Rick Ifland ’83 always aspired to be a businessman, and he got an early start. An economics and business major at Westmont, he owned and operated a Santa Barbara bed and breakfast inn during his college years.
But he didn’t know he wanted to live in Kentucky until he drove through the state and discovered its beauty. Rick and his wife, Neile Allen Ifland ‘84, moved to Lexington in 1987, and he found a job at IBM as a financial analyst. At the same time, he began an M.B.A. program at the University of Kentucky and founded ICS, a mortgage credit reporting company.
When ICS took off, Rick left IBM. The company that started in the back of a barn grew to be the second largest in the industry, processing 10,000 mortgage applications daily. In 1997, Rick sold the business to a Fortune 500 company and stayed on as an executive for two years before resigning.
“I’m an entrepreneur,” he explains. “It was an interesting period, and I’m glad I learned what I learned, but I’m not wired to work in the corporate world. It’s too big and has too much bureaucracy.”
Today Rick is a private equity investor who sits on many for-profit and not-for-profit boards. For example, he serves as a director of Flexis Inc., a knowledge management company that provides flexible information system solutions. He co-founded both the Mustard Seed Foundation, which equips ministries through business, and the Kentucky Christian Foundation, affiliated with the National Christian Foundation.
Rick sees himself as an international problem solver. “We look at problems, especially in developing nations, find a solution, and do it in a really quiet way,” he says. “At the same time, we have a professional board of directors, compete and make money. It is very satisfying. After awhile, success in business rings very hollow. What I’m doing now is very energizing.”
While he’s interested in making a profit, Rick wants to make a difference as well. He has found a way to use his business experience to help ministries. “There is a need out there for ministries to have sound business practices,” he says. “We get calls from people who need our advice, so we quietly help them.
“We are trying to provide a sustainable revenue model for ministries,” Rick adds. “Businesses cease to exist without this. But ministries don’t have a revenue model, they ask for support instead. What we do is like teaching people how to fish so they can survive on their own. I believe the sustainable revenue model is the magic behind business.”
Rick wants to use the tools God has given him in the way God intended. “Too often American business people are gifted, but they misapply their gifts,” he says. Making a profit isn’t enough for Rick. He’s interested in solving problems in a profitable way.
“I love business,” Rick says. He enjoys networking and has found a growing number of people who share his perspective on business. He is often invited to speak about his passion.
Rick reconnected with Westmont when his daughter, Dani ’07, enrolled as a presidential scholar last fall. Kirby, a junior in high school, and Crawford, a fifth-grader, remain at home.
Working and running track and cross country took most of Rick’s time as a college student. “I just loved Westmont,” he says. “It was the worst financial package I had, but it was a terrific place, and I’m glad I went. I liked the size, the location and the people.”
When he’s not involved in business matters, Rick likes to participate in whatever his kids are doing. He has coached high school distance runners, and he and his wife ran a youth group at their church, Pisgah Presbyterian Church, in Lexington, for a number of years.
Neile has stayed home to raise their children, and she does a lot of volunteer work at church and in their community.
Despite the international scope of his enterprises, Rick finds that travel isn’t always necessary for his work, and he spends much of his time in Kentucky with his family. “Give me a laptop and I can do global business anywhere,” he says.