From his “Listen & Learn Tour” to continuous communication, Dan Ritch focuses on team connection to achieve complex transformation goals.
"I started playing sports as a young kid – football, basketball, and track – and did that all through high school. I think that’s what brought forward in me the value of a team and winning together,” reflects Dan Ritch, Chief Executive Officer at SunStream Business Services. Winning as a team is his primary goal as the new leader of SunStream.
Having joined the organization in October of 2021, Ritch is passionate about the mission of serving customers with innovative, reliable, and cost-effective business solutions that meet their needs and exceed expectations.
From Teaching to Technology
Dan’s career path took a few unusual twists and turns. He entered college at Eastern Michigan University, planning to go into teaching, but redirected to a future in technology thanks to a friend who started working in the computer science field. “I got really lucky as I graduated and interviewed at Perot Systems. I didn’t know a lot, but they told me, ‘We can’t teach personality, but we can teach computer skills. If you want to work at it, you’ll go far,’” recollects Ritch. With a start in Information Technology, Dan handled everything from desktop support to application development. “I started at the support desk
and took on more and more. My mom gave me the advice that, regardless of what you’re doing for your job, at the end of the day, do a little extra, and you’ll be okay,” shares Ritch. This approach served him well during his time at Perot Systems, despite being a profound change for Dan in the shift from teaching to IT. “It was so hard! There were many nights where I didn’t do the job correctly and had to stay there until I got it done. I remember I slept at that building a few times,” Ritch admits.
Strong mentors and the determination to keep going were essential to Dan’s success in learning a new and unfamiliar field. “I had a lot of great mentors – some I didn’t even realize were mentors at the time. With my teaching background, I recognized I could learn in multiple ways and wasn’t afraid to ask for help,” Ritch elaborates.
Standing behind the mission
Joining SunStream allows Dan to focus on the mission of taking care of farmers and ranchers. “I thought, why not extend my legacy and help the greater good? Farm credit is more than access to capital. We help ensure the reliability of data, provide consistent access to loan accounting information, and serve as a trusted partner to create solutions,” explains Ritch. “For that reason, we have a lot of responsibility, and we’re proud to be here,” he elaborates.
Undoubtedly, SunStream’s customers are equally as passionate about the mission. “Our customers take care of the front-end – we are an extension of their CIO, who focuses on loan origination, CRM systems, and digital platforms for online banking,” describes Ritch. “We share the same mission,” Ritch adds.
"Our customers are focused directly on the farmers and ranchers. We need to be the trusted partner to their back end systems. We like to say we’ve got your back (office)."
Bolstering Sunstream’s Technology
With the customer in mind, Dan realized the need for SunStream to perform at a higher level to help its customers reach their desired state. “We needed to improve – we were on older systems with older processes, so there’s a gap. We’re all on the same mission to help farmers and ranchers, but we need to upgrade systems and instill new skills to take us to the next level,” Ritch declares. To achieve these goals, Dan is helping the organization transform and be the preeminent managed service provider in the Farm Credit System by:
- Building a world-class team
- Stabilizing, securing, and modernizing core platforms
- Investing in customer success
- Focusing on value and embracing agility in project delivery
- Strengthening financial management and controls
- Growing the business
Building and executing a transformation agenda is no small task. Dan approached the initiative by going on a “Listen & Learn Tour” during his first quarter in the new role. “I traveled to customers to learn how they run their business and discover their core mission and issues. Then I brought those findings back and spoke with every single employee at SunStream to start picking up themes,” explains Ritch. “At the end of the day, it’s the people who make things happen – the Listen & Learn Tour helped me absorb and collaboratively figure out the right approach,” he adds.
Ultimately, Dan sees the transformation as successful if the organization can change the experience for both customers and internal team members – making it easier for customers to work with SunStream and making internal teams more effective in getting the job done.
SunStream’s transformation is well underway and is tracking toward completion in 2025 – or even sooner! “Everybody thinks I’m a bit pushy, but we’re figuring out how to get there! With our focus on technology, we aim to standardize the things our customers don’t want to deal with in the back office and make them more efficient and faster, so our customers can do the needful for farmers and ranchers,” shares Ritch.
Building the Next Generation of Leaders
With a lofty goal in place, Dan focuses on communication and equipping the team to get the job done right. “As we’re in the middle of a transformation, IT is not only transforming our business; it will transform our people. They’re building new skills and getting stronger at what they do,” Ritch expresses. Dan’s goal is to see his team learn from their experience at SunStream and be prepared to take the next step as a leader, whatever that might be. “That’s the goal of a good leader – if I can build more leaders, then I’ve done a good job,” states Ritch.
Getting the team to the next level takes time, transparency, and consistent communication. “I think I probably spend 60%, if not 70%, of my time in communicating through one-on-ones, coaching, and guiding,” estimates Ritch.
“I think that’s the CEO role – it’s not to hold everyone in, but to help people get where they need to be,” he summarizes.
Dan’s emphasis on transparency and collaboration is evident throughout the SunStream office. Using every window in his office as a makeshift whiteboard, Dan is quick to share the vision for the organization, and his enthusiasm is contagious. As a result, the team continues to grow, evolve, and win together.
Get to Know Dan Ritch...
Focus on the Family
My beautiful wife Michelle and I have been married for 26 years. We have 10-year-old twins named Avery and Olivia.
Best Way to Spend Free Time
Chauffeuring Olivia to dance and Avery to basketball!
My favorite trip was with my wife to Rome and Florence in Italy. It perfectly balanced our love of history, good food, and wine.
My family and I like to go to Birches on the Lake. We also frequent Honey & Mackies quite a bit for ice cream.
Last Show You Watched
It’s not new, but I recently got hooked on Suits and am starting to work through the seasons. I also like Stranger Things.
SunStream Business Services is a service entity that provides top-notch customer experience, delivers work in a highly efficient and predictable manner, and inspires innovation and creativity in its solutions. SunStream equips customers with the financial services necessary to support rural communities. Their motto is, “Our customers take care of rural America and trust us to take care of the rest!”