As the 11th of 12 children, Roderick Rickman, chairman/CEO, Rickman Enterprise Group LLC, had a lot of role models growing up. He learned the value of hard work and the importance of a good education, along with the benefit of watching his older siblings make decisions and reap the consequences.
Those early lessons bore fruit: Rickman Enterprise Group was named a Black Enterprise magazine 100, one of the nation’s largest black businesses, and one of the Top 100 Minority Business Enterprises by MBN USA. In addition, it has received the Spirit of Detroit Award, General Motors Co. Supplier of the Year Award, Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council Minority Supplier of the Year Award and MMSDC Hank Aguirre Humanitarian of the Year Award.
After graduating from college with a business degree, Detroit native Rickman joined the Army where he worked in nuclear, chemical and biological warfare. He received extensive environmental training, and preparing to leave the Army in 1988, he considered how to transfer his skills from the military sector to civilian life. At the time, General Motors was the largest corporation in the world, headquartered in his hometown. So, Rickman bought a truck and began providing environmental cleanup services to the auto industry.
The company grew quickly, focusing on heavy industrial cleaning, environmental management and waste management. It expanded nationwide, providing services for global, blue-ribbon clients across the United States.
When the economic crisis hit the auto industry and Detroit, Rickman Enterprise Group was faced with a similar crisis. Looking back, Rickman realized he had put all of his revenue eggs in one proverbial basket; he needed to diversify his customer base immediately in order to reinforce his company’s foundation and weather the downturn. Today, Rickman services the following industries: utilities, aviation, federal government and defense contractors, health care and education.
It was an important lesson to learn, but Rickman has a positive outlook for his company’s future, as business and revenue recovers through diversification of his client base. Not everyone in Detroit was so fortunate, however.
“When the auto industry catches a cold, suppliers get double pneumonia, and it could be fatal,” Rickman said.
Other vendors with whom Rickman does business have experienced economic downturns as well. Rickman prioritizes purchasing materials and other products from other minority-owned businesses and businesses in the community, but that has proven challenging in recent years.
“The downturn allowed industries to bundle back up their services,” Rickman said. “That [bundling] makes it difficult to go directly to the vendor. We’re hopeful that as the downturn recovers, they’ll unbundle, so we can work directly with diverse businesses again.”
NMSDC presented Rickman with the MBE Trailblazer Award in May, recognizing him as an innovator and pioneer in his field, in addition to being an influential leader within the NMSDC network.
Rickman has a passion for providing jobs with growth potential for young urban residents, being a role model within the community and working on projects that create economic growth and sustain other diverse businesses.
“I look to see how I can be a value-add,” Rickman said of his role as a pioneer. “I look to share some experience I’ve had in the past with current businesses and future entrepreneurs to really assist them, as they make decisions guiding and developing their businesses.”
More information about Rickman Enterprise Group is available at www.rickmanenterprise.com.
BY MELISSA LOWERY