Hollidaysburg alum develops program
Jim Ricker was working as a territory manager for John Deere in Atlanta, Ga. — and was doing quite well selling insurance.
He was a five-time member of the President’s Club and won numerous trips for his production along with being the first person to qualify for President’s Club in both financial insurance and life insurance.
However, he wasn’t totally happy.
“When I worked at John Deere as an agent, I felt I always had to mislead a client to sell them insurance,” Ricker said.
So, in 1990, he decided to start his own business — IFLA Consultants, a dealer consulting firm where he works with major equipment dealers throughout the United States and Canada.
Today Ricker, 75, a 1962 graduate of Hollidaysburg High School, lives in Hilliard, Ohio, and owns and operates J. Griffin Ricker & Associates doing business as IFLA Consultants and J.T. Bates Insurance Group.
Working with equipment dealers for more than 33 years, Ricker determined his clients needed a way to protect their rental equipment.
He developed a program for dealers to insure their equipment while on rent.
His program was developed around the equipment dealers needs and not the insurance industry. His Rental Equipment Protection Program is the most comprehensive program in the industry today.
Along with his desire to protect the equipment through an insurance program, he realized that his clients also obtain certificates of insurance from renters and that most were insufficient. His next step was to provide a Certificate Tracking system.
This system verifies, corrects and archives certificates along with tax exempt forms and vendor certificates.
“My program covers almost any accident that can happen. From upsets and floods to collisions and tornadoes — any weather condition on admitted paper paying replacement cost and an all risk policy,” Ricker said. “When it comes to insurance issues, our unique service puts the client in the driver’s seat for the first time. The client is no longer at the mercy of the insurance industry.”
This endeavor is now owned and operated by J. T. Bates Insurance Group, which Ricker started in 2005.
Ricker, through IFLA Consultants, specializes in the consulting part of the business.
Scott Zugelder, controller at Miami Industrial Trucks, Dayton, Ohio, said his company has been doing business with Ricker for about 25 years.
“Jim is working for me, getting us the best coverage and the lowest prices. As a business guy, he is very good. He looks out after his clients. He is a standup guy,” Zugelder said. “We use his companies on a day- to-day basis.”
Jay Samuelson, CFO of Nebraska Machinery Co., Omaha, Neb., met Ricker about 10 years ago.
“He works as a consultant to help you understand things. He is very no-nonsense, he is really an advocate for his clients, he weeds through the agents and brokers on what we need and how to get the best deal,” Samuelson said.
Ricker is invaluable to his company, Samuelson said.
“His company logo is a bulldog, that is a good description of him. He is kind of a bulldog for the clients and usually gets great results for them,” Samuelson said.
Ricker was born in Cumberland, Md., and his family moved to Hollidaysburg when he was in first grade.
He attended St. Mary’s Elementary School before graduating from Hollidaysburg High School.
He decided to pursue a career in accounting and took classes at Penn State Altoona and the Altoona School of Commerce before transferring to David Myers University in Cleveland, Ohio, where he graduated with a degree in accounting and industrial development.
“Back in the day I was very shy. I pursued accounting to get a job where I could sit behind a desk and not be bothered by anyone,” Ricker said.
While at David Myers he joined a fraternity and eventually became president.
“I had to get up and talk to people. I came out of my shell,” Ricker said.
While in and after college, Ricker worked at numerous jobs such as Sherwin Williams, Metropolitan Mortgage, Ohio Property Control — which he started — and United Consultants, an employment agency before he arrived at John Deere.
Ricker was always interested in cars.
“I grew up on West Fir Street and Don DeCoskey had a car lot there. I helped clean the lot and drive cars to the auction. I started to sell cars for him while I was in college,” Ricker said. “I had a dealership (Paramount Automotive in Columbus) in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I specialized in Corvettes and Mustangs, not just the everyday cars.”
Ricker said he is successful because “while growing up, I was one of the people who was told I couldn’t do something. That was an incentive to get it done. I was the middle of three kids — I felt like I had to prove myself.”
He said he is best known for his consulting work.
“I am the only guy I know of in the United States that does consulting work for heavy equipment dealers. I am considered a true consultant because I don’t sell them anything. I fill the gap. I was probably one of the first to do that,” Ricker said.
Ricker said he gets back home three or four times a year to visit his family and some good friends.
He said he loved growing up in Hollidaysburg.
“Hollidaysburg was fantastic. You could go outside and play, there were no cellphones and computers.We would go to the Pines and camp out at night. We played baseball and football. I had a .22 rifle in fifth grade and would go shooting. At the Pines we would build forts and tents and sled ride,” Ricker said. “We used to hang out at Dave’s Dream. I remember Herb’s, the hamburger place, and the bowling alley. We used to drag race at Red Hill and the Kettle.”
Childhood friends Denny Montrella and Bob Fox remember Ricker well.
“As kids, we had a ball, doing things like building cabins in the woods and playing poker with his grandmother. She won a lot of my pennies,” said Montrella, of Willoughby, Ohio.
“We went to grade school together. He is a very friendly guy, a very generous guy. He is not outdoorsy, he is more of a business person — I keep trying to make him cool,” said Fox, of Duncansville.
Neither are surprised by Ricker’s success.
“He knows what he is doing business wise. I am not surprised. We called him a professional student,” Fox said.
“Jim was engaged, he always wanted to succeed and try different things,” Montrella said.
Ricker said he is not ready to retire.
“My wife said I should slow down, but I have no intention of quitting. I am healthy, I love what I am doing. I have fun doing it and it is not like work,” Ricker said. “I consider myself blessed. As long as I am healthy, I have no intent to retire.”