Rick DiBartolomeo, BBA ’81, Business, Innovation and the State of Michigan

A typical day might find Rick DiBartolomeo, BBA ’81, at an early workout at the Detroit Athletic Club, attending a board meeting for one of the numerous boards where he holds a leadership role, taking a call from his son, Haworth College of Business junior Alex DiBartolomeo, or taking a call from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s office.

DiBartolomeo launched his career in the winter of 1981 with an internship at the Detroit office of Deloitte and upon graduation in December 1982 returned to the office as a full-time employee and so began a challenging, interesting and exciting career path. Eventually, DiBartolomeo was admitted to the partnership of Deloitte in 1995; one of the most memorable experiences of his career.

From the exhilarating experience of traveling overseas to working on initial public offerings to discussions about reductions in staff “that leave you with a knot in your stomach,” DiBartolomeo has demonstrated genuine thought leadership in the best and worst of economic climates.

His leadership ability has landed him on several boards, including the board of directors for the Detroit Athletic Club (incoming president 2012), Judson Center for Children (treasurer), The Michigan Association of CPAs, NextEnergy and Walsh College.

Someone else recognized DiBartolomeo’s experience and business acumen as well; then gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder tapped DiBartolomeo to become his deputy campaign manager in charge of financial operations in April 2010. DiBartolomeo had taken early retirement from Deloitte in 2007 and was extremely active in the Detroit community. The goal of re-inventing Michigan and ensuring its vitality for his children and their children was something that appealed to DiBartolomeo, a Michigan native.

The result of the campaign – Rick Snyder was elected Governor. Upon his election, Governor Snyder asked DiBartolomeo to stay on and become the executive director of the Rick Snyder for Michigan Committee. “I wanted to be a part of re-inventing Michigan. Sue and I will have three children in Michigan colleges next year and without innovation and leadership, what are we leaving them and our grandchildren?” questions DiBartolomeo.

Getting involved at a grass roots level has always appealed to DiBartolomeo. Among his other community service involvements, he exchanges his business suit for a clown suit as part of Detroit’s Distinguished Clown Corps, whose public appearances and march in America’s Thanksgiving Day parade, brighten the lives of children in the metro Detroit area.

And his grass roots, hands-on approach applies to WMU as well. Having served as a guest speaker for classes in the College of Business, an event host and a self-described “cheerleader for Western,” DiBartolomeo is quick to point out, “I put WMU at the top of the list in terms of reasons for my career success. The level of instruction that I received was top notch.”

Reflecting on his son’s WMU experience, DiBartolomeo recalls advice he has given to his son and would give to all young business professionals, “The key is coming up with new and innovative approaches and working hard to make those things happen. The other key is knowing that at the end of the day, family and friends are why you do what you do,” he says. DiBartolomeo has been careful to never lose sight of work-life balance, valuing his time with his wife of twenty-nine years, Sue, and their three children.

When asked what he sees as the biggest challenge to businesses today, DiBartolomeo quickly replies, “It is the challenge of innovation, forward thought and talent management. Today’s business person comes to the workplace with a more diverse and technical skill set than ever before but also a different approach to work style. A core question is whether the person adapts to the company or the company adapts to the new generation of workers. We have seen many companies adapt their work environments to their employees. It will be interesting to see what these work environments look like ten years from now.”

At the end of the day, being a positive change agent is what intrigues DiBartolomeo – in his own career and the business world at large.

Editor: Cindy Wagner
Haworth College of Business
2100 Schneider Hall
Western Michigan University
Kalamzoo MI 49008-5457 USA
(269) 387-5050 | (269) 387-5710 Fax