Calling all small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Visualize with me for a second.
Imagine finally getting out of the military. You have your GI Bill in your left hand and the world in your right.
What would you do?
For Roderick Rickman, the question wasn’t what to do, but how to do it. As the founder and chairman of MPS Group, the parent company of MPS Trading LLC (No. 37 on the B.E. Industrial/Service list with $118 million in sales), his dream started with the purchase of a truck in the 1980s. From there, Rickman began removing used oil and scrap metal from automotive repair shops, establishing the foundation for MPS, founded in 1994. Rickman grew is one-man-band into an empire, raking in $150 million in revenue annually.
I caught up with the ambitious entrepreneur at the Energy Efficiency and Green Technology Opportunities conference, Tuesday. With an enthusiasm probably as high as the day he started his company, Rickman wasn’t sitting on a high horse. Instead, he came to partner up with other minority owned firms and grow his presence in the New York area.
The event was co-sponsored by the New York Empire State Development Corporation’s Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).
MPS, a waste management and environmental consultant firm, which also specializes in greening brownfields, continues to expand, despite a troubled economy. Rickman recently made headway in Brazil taking advantage of the growing green movement. Check out how:
BlackEnterprise.com: What propelled you to begin work in the environmental industry?
Roderick Rickman: I got my official environmental training in the military, specifically in nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare. When I got out of the military I used my environmental training and my GI money and bought a truck. I started servicing Midas, Jiffy, Quickie Lube, and other automotive repair companies. I removed the old oil from vehicle oil changes and gathered scrap metal auto parts to salvage. I also recycled the old oil, converting and selling it as cutting oil (lubricant for cutting machines).
MPS is based in Detroit, how has it been impacted by Chrysler and General Motors’ financial woes?
We, like most suppliers, had job cuts and layoffs. We’re looking to diversify our services into new emerging industries like alternative energies, utilities, healthcare, education institutions, and city and state governments.
Detroit needs to continue to diversify itself and continue to be on the cutting edge of technology with smart vehicles, smart fuels smart batteries, as well as understanding from a political standpoint what we need to do to make sure that [Capitol Hill] understands our needs and keeps us on their agenda.
Your company has grown exponentially since its inception in 1994, how can black entrepreneurs overcome economic odds?
Service is key. Entrepreneurs need to hire employees with experience in working with large cooperate customers. The also need to diversify geographically. We recently opened an office, Rickman Enterprise Group LLC, in Sao Paulo, Brazil because a lot of our customers were in Brazil. We had clients in Brazil so we followed our clients. Businesses need to follow their clients.
Also, don’t change your service often to areas you’re unfamiliar with; stick to what you know.
Renita Burns is the editorial assistant at BlackEnterprise.com