Indy CFO Spotlight-Dave Ritzler

Dave Ritzler is wise beyond his years and is another great example of how doing “a little more than was expected” can lead to amazing opportunity.  We’re sitting at the Starbucks at 15th and Capitol, and it’s hopping busy.

KB:  Dave, thanks for meeting me.

DR:  Good to be here.

KB: Is Indianapolis home for you?

DR:  I grew up in northern Indiana, Elkhart actually.  It’s a blue-collar town with a lot of manufacturing; it was a great place to grow up.  But Indy’s been home since I came here for college in 1999.

KB:  What about your family?

DR:  My Mom taught third grade.  She’s always had a nurturing personality and focused us on the importance of education. Dad is a Vietnam war veteran who worked in the RV industry; he always worked long hours; yet I never heard him complain. That taught me work ethic at a young age.  My older sister is a chemist and taught me the value of giving 100%.  My family taught me the value of work, regardless of the activity.

KB:  How did you choose Big 4?

DR:  Butler required two internships; I got an internship with KPMG and that led to job offer.  It was classic audit and I had a good experience; however, I knew early on I wasn’t going to be a lifer.  I was a generalist and traveled to exotic places like South Bend, Greensburg and Seymour (laughs).

KB:  Then you transitioned to corporate.  Tell me about that.

DR:  My fiancée encouraged me to look at my options and I chose to join Brightpoint.  I got to travel to 10 different countries and have very interesting cultural experiences.  One memory that sticks out was having lunch at a Thai restaurant in Vienna, Austria with co-workers from Slovakia and Kazakhstan; I’d come a long way from Elkhart!  My roles were global finance policy and administration and then SOX.  That got me thinking about what’s next.  So I went back to Butler while working full time and began work on my MBA.

KB:  That was an inflection point, wasn’t it?

DR:  Absolutely.  I had the opportunity to work full time at the Butler Business Consulting Group….it advises clients from $5MM – $100MM.  I was part of the CFO services group and my boss was a guy named Chris Stump, who is still a great mentor to me today.  That experience allowed me to experience adding value and to see my work drive outcomes.  Things pivoted there.

KB:  Please expand on that.

DR:  Early on at the BBCG, I did a simple budget vs. actual analysis and presented to a couple of business owners…it was just a small thing, but they were so grateful.  I’m adding instant value and making the business better; that was a great feeling and I knew that working in a more entrepreneurial setting fit me well.

KB:  Did this experience lead you to OurHealth?

DR:  One of the founders of OurHealth went on the Butler Business Consulting Group website, saw my profile online, and sent me an email.  I thought, “Man, I’m going to sell some consulting work.” [laughs]  Turns out OurHealth had just signed their first client.  They wanted to hire someone who was up and coming and could help build the business.  I ended up meeting with both founders, they told me the vision for OurHealth and it was super convincing.  While they were just getting started and there was some level of risk it felt right.  My mentor at the BBCG was so supportive, he said “You have to take this.”  I joined as Employee #5.

KB:  So you just jumped in, right?

DR:  Yep, just dove in. I had to figure out everything from scratch, from cash reconciliation to the Board Room.  Every journal entry, every reconciliation.  I was Finance, HR, some IT….thankfully, we were still small enough that I could get my arms around it.

KB:  How long was it just you?

DR:  It was just me for the first 3 years. I found out that our front desk person had a finance degree and I was drowning at that point, so I drafted her.  That took us two more years down the road. As we scaled, we hired HR and IT resources and I was able to step out of those roles.  I have fond memories of the early days; we were in it together and everything was a true team effort.  As we grew, my accounting manager grew into the controller.  Now we have FP&A, financial analysts, staff accountants…I have a real team.  In a growth company (50% YOY) you have to reinvent yourself every year; you can never rest on what you accomplished last year.  We’ve had eight years of crazy growth.  300 employees now.  Six states.

KB:  A big percentage of the time, the original players aren’t talented enough to scale with the business long-term.  What’s your secret sauce?

DR:  I love building something, being invested in that.  OurHealth’s mission is to make people healthier and happier – I feel good about what we do.  I think the secret sauce is that you can’t be too good to roll up your sleeves and take on whatever is needed.  And have a bit of patience.  The job I wanted at OurHealth took five years and a lot of grit to create.

KB:  What’s your overall feeling about the business climate?

DR:  Overall, I’m optimistic.  We’re at the intersection of healthcare and technology.  We’re competing with Salesforce and others for talent, so the recruiting climate locally is competitive. Fortunately, we have a cool business to sell to prospective employees.  I’m bullish.  We sit comfortably in the middle of hospitals and insurers as an independent healthcare provider.  That’s a good place to be.

A lot of primary care offices have been purchased by large health systems; their seat with a large network is super valuable.  Health-systems use primary care to drive referrals into its network for higher cost specialties, like MRIs.  As an independent primary care provider, we don’t have any of those pressures; we just do what is best for the patient  As a result, we’ve been able to demonstrate strong ROI for our customers.  We’re one of the few options in the market that can help employers reduce overall healthcare benefits spend. OurHealth is now the largest independent physician group in Indiana and our sole purpose is to drive value for patients.

KB:  Do you see a coming downturn?

DR:  Well, it’s been good for so long… the macro feeling is that there will eventually be a pull back and I agree.  But I believe innovation will continue to drive efficiency long-term.  I look at the way we are investing in data resources; we use big-data to make better decisions internally and for our patients.   And I know we’re not alone. If you extrapolate that to other companies, good outcomes will shake out.

KB:  What excites you about business?

DR:  The CFO role has changed and broadened considerably.  We really have a seat at the table on strategic direction.  How do we help the founders and Board make good decisions?  It’s much more strategic than it used to be.

Also, innovation will continue to drive investments.  There are record amounts of cash out there waiting.  If you have an innovative idea and are convincing, you should be able to get the capital you need.  Good business ideas will get funded.

KB:  What disappoints you?

DR:  Corporate greed…exec pay…fraud…the business headlines favor the negative and give “business” a bad name.  Disappointing to see an overall good system that is taken advantage of by some bad actors.

KB:  What about advice for the aspiring CFO?

DR:  There is so much opportunity in our industry.  If CFO is the goal, there are things you can do to build your career now.  Up and comers should pursue avenues for growth like joining a Board or advisory committee.  Get involved and good things will happen.

KB:  What’s your favorite movie?

DR:  Hoosiers.  I’ve seen it a million times, especially when I was younger.  Love the story and of course growing up in Indiana all I did was play basketball.  And…being a Butler guy, knowing Bobby Plump is the real-life Jimmy Chitwood.

KB:  What’s something you’ve read that you really liked?

DR:  Specific to finance, I recently read a book called “Venture Deals” by Brad Feld.  It’s a behind the scenes explanation of how VC’s look at companies and provides great insights into the process.  For business books I usually turn to audiobooks; I can knock them out much quicker that way.  It’s amazing the amount of relevant information that is out there for CFOs.

KB:  If you weren’t a CFO, what would you be doing?

DR:  I love traveling.  I’d be doing something where I could be on vacation and working at the same time.

KB:  Thank you Dave, this has been awesome.

DR:  My pleasure.