As the CEO of Insurance Office of America (IOA), Heath Ritenour helped this family business grow into becoming the 13th largest privately held insurance agency in the United States.
Ritenour’s awards and industry accolades include being placed on Insurance Business’ America Hot 100 list in 2020, and recognition from the Orlando Business Journal, who named Heath Ritenour as 2018’s “CEO of the Year”.
With over 25 years of industry experience, his expertise includes both personal and business risk management. Heath Ritenour holds licenses in (2-20) Property and Casualty General Lines (2-20) and Health and Life (Including Annuities & Variable Contracts (2-15).
Ritenour balances his professional role with a commitment to community service, faith, and family. As President of the IOA Foundation, he supports a range of education, health, empowerment, and entrepreneurship projects. Over the years, he served on the Boards of several organizations, coached youth sports teams, and held leadership positions within his church. He is currently on the Board of Directors of Cogent Bank.
While it may appear that Ritenour lived a carefree life, he is no stranger to adversity. In 2015, he received a cancer diagnosis, which resulted in a one-year battle with the disease before being declared cancer-free in 2016.
As a leader and CEO, he promotes a focus on family, community, and innovation within IOA. It is a key differentiator in an industry that in many ways focuses on “sameness.” This focus empowers the IOA team to better serve and advocate for their clients.
Where did the idea for Insurance Office of America come from?
My father had the vision to create an insurance brokerage that put our employees and customers first. The idea was if you put people above profit, you would have a wonderful corporate culture. This focus on professional harmony would harness happy employees. Happy employees, in turn, create happy customers. Once that happens, the rest takes care of itself.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day varies quite a bit. I deal with the typical day-to-day employee and customer issues, but also have many other responsibilities. For example, we own multiple businesses, and on any given day, I may have to deal with an issue with one of our real estate assets. Sometimes, I spend time dealing with our promotions company, and there are times I am in the middle of our payroll business as well. My days rarely look the same.
However scattered these tasks may initially seem, I find that a comfortable sense of organization and time management allows me to complete all needed tasks throughout the day. Keeping abreast of changing situations throughout all facets of the business also allows me to remain informed about any changes, evolutions, and needs that may arise at a later date.
How do you bring ideas to life?
First, I ask my mentors and other thought leaders what they think about specific ideas. Collaborating with respected individuals is key to gaining confidence in any plan, idea, or intended action.
After this initial collaboration, I then take the results to my monthly Key Executive group to gain additional feedback before acting on an idea.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Finally, the insurance industry is beginning to adopt game-changing technology and frankly, it’s about time!
Our industry has been very slow to change and I love to see this trend beginning to happen!
Historically, the insurance industry has been ripe with antiquated operational practices, cumbersome paperwork, and other factors that have slowed down the process. By implementing intuitive technology, and allowing consumers to obtain information in a manner most conducive to their own preference, we will be able to reach individuals in a modern, meaningful way.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I make a consistent effort to always focus my efforts on what my “highest and best use” should be. If I determine what I am focusing on isn’t the best use of my time, I move toward something that moves the needle in a better way for the business.
Of course, this self-accountability has taken me years to harness. Often, people get stuck on seemingly important tasks for hours on end, only to discover that they could have been more productive if they moved on to a different task needing attention. Creating a method to successfully implement this practice leads to increased productivity.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self not to worry about things you can’t control, and to trust that in the end, things generally work out. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, right?
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Success is less about intelligence and luck. It mostly comes from hard work. In my own experience, I’ve found that there are no shortcuts to success and that you cannot be truly successful without putting in the time, energy, and effort.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Always be curious. Being curious helps you see new opportunities and potential blind spots. It allows you to explore alternative responses, answers, and solutions to problems.
There’s a difference between second-guessing oneself and being curious. Curiosity comes from an exploratory place of confidence, and from openness to challenging oneself.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I thoroughly believe in focusing on people and organic growth rather than acquisition. What’s the point of acquiring a high volume of customers if those customers don’t feel valued, and aren’t confident in the services that a business provides?
In terms of business growth, I believe the true measure of any successful business is its organic growth rate, rather than how many other businesses they can leverage up to purchase.
Natural growth focuses on building strong leadership teams that will successfully handle whatever comes with eventual growth. It focuses on developing the internal infrastructure needed to expand successfully. These facets are crucial to not only attaining growth but sustaining it.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
A decade ago, I opened a couple of coffee shops at UCF. I didn’t do enough research and I had to close them down after one year. If I had done the research, I would have realized that most college students at the time were more interested in energy drinks than they were in freshly roasted coffee.
Of course, as I mentioned previously, hindsight is always 20/20, so I try to focus on the valuable lessons that resulted from this “failed” endeavor. Needless to say, I thoroughly research, examine, and explore everything now.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Look for an industry, like insurance, that is entrenched in their ways. Those are opportunities for the disruption that many industries are in desperate need of.
There are many industries that still utilize antiquated operational systems, and there is so much opportunity to automate, functionalize, or otherwise modernize those systems. Through the implementation of technology, so many industries can offer unprecedented customer service experiences.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Recently, I purchased sports equipment for a child who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to play because his parents were struggling after losing their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. I would consider this money well spent, as it not only parlayed the physical equipment needed, but it provided this child with the opportunity to spend time partaking in a beloved activity.
These small gestures also go a long way to making the world a kinder place. Imagine if everyone looked out for one another in such a capacity!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Lately, I would have to say that I rely greatly on Zoom. I miss the in-person face to face interactions, but a Zoom call certainly beats a normal phone call. There are so many inferences, facial gestures, and emotive expressions involved in a conversation, and they can provide us with important information that we may miss on a traditional phone call.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek. It explains the difference between companies like ours that have no plan to sell and compares them to others who are playing a finite game. Companies like IOA certainly have a long term advantage over those companies that have to solely focus on the next quarter or 2.
What is your favorite quote?
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”-Albert Einstein
This quote can be applied to just about any facet of life and stands the test of time.
- Anytime we take the time to think deeply, that is a good thing. Being curious, seeking insight, and being open to collaboration are key facets for success in just about anything.
- Growth and change occur at a rapid pace. In the wake of COVID-19, everyday life changed drastically. At the same time, businesses and technologies quickly adapted to allow us to be comfortable and successful within these evolving conditions.
- Technology has the propensity to change and evolve various industries, including the realm of insurance.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.