As the chairman and CEO of Insurance Office of America (IOA), the 11th largest privately held insurance company in the United States, Heath Ritenour has a unique perspective on leadership.
During his tenure at IOA, Heath Ritenour has faced both personal and professional challenges. Through these experiences, he has developed a core business model – one that focuses on the value of people and self-investment – which has helped him achieve great success. In a recent speech, Heath Ritenour shared how the IOA mindset differs from that of other insurance brokerages and promotes not only the company’s growth but the personal development of its associates as well.
Maintaining a Work-Life Balance
Heath Ritenour is a firm believer in the motto “work hard, play hard.” He values working to achieve goals and taking time to enjoy life outside of business. As a manager and leader, he encourages his team members to understand who they are as persons and embrace their life outside of the office. He encourages them to spend time with their friends and families and truly engage in everything life offers.
“How many companies are [going to] have a leader stand up and say, ‘Hey, don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. Where do you hear that? Tell me that doesn’t set us apart. Tell me that’s not unique. Tell me that’s not extremely different from almost everywhere else. So, I’m proud of that, and I’m proud that we want you to be good husbands and fathers, mothers and wives, and friends. That’s much more important.”
Heath Ritenour has always believed that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is critical to a prosperous life. However, after an unexpected cancer diagnosis in 2015, his world changed. He had to lean further on the concept of a balanced life to promote personal health and gratifying relationships. He defines health as a physical, mental, and spiritual state.
Heath Ritenour promotes freedom within the IOA work environment. Instead of setting ridiculous expectations for his agents, he lets them create their own future. He provides his team with the tools, resources, and support they need to thrive in the industry. The value Heath Ritenour places on work-life balance follows in his father’s legacy – John Ritenour established IOA as an avenue for insurance agents to earn income based on hard work.
At the time the company was established – in 1988 – John realized that certain limits were preventing agents from reaching their full potential, so he created IOA to overcome these obstacles. The mindset his son, Heath Ritenour, has adopted transcends the corporate culture. It illustrates the importance of leaders placing value on their teams – not just as future income but as individual people.
The Value of People
A company’s employees and team members are its biggest asset. In addition, they can be its most significant expense. High turnover can result in financial losses, which can also damage a company’s reputation. These facts have shifted the professional landscape across industries, and leaders have had to learn to adopt a new mentality showing that people should be valued above the bottom line.
Chairman and CEO Heath Ritenour believes just this and often publicly claims that true growth within a company comes from respecting and valuing its employees and associates – not from nickel and diming.
At IOA, Heath recognizes the value of his brokers, as well as the worth they bring to the company.
“They bring value. They’re not policy peddlers. They’re not selling a commodity. They’re literally trusted advisors, and you can be, too. So if you’re not hitting the ball, [if] you’re not knocking it out of the park like you want to, invest in yourself and understand the value you can bring.”
It is imperative to understand that everyone, though, brings something unique to the table. Heath Ritenour and the team at IOA encourage their brokers and team members to understand their strengths and weaknesses and use them to grow within the firm.
While a new sales agent at IOA, Heath Ritenour did just that. Directly out of college, he joined the IOA sales team as a young, eager associate. However, he immediately ran into a challenge – clients saw him as a young guy instead of a competitive business person. To combat this hurdle, Heath Ritenour approached the matter head-on and explained to his clients that he would work harder than any other broker out there. He sold his value to prospective clients. His initiative and the recognition of his strengths and weaknesses contributed dramatically to his years of success as a sales agent.
“I thoroughly believe in focusing [more] on people and organic growth … than acquisition. What’s the point of acquiring a high volume of customers if [they] don’t feel valued and aren’t confident in the services that a business provides?” Heath Ritenour shared in an interview. “In terms of … growth, I believe the true measure of any successful business is its organic growth rate rather than how many other businesses it can leverage up to purchase.” He continued, “Natural growth focuses on building strong leadership teams that [can] 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 [also] sustaining it.”
As you can see, Heath Ritenour is true to his values and practices what he preaches. He understands his value and has leveraged it to build wealth. Now, he invites his agents to do the same. As a result, the company has continued to prosper. IOA was ranked 11th on Insurance Journal‘s 2020 Top 100 Independent Property/Casualty Agencies report and 25th on Business Insurance‘s 2020 100 Largest Brokers of U.S. Business list. It was also named a National Underwriter Agency of the Year in 2018.
Disruption in the Business
When John Ritenour opened IOA, he had a vision; he wanted to create an environment where agents were rewarded for their diligence and not capped on their commission. This future-thinking mindset has transformed the industry over the past 30 years, and John’s son, Heath Ritenour, continues to carry on his legacy. Heath shares how today’s team differs from that of his competitors by adopting a growth mindset and understanding future potential.
“The reason the potential of disruption excites me [is that] … our peers [have] their heads in the sand. They’re so focused [on] growth; they’re so focused [on] getting bigger, not getting better; they’re so focused [on] this quarter [rather] than next year [or] five years from now; they don’t have a long-term view. We do. That’s what excites me … .”
Heath Ritenour and his father often speak about the fact that they have developed a generational business platform. Heath Ritenour shared, “We always say we’re a generational business. That doesn’t mean whoever replaces me in 20 to 25 years will necessarily be one of my children. But it does mean [that] the person who replaces me is going to have the same mindset that [the person] is going to believe in a generational business. They will believe in something operated very differently than our competitors because it’s our greatest advantage.”
Thinking of the future and how to outpace the competition is essential in today’s economy. Without this forward-thinking attitude, companies lose their ability to capture the attention of consumers, resulting in immense financial loss, and in some cases, closure of their doors.
Today, Heath Ritenour continues to engage his team, incorporating these core concepts into his interactions and leadership style. Additionally, he spends time with his wife, Abby, and their son and daughter. He continuously looks for opportunities in both life and business to leverage his unique leadership mindset and define his own future. Always cognizant of the value of people and self-investment, Heath strives to carry on the legacy started by his father and mother more than three decades ago.
This content is brought to you by Hannah Madison.
Photos provided by the author.