Firm’s success started with passion for cars
The Ricart brothers’ passion for automobiles has been the driving force behind their business for years.
The brothers, who co-own the Ricart Automotive Group, acquired that passion from their father, Paul Ricart.
“In 1953, my father started a dealership in Canal Winchester for $12,000. He was a family guy, very simple, and he got into it after being in the Navy and working for General Electric,” Rhett Ricart said. “He went to Muskingum College as a music major and he loved cars. We all love cars — anything with wheels, really — bicycles, motorbikes.”
Since the 1980s, Rhett, Fred and Peter Ricart have been running the three major pieces of the Ricart business, including Ricart Automotive, a credit company and a substantial investment in Procon GPS, the world’s largest manufacturer of GPS tracking devices for animals, cars and boats, according to Rhett Ricart.
Currently, Ricart employs about 400 people in Columbus.
Ricart said his love of technology and measuring everything is the yin to his brother Fred’s creative commercials yang. Since the late 1980s, Fred has included his guitar-playing in commercials.
“Fred is the comedian of the family, and I’m the nuts-and-bolts man, so it’s very yin and yang,” he said. “We all love music. Fred was picking at his guitar between commercial takes and that was how his guitar pieces got started.
“All three of us brothers are different, and that’s what makes it fun.”
According to Rhett Ricart, when he and Fred first got into the business in 1981, they used their education in marketing and biochemistry to change the small family business into the No. 1 Ford dealer nationwide for 15 straight years. The company also was the largest dealer of all makes and models for four straight years.
“When my brother and I got in here, we started changing the business. We didn’t have much technology. My father was a good mentor in terms of taking care of customers and working hard, but we wanted to be more forward-thinking with our marketing and technology,” he said. “These are the keys to our success: a good father who was a good mentor, our commercials and our technology.”
Technology isn’t just a tool for accomplishing business, it has become its own business as well, Ricart said.
“We measure everything. We’re very computer-savvy and we’ve designed systems that we ended up selling to software companies. That’s been my end of the business,” he said.
“We aren’t afraid to experiment with technology, apply technology and fail — unless you have a stomach for that, you might as well not do it. New technology sometimes requires you to change your culture as well or it won’t work. That’s the hidden success factor behind Ricart.”
Another important factor for the company’s success is listening to employees, customers, vendors and consultants, he said. “A consultant can give me an outside-in look at my business, and they are the ones looking at businesses all around the country, so they can bring you best practices,” Ricart said. “If you’re listening to your customers, employees and vendors, they’ll tell you where to go and lead you to success."
“If you’re just listening to yourself, you’ll go down the wrong path.”
He said listening was key.
“Don’t shoot the messenger when you get bad news; be conscious of the fact that they’re bringing you information that you need to listen to,” Ricart said. “As long as you listen, you’ll be in good shape.”