An Insightful Conversation with Rick Inatome, Tech and Business Leader

An Insightful Conversation with Rick Inatome, Tech and Business Leader

Rick Inatome, a true innovator in the business world, is also a seasoned mentor, entrepreneur, and investor. His impact on the digital age is nothing short of remarkable. Back in the early days of the computer industry, Rick collaborated with the visionaries behind industry giants like Apple and Microsoft. Together, they established a game-changing tech distribution network that brought personal computers into the lives of everyday people and corporate America. This venture eventually evolved into a massive NYSE Fortune 500 company.

Beyond his business acumen, Rick's endeavors have consistently brought about positive societal change. From revitalizing struggling businesses to pioneering groundbreaking educational initiatives that improve learning outcomes and student success, he's always aiming for something greater. In his leadership roles, Mr. Inatome emphasizes personal growth as the key to achieving peak performance and organizational excellence. It's no wonder he's a recognized figure in the Computer Hall of Fame.

Rick Inatome’s achievements have earned him prestigious titles such as Entrepreneur of the Year from both Inc. Magazine and the Harvard Graduate School of Business, courtesy of the Harvard Business Club's Detroit Chapter. He has also played critical roles in organizations like the Michigan Information Network and Michigan Technology Council.

On top of that, he has contributed his expertise to the Michigan Minority Business Commission and was the founding chair of the Michigan Virtual University. Mr. Inatome’s experience extends to managing various private equity funds and serving on the boards of numerous private and public sector entities. His insights and knowledge are in high demand, making him a sought-after consultant, mentor, and accomplished public speaker.

Tell us about yourself?

Having a front row seat to founders of legendary companies like Apple and Microsoft was a priceless privilege. Learning about their vision, hopes, and failures at an early stage of their careers, and seeing how they aspired to build entities that became instruments of social utility and change, was a great source of inspiration.

The gift was learning that enduring companies can build value with purpose that transcends a focus on quarterly targets. I have tried to build a practical tool set so that companies can be more adept at meeting this proposition during challenging times.

What makes you different from other professionals in your field?

The objective of most entrepreneurs and leaders is to create or develop an entity that will capture market share through a unique value proposition. Great leadership is possible when teams have the tools and self-awareness to construct a framework of purpose through process.

How much potential market share can you achieve in the next 5 years?

Market share is important but secondary to building an entity that is inspired by a compelling vision and built on a foundation of personal growth and impact. Start with the better vison of self, then incorporate processes and tools that will build a great culture. Market share will follow.

What has been the most important part of your professional journey?

Recognizing the inflection point between the organization’s inevitable growth phase and control phase. The first stage of entrepreneurial success is typified by rapid growth driven by perseverance and persona-based leadership. At some point during the growth phase, here comes an inflection point. At this juncture, if a company is to survive, it must confidently transition to a control phase.

This moment often knee jerks a traumatic leadership change, which is a huge and potentially fatal mistake. It is a time instead when processes and culture must harness untamed growth and supersede personality driven leadership. Recognizing and successfully managing the control inflection point, and avoiding rash decisions, establishes the prelude to another growth cycle. If not done well, it causes needless pain. Be watchful for predictable shifts, and do not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

What are the best and worst purchases you’ve ever made?

The common denominator in each instance is culture. Relying too much on spreadsheets, projections, bankers, and consultants is a mistake. First and foremost, in an acquisition, it is essential to assess the culture and realize that it is a factor that can make or break any business plan. Culture kills the best laid MBA pro forma.

What has the potential to take up too much of your time?

Personal dysfunction leads to professional dysfunction, and it is the number one enemy of effective time management (and optimal performance). There is a convenient human tendency to think it is the other person whose flaws undermine teams and organizations. Great leaders look inward first and blame themselves first. They continuously self-assess to continuously self-improve and embrace personal vulnerability as a trait that engenders trust. By doing so, they become role models for others to do the same, which is the fastest path to team breakthroughs.

What three pieces of advice would you give to college students/new startup business owners who want to become entrepreneurs?

Most importantly, start early when your jet fuel is optimism and you have not acquired the bad habits of others. Second, keep an open mind – it is among your most valuable assets. A good tool in this regard is opposable mind thinking – a process that counters bias and affirmatively seeks divergent views resulting in superior ideas. Third, gain confidence by learning to fail. Understand that nobody is birthed with self-confidence – it is not about DNA but choosing to take a risk.

Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?

Being exposed to great visionaries such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates demonstrated the importance of having a transcendent sense of the art of the possible. Their achievements are legendary because they thought first about how their business creations could better society. They saw leadership in technology not as an end in its own right but as a means to that higher purpose.

What drives you to keep going when it's really tough?

When things get tough, it may be because of an unexpected challenge, blindside, or even an injustice that pits you against a powerful adversary. Most persons pursue careers that maximize comfort and minimize risk. Success and impact at a high level entail putting oneself in situations that others avoid – and figuring out a way to make a way. It is a habit best acquired at an early age.

How should people connect with you?

I prefer email. You can reach me at