Q&A with Rick Whitney

Managing Director, Detroit

At Inspire11, we believe in the opportunity Detroit presents for people and organizations to further drive modernization and innovation in the global automotive, defense, logistics, health care, information technology industries, and more. We are excited to formally expand our work into a dynamic and legendary American city and be part of Detroit’s legacy.

We sat down with Inspire11’s Detroit Managing Director, Rick Whitney, about fostering inclusive environments, working together to spark positive change and mutually achieve goals, and what a better tomorrow looks like for Inspire11 Detroit.

We’re happy to have you officially part of the Inspire11 family, Rick Whitney. In true Simon Sinek style, why Inspire11? 

Apologies for coming across as rather corny, but Inspire11 is an incredibly inspiring opportunity for me. All the Elevens I’ve met are smart, motivated, and simply good human beings. The business approach is very sound and super creative, which is a significant differentiator and disrupter to consulting. I’m thrilled to be starting up the Detroit market where we’ll get to build upon the past 6 years of Inspire11 as well as create our own presence.  

As you look across your successful career in consulting and client services, what makes this work fulfilling?  

Consulting requires ways of working that I find very stimulating. Analytical thinking, working collaboratively with people, and seeing positive change toward a grand goal. I’ve been involved in such a wide variety of projects, from deep technology transformation to corporate strategy, across nearly all industry sectors. The diversity of work has been wonderful. It really keeps me on my toes and keeps me in learner mode all the time.  

What experiences in your life have shaped your leadership style?

I have very deep roots in Detroit. I’m originally from this area and have lived here for a good portion of my life. I’ve paired this with extensive travel for work, school, and pleasure, with 3-years in Latin America and living in Argentina for a year. From this, I recognize that people are people wherever they are, whatever their cultural background or socioeconomic position. We have far more similarities than differences. This has influenced my leadership style in that I first try to understand people, their motivations, their fears, and so on, and how we can help each other achieve mutual goals. I believe in letting everyone share their great thinking and collectively determine the best path forward. 

People are central to our mission at Inspire11 and the ultimate vision we see: “A better tomorrow for all”. What does this vision look like to you? 

A better tomorrow will have a lot less strife and polarization, and a lot more reasonable, fact-based discourse that is based on mutual respect. We’ll place more emphasis on what binds us together than our differences. 

How does that vision apply specifically to Inspire11 Detroit? 

Detroit is an incredible place. The people, the natural resources, the business environment, the history, and the drive to transform are creating an exciting environment at an exciting moment in time.  Inspire11 Detroit will be a source of positive change for our people and their families, our clients, and the broader community. The Detroit area is my home, I love it, and my vision is to further its presence as a vibrant city for generations.

What makes the business community in Detroit so unique? 

The automotive presence is profound and impacts so many aspects of life here. There is a colossal shift happening now with auto companies expanding their focus on their core capabilities (designing and building internal combustion engineer vehicles) to EVs and connected vehicles and the associated connected ecosystem. This is the result of the transformation of the auto companies to developing all things technology as core competencies. Inspire11 has a great opportunity to further revolutionize the automotive industry and more. Beyond the automotive sector, Detroit has strong health care, financial services, manufacturing, and retail sectors, plus quite a start-up and venture capital world, too.   

Expanding on your people-first leadership mindset, what excites you when it comes to creating meaningful career opportunities in Detroit? 

The talent here is incredible across general management consulting, technology, digital, and data and analytics. There are ingrained social and emotional skills that make us Detroiters (and beyond) just plain good humans. We have really strong universities (Michigan, Michigan State, Wayne State, Oakland, and others) as well.

How do you inspire a better tomorrow outside of work and for yourself?  

I love spending time with my wife of 29 years (and we met as high school freshmen!), my 3 kids, 2 dogs, and lots of friends. I really enjoy gardening, running, and listening to lots of podcasts about society, history, and science (and reading a bit on these topics too!) For 6 years, I’ve served on the Board of the Children’s Center of Wayne County where I’ve actively participated on the Philanthropy committee. We focus on raising ~$5m/year for the center and plan the annual TCC event during the North America International Auto Show. 

Learn more about Rick Whitney  

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