Reach High: Stories of Leadership | Tom McPhillips

A series brought to you by High Foundation that introduces you to business and nonprofit leaders who are thoughtfully innovating with a spirit of servant leadership.

Tom McPhillips, Partner and Founder of ATOMIC, doesn’t consider himself the traditional archetype of a leader. With humility and integrity, he has quietly built a media powerhouse by championing creativity. When sharing about his journey as a leader, Tom draws parallels between leadership and his craft.

“I went from working by myself to needing to work with a team to make the projects I was getting happen,” Tom said. “I quickly had to learn how to build a team, harness everyone’s individual talents, and keep everything moving together to get the job done.”

The lauded set designer started painting backdrops and scenery for theater, opera, and television productions and opened his studio in 1976. Soon he began designing live shows and music videos for the greats from all genres of music, such as Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, The Who, Diana Ross, and Michael Bublé, to name a few. Tom founded Atomic in 1994. The company specializes in live event production, design, set construction, and modular rental scenery.

What might surprise many is that the successful designer and founder doesn’t consider himself a “natural leader.” Mild-mannered and thoughtful, Tom doesn’t describe himself as particularly charismatic. While some leaders build a following through their cult of personality, his proven ability as a designer and his commitment to his team is what Tom believes made him into a leader.

“The more times you go through this journey, the more your clients and your team trust that you’ll get them to where they want to be,” he said.

Tom has grown as a leader and built sustainable systems and teams that will continue even when he is no longer running the show.

“I’m most proud of my children,” he muses. “They have taken up the gauntlet and are prepared and willing to take the idea of ATOMIC into the future.”

His children, Daniel McPhillips and Chloe Rich, are the President & CEO and Vice President of Brand Strategy, respectively, and he has every faith in their future success.

“It is a privilege to see another generation have success and know they will continue to be successful because you prepared them,” he adds.

There have been challenges in recent years—the live events industry was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic—but Atomic is resilient and has weathered those storms.

“Whether it’s theater or television or rock and roll, we have to build an effective culture in order to succeed,” Tom says. “ATOMIC is working on building a place with a culture of trust and respect for other people. Our team believes that together, we’ll do great things.” Tom says their team of creative professionals is stronger than ever, as ATOMIC continues designing a path forward.

Reach High is a series brought to you by High Foundation that introduces you to business and nonprofit leaders who are thoughtfully innovating with a spirit of servant leadership. Find out more about High Foundation’s mission to be a Bridge to Opportunity for the Lancaster community at

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