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Story Time with Rich Sheridan

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the United Way of Washtenaw County's Young Leaders Society's Fall CEO/Leader Breakfast series, featuring Rich Sheridan, the CEO/ Chief Storyteller/ Chief Optimist of Menlo Innovations here in Ann Arbor. Rich is also the author of "Joy Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love," which I'm currently adding to my reading list. The breakfast connected young professionals in the area to network, hear from the featured CEO, and participate in a Q&A session. I surmised that there would be typical sound bites geared toward millennials, such as "work-life balance," "company culture," "social media," etc. The information that we actually received was- thankfully- a lot more advantageous. 


I immediately connected with Rich, not just because he is as voracious of a reader as I am, but also because there is something else that drives him besides his love of technology, besides revenue, and besides recognition- it's an interconnection between his passion and his life's purpose.


"Entreprenuership is a journey to self-discovery," Rich explains. "How did God make you? We're all on a unique journey." 


During the Q&A my mind raced thinking of what to ask him. There were so many questions, so little time. I settled on one: "Looking back to the beginning of your career, what are some things you wish you had known?" To which he answered, "Maybe this is my entreprenuerial flaw but I don't look back. It's all a part of my journey. What I have learned along the way, is to be impatient but not too impatient. Be present. Bring everything you can to a board meeting. Volunteer. The greatest opportunities occur by saying, "I can help." 


Here's some other notable quotables that I gathered during his CEO Talk.:


On the importance of reading

"If you want to become a great leader, be a great reader. Ask people you admire which books they're reading. Read an excerpt and if you immediately connect with it, then keep reading. If not, put it back. It's not for you."


The importance of storytelling vs. selling 

"Don't start by telling someone what you're doing- start with why. The best companies start with why they do what they do, then what they do, and how they do it."


On mentors

"Mentors can simply be the people you admire. Ask yourself what you admire about them and collect those pieces."


Skills that every young professional should know

"Patience and persistence. How to present ideas to people who don't know what you know, how to have meaningful conversations with people that you disagree with, and how to manage your money."


On community

"A community defines itself by the way that it treats its most vulnerable citizens."


Why "the next big thing" won't come from technology

"The greatest advancement will come, not because of tech, but because of an advancing concept of what it means to be human. We have to start meeting people and not thinking of "What can they do for me? What can I gain from them?" But seeing them as a person, as a human." 


On the importance of the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Regional Chamber

"The Chamber was a big part of connecting me to key leaders and building my network. Just saying "yes" to things, being involved with them, and doing the hard work." 


During the talk, he also shared some book titles for YPs to check out from his suggested reading list:


Needless to say, it was a morning well spent and I would like to thank the United Way of Washtenaw County's Young Leaders Society for putting on such an impactful event. 


Which quote resonated the most with you? Have you read Joy, Inc. yet? Let me know what you think in the comments. 


Stefanie MitchellComment