John Ritenour Founded Insurance Office of America alongside his wife, Valli. At the helm of the company for 30 years, Ritenour grew the fledgling insurance business into an industry leader.
John Ritenour began his journey in the insurance sector as a door-to-door salesman. From there, he quickly out-performed at his company, and excelled in his role. Ritenour mastered the skills needed to branch out on his own, launching Insurance Office of America in 1988. Focusing on leveraging the entrepreneurial spirit of Insurance Producers, John Ritenour structured his company to flourish as a forward-thinking entity.
Throughout this time, Heath Ritenour designed and created bespoke insurance types across various industries, allowing him to customize options to fit the needs of varied consumers. Mr. Ritenour holds the Florida General Lines (2-20) and Life and Health (2-18) insurance licenses in Florida, as well as a number of out-of-state, non-resident licenses.
Mr. Ritenour has received numerous accolades throughout his professional career, including the Eloise Trainor Award (Symetra Tour), Entrepreneur of the Year (Dynetech/Crummer), and Success Award for Business Achievement (Success Magazine).
IOA became the Official Insurance Broker for Orlando City Soccer Club, an arrangement that led to being named as an Official Partner with Major League Soccer and a Partner with Orlando City Foundation, a philanthropic group that focuses on helping children.
It also has been a sponsor of the Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as the team’s Official Insurance Provider. It presented a major tournament for the LPGA as well as the title sponsor for multiple events in the Symetra Tour.
John Ritenour felt it was important to create and develop these partnerships and even created Sports Partners, a division that focuses exclusively on athletic clients. Not only does the team receive superior coverage and access to a wide range of products, but it’s also a unique and high-profile way to get the word out.
How did you get started in this business?
As a door-to-door insurance salesman working for a traditional company, I was able to garner the knowledge and skills needed to successfully understand my products. More importantly, I recognized that I was innately effective at forging professional relationships with clients. I also greatly enjoyed pursuing a professional venture that would bring customers peace of mind, and much-needed service.
Thus, after relocating to Florida with my family, I launched Insurance Office of America. With humble beginnings, the company started off with three Insurance Agents. Through a customer-first approach, and a belief in the freedoms of Insurance Producers, we swiftly began to pick up steam.
How do you make money?
As a multi-faceted insurance company that offers a myriad of insurance products across various industries, IOA profits from the daily operations and services of the company. Many roles within the company are structured to provide team members with unlimited earnings potential, a feat that is suited for entrepreneurs-at-heart.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
When IOA first launched, our staff was comprised of three Agents. We were certainly “the little guys”. However, we each had a book of clients, loved prospecting, and were committed to the work that needed to be done to not only become profitable but to gain long-term trust from clients. Simultaneously, we were also conscious of our overhead and kept spending to a minimum, which helped the company to become profitable faster. While I don’t recall the exact timeframe when we turned profitable, it did not take so long that we had concerns.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
As an entrepreneur, there is always risk involved in “going for it.” Simultaneously, it’s also the only way to know if anything will actually work out. That conundrum did keep me up at night, but I also had faith and confidence in my own work ethic. I have always been a firm believer in the notion that hard work pays off, and that good old fashioned hard work is the key to success. If I felt a doubt creeping in, I would remind myself of this principle, which brought me back to focusing on the present tasks at hand.
How did you get your first customer?
My first customer was the result of door-to-door communication, similar to cold calling. While this facet of various industries has certainly diminished over the years, door-to-door sales were once a primary source of business.
Importantly, I think it is valuable to note that IOA has evolved and adapted to changes in sales tactics, techniques, and building customer databases. This has allowed us to never become obsolete, especially in the proverbial Golden Age of Technology.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Through strategic partnerships, we have been successful in gaining visibility across various consumer bases, industries, and events. This increased presence has allowed people to recognize IOA as a company that retains focus on the community and the people within that community. Thus, people feel comfortable reaching out to us with this familiarity, which is fantastic. It makes us able to converse with potential clients in a way that feels like garnering advice from a trusted friend or acquaintance.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Though this decision wasn’t made in the last few months, I found it somewhat tough to make the decision to retire. Work-life balance was always integral to me, and I have always valued the quality time that I have gotten to spend with my family. As a new grandfather and a family man, I fully looked forward to retirement.
However, as an entrepreneur who spent 30 years growing a company that he started from scratch, I had to rectify the decision to step down. Prior to my retirement, I was speaking with my son, Heath, about taking over the role of CEO of the company. At that point, Heath was a member of the company for many years and was very successful in a growing capacity. While he was hesitant at first, Heath understood that taking over the role of CEO meant that he would be protecting the values, beliefs, and focuses that have made IOA such a special place to work. Thus, when he agreed to take this position, I felt confident in my decision to retire.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
Within my professional journey, I have found that shortcuts do not truly exist. There’s no substitution for hard work, and hard work does really pay off. While I’ve always been proud of being able to maintain a healthy work-life balance, my time “at work” has always been spent focusing on the tasks at hand. Historically, I have tried to avoid “busy work”, and have maintained a daily hierarchy of needs to determine the most pressing matters. I have set short and long-term goals, and have remained focused on accomplishing as much as possible within designated time frames. I believe that this focus and drive has made me successful as both an insurance industry professional, and business owner.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
As a huge sports fan, along with my son, I was extremely proud to start the IOA Sports Partners Division. This unique sector focuses on maximizing insurance opportunities for professional sports teams, arenas, and anyone involved in the world of sports. This faction focuses on unlocking additional commercial value while creating long-term sustainable partnerships and has yielded wonderful results. The process of building this decision was made even more special, as I was fortunate enough to be able to build this exciting section of the business with my son.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
The insurance industry has traditionally been antiquated, and less than open to change. From cumbersome processes on the customer-facing end, to complicated procedures on the back end, the insurance industry has always been plagued by these manual processes. However, with the implementation of forward-thinking technology (machine learning, AI, etc), the insurance industry is on the cusp of disruption. This is an excellent time for the industry.
IOA is focused on harnessing technology for the benefit of consumers, working to streamline processes, and bring consumer products to match the demand, lifestyle, and preferences of the customer. At the same time, IOA remains sensitive to the notion that this should be a blended effort. Customers who want face-to-face interaction, or seek an educational phone call shouldn’t be excluded in an all-digital realm. Conversely, consumers who want to quickly get a quote on a simple policy shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to receive that quote. With that said, IOA continues to elevate processes to perfectly encapsulate client needs.
What business books have inspired you?
There are a number of interesting “business” related books that offer sound advice, ranging from organization to leadership. Overall, these types of books offer new perspectives, different ways to approach problems, and insight related to what works for other leaders. While the content of “business books” may not necessarily fit directly or neatly into your industry, reading inspirational content is generally a good idea! There are certainly lessons that can be pulled from most books, and the ongoing quest for knowledge is a lesson in and of itself.
“Good To Great” by Jim Collins is one I would recommend, but I generally like to encourage individuals to seek books that draw them in independently.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell myself, and any other young leader or entrepreneur, to continue to work hard. The process is long and arduous, and there are no viable shortcuts. Putting in the hours to build something takes a lot of work, but it is also intensely gratifying, rewarding, and meaningful. I’d remind myself to always remember that, and to be grateful for the journey. Often, young entrepreneurs get so caught up in whatever their next pursuit is, and they miss the little victories and triumphs along the way. Those deserve to be recognized, and are memorable benchmarks on what is hopefully a long journey to building something great.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Though I am retired, I maintain an active role in the insurance industry, and the entrepreneurial community. Anyone wishing to contact me can do so via my LinkedIn, or professional website.