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Igniting Innovation: Putting Detroit Back to Work

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Richard Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations (WWJ Photo).

Richard Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations (WWJ Photo).

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NOVI (WWJ) – The future of business in Michigan.  That’s the topic of a WWJ Newsradio 950’s event “Igniting Innovation: Putting Detroit Back to Work”, Wednesday in Novi.

Watch video from the event.

Keynote speaker: CEO of Ann Arbor-based software company Menlo Innovations, Richard Sheridan -

9AM:  Speaking before a group gathered at the Suburban Collection Showplace, Sheridan opened with a question: “How many of you made the choice to trade unemployment for entrepreneurship?”  … Sheridan said it took awhile for his wife to understand that entrepreneurship was a real job, and the pay was the same.

Sheridan said he knew what he was going to do when he was 13 years old … and he got his first job as a programmer before he could drive.

He lost his job in April, 2001. So, what next?

9:10 AM – “Imagine a world where we don’t use email to communicate with each other …we like to use something we call high-speed voice technology … it’s built right into the operating system,” he said, to a laugh from the audience.

Sheridan said Menlo is a “learning organization,” because that’s what we need in today’s world.

9:15AM – Sheridan said half of his employees are programmers and they never work weekends, and he has never had to deny a vacation request.  Since they have the same deadlines as everyone else, to make the possible, Menlo had to completely reinvent the way software is made.

9:20AM – Sheridan talked about “betting on the unemployed” … He said he’s heard of a company with a rule (and, believe it or not, it’s legal) that they would not hire the unemployed.  Sheridan said if you take an unemployed person, hire them, and put them into a joyful environment, what do you get? Instant loyalty.

Sheridan described how he has allowed employees who are new moms to bring their babies to work. Yes: all day, every day. “We’ve raised four Menlo babies so far,” he said.

9:25AM – “People are desperately looking for new ways to do work,” said Sheridan.  He said changing the culture of a company is difficult, but it is possible.

“We [Michigan] got hit by hurricane globalization first and we’re figuring it out first because we have to,” said Sheridan.

He said he tells concerned folks from out-of-state that things are going well in Michigan, much to their surprise. Then, as he describes how we’re getting it done, those people start taking notes.

Sheridan said he personally believe in the next few years we are going to start seeing national reports about the amazing economic turnaround happening in Michigan.

9:30AM –  Sheridan said it seems strange to those who come into his office when they see they’re a software company that doesn’t use software to manage their projects … but they use the tools that work best for people:

“Human contact … there can be no replacement for it,” Sheridan said.

……

The afternoon focused on putting Detroit back to work with the Detroit Job Desk Career Expo powered by Hiredmyway.com. It wrapped up at 4 p.m..

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