is just another opportunity to be creative, and that’s something he’s enjoyed doing since his first presentation at seven years old.
“I love any chance to be creative,” said McShane. “I always admired my granddad’s creativity and my dad’s work ethic, and I try to follow suit.”
McShane has many role models, and many within CES itself. His first manager at TAMCO, Gino Colon, regularly demonstrated how to communicate effectively with a team. Rob Hodgson showed him how to communicate with outside teams. Andrew Dawes and John Gray taught him more about the commercial side of the business, and from Thomas Hartland-Mackie, he learned how to lead with empathy.
And as he continues to learn from his mentors (and Walt Disney), he has a cheerleader, Amber McShane, and a supportive team, all of CES, behind him.
Thank you, Thomas McShane, for an inspiring 15 years at CES. Here’s to the next 15!