Heath Ritenour knew he had big shoes to fill when he became the CEO of Insurance Office of America (IOA) in 2018. After all, his own parents launched the firm in 1988. His father, John Ritenour, acted as CEO for 30 years. Heath’s mother, Valli Ritenour, worked at IOA for the same duration.
Despite the family connection and how close he remains to his parents, CEO Heath Ritenour is his own person who has unique ideas on how to move IOA forward in a post-pandemic economy. IOA currently has over 1,300 team members, operates 60 branches across the United States and one international branch in Ireland, and is the 11th largest privately held insurance company in the nation. However, Heath Ritenour does not rest on the successes of his father and feels confident about his ability to lead IOA to even greater things.
When John Ritenour worked in the insurance industry in the early 1980s before starting IOA, he saw big problems with the business model as it related to insurance agents. Traditionally, agents found prospects and then wrote targeted insurance policies for those who became clients. They had no say about whether the agency added new services or how to market them.
John Ritenour personally experienced the frustration of having so little autonomy in his career and knew he would do things differently as a business owner. He made good on that promise by hiring insurance agents as independent business owners.
Because they had equity in IOA, insurance agents quickly adopted an entrepreneurial mindset that helped them achieve greater success for themselves and the company. At the same time, he understood the importance of promoting a healthy work-life balance. Heath Ritenour has maintained these priorities as CEO.
In 1996, Heath Ritenour came onboard with IOA as an intern before he graduated from college. He had no interest in capitalizing on his well-known last name, nor did his father want that for him. After college graduation, Heath became part of IOA the way most employees do. He accepted a position as an insurance agent. Since he knew that he wanted to move up the company ladder, Heath Ritenour devoted hours to learning the ins and outs of the insurance industry.
Heath demonstrated his incredible work ethic by making up to 100 cold calls a day for 12 years. His persistence allowed him to create his own client base. Ritenour’s goal was always to build relationships rather than make sales, a strategy that paid off well in terms of client loyalty. Not only did his own clients trust him with their insurance needs, but they also referred their friends, family members, and business associates to IOA and specifically to Heath Ritenour.
Although he describes those years as grueling today, Ritenour says he would not change a thing. Heath Ritenour passionately believes that learning about the insurance industry first-hand helped develop him into the leader he is today.