Most of us who love Detroit have a “Top 10” list of sorts in our heads as to why. It’s the little stuff: Knowing every shop owner; finding great parking spaces; finding beauty in unexpected places.
Scott Shepard hasn’t been in Detroit on a full-time basis for more than 15 years. But that will change shortly as he takes over the position of Vice President of Sales for Detroit-based LevelEleven, a company that creates innovative products aimed at motivating sales forces.
LevelEleven is housed in the M@dison Building, the home of Detroit Venture Partners, a venture-capital fund that focuses on building not only the next high-tech superstar but rebuilding the city around it. It’s a partnership Shepard found intriguing – so much so that he is leaving sunny California for his home state.
Shepard is a Michigan native; he’ll be living with his parents in the suburbs until his wife and two children move here from the Los Angeles area in the summer. (At least the shock won’t be as pronounced compared to if they landed amid the piles of snow now. “I’ve become a little warm-blooded over the past 15 years,” Shepard admits.)
His first task in the trips he’s made to the city has been simple…To get his footing. He has explored the blocks around LevelEleven slowly, developing a rapport with the city in inches instead of miles. Detroit is that kind of place – you cannot get to know it by driving through or driving by. You have to get out of the car, put your soles on the street, greet everyone, see the facades, touch the history.
“I have a lot of Detroit pride,” Shepard said. “Interviewing with (LevelEleven and Detroit Venture Partners) took me to a new level. I’m excited. You can see the resurrection of the city; everyone is doing their part.”
Shepard is what LevelEleven is calling part of the “Boomerang Effect,” or a trend where Michigan natives, especially those in the tri-county area of Metro Detroit, are returning to work at the area’s startups and technology companies. It’s a nice name for an even better movement. Let’s hope there is some traction to it.
“I hope this is a growing trend,” Shepard agreed. “I’ve been in contact with people from all over – people who have heard about me coming back to Detroit and they’re reaching out for me to speak at career fairs and other events. I hope I can help and be the face of this (Boomerang Effect). I’m happy to do what I can.”
I’d like to call Shepard “an Emissary” for Detroit. He’s the kind of guy who is going to see the city with wide eyes. He’ll see a Detroit that has potential. He’ll recognize how far the downtown has come. He’ll get to know the neighborhoods and recognize change there (which is coming, trust me) as it starts to bloom. And, most importantly, he’ll shout it to the world via a wide networking of friends and co-workers both here and OUT THERE.
Here’s why: To quote Shepard, “I’ve been talking to everyone I know about the company and the city. … There’s a portion (of the population) not paying attention. You’ve got to open your eyes and go down there. It’s building.”
Emissaries are defined as “agents or representatives sent on a particular mission.” Shepard’s mission is to put LevelEleven in every sales office in America. But his secondary one will be to speak the Detroit gospel – to drink the same sugary drink that all of us do when we get to know just how wonderful the city is and how even more amazing the people are who are moving it forward.
Yes, we’re optimists. Yes, we’re hopeful to the point of delusion. But that’s what you need to have if you’re going to make the wide-spread change that needs to happen in Detroit. Plain and simple.
“I think I’ve peaked a lot of people’s interest” with his career move to Detroit, Shepard believes. “I’ve told people that if I put a blindfold on them and took them downtown, they’d think I’d put them in Chicago or San Francisco. It’s that different.”