A Hundred Trucks to Call Her Own
Nancy Spelsberg ’99, MBA’06 will gladly nudge students toward industrial engineering. And it’s not just because she’s a graduate of the UW Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) and a member of its advisory board.
“You can go into business, you can go into engineering directly, or you could do just about anything,” she says.
Spelsberg is living proof of those words. Never in her wildest dreams would the president and part owner of BCP Transportation have imagined herself running a trucking company. Spelsberg worked her way up at Alliant Energy during a decade-long tenure, but she had dreamed of owning a small business since high school — an ambition she traces to childhood visits to her uncle’s road construction operation and limestone mine in West Virginia.
Her experience in the evening MBA program in the Wisconsin School of Business only strengthened her resolve. The trick? Finding the right opportunity. Spelsberg sent letters to some 75 small manufacturers across south-central Wisconsin to inquire about buying them out. Most didn’t reply; Badger Custom Pallet did. When the pallet manufacturer decided to revisit operating its own trucking company in 2011, it asked Spelsberg to run the Deerfield, Wisconsin–based business.
“It was an opportunity to start something from scratch,” she says. “I kind of thought, ‘If I don’t do it now, I’ll always look back and wish I would have tried it.’ ”
BCP has grown from four trucks and fewer than 10 employees to more than 100 trucks and a team of 140, while also adding warehousing and an equipment maintenance and service shop. The company hauls freight all over the lower 48 states, even delivering the UW football team’s equipment for road games.
Spelsberg has introduced a number of sustainable strategies to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions. All of BCP’s trailers are outfitted with side skirts to reduce aerodynamic drag, and the company has installed auxiliary power units in its trucks to provide electricity, heating, and cooling without idling overnight.
She’s also turned to UW–Madison ISyE students to find operational efficiencies through the department’s senior design course. Those team projects hone the kind of continuous improvement mentality that she gained from her own engineering education.
“There’s always something that could be done better or more efficiently,” she says.
Published in the Summer 2019 issue