Planning an Entrepreneurial Path
Ryan Ole Hass, MBA ’99
Real Estate Consultant, Engel & Völkers
By Liz Warren-Pederson
Ryan Ole Hass was considering MBA program options in early 1997. “As soon as UA won the national championship, I said, ‘I’m going there!’” he laughed.
In fact, he’d already settled on the UA: “I wanted to go to a school with a strong entrepreneurship program,” he explained. He applied to top-ranked programs around the country, and when it came time to finalize his decision, he spoke with first and second year students at several schools. “The conversation at Eller was so different than what I had with other schools,” he said. “The classes and preparation was on par, but other schools were cutthroat. I heard from Eller, ‘We are like a family here.’”
The project-based curriculum also appealed to him. Hass entered the MBA program direct from his undergraduate program in business at Chaminade University of Honolulu. “At 21, I didn’t have a lot of corporate experience,” he said, “but I was very involved.” He worked in radio and as a basketball and volleyball announcer, was a student manager of Intramural Sports and the Student Rec Center, as wells a member or founder of several organizations. His first year in the MBA program, he returned to Hawaii for the Chaminade Maui Invitational with the Wildcats basketball team. “It was a truly amazing and surreal experience returning to my undergrad with the ability to represent the reigning National Champs,” he said.
As he weighed his post-MBA options, Hass found himself choosing between cookies and cigarettes. “I don’t smoke, I don’t like smoking,” he said. “The choice seemed obvious. Because I wasn’t interested in that opportunity, I was pretty relaxed in my interview and they called me back for a second round.” In the second round interview with five heads of marketing with RJ Reynolds, Hass was asked why tobacco. “I just answered honestly,” he said. “It’s not a popular subject, it’s heavily regulated, there are few channels to market it, so if I could market tobacco, I could market anything.” He wanted to be challenged and to have the best opportunity to drive all marketing and support functions, from product development, packaging, fulfillment, customer service, and more. “I recognized that decision would not be popular,” he said.
He accepted the opportunity and found himself able to make an impact right away. “Before I started, RJ Reynolds flew me around the country to attend focus groups,” he said. “Six months in, I had a 50-person team and an $80 million budget.”
Even as he began to progress with RJ Reynolds, Hass didn’t lose his entrepreneurial drive. “I wanted to run my own business,” he said. A small company in Phoenix recruited him. “I saw that I could really help,” he said. “I was able to put in place a marketing plan and a CRM and they’re still going strong.”
Hass founded a marketing consultancy and began to build a book of business in his native California. Then a couple of influential events reshaped his career. “My grandmother was selling her house,” he said. “She’d had three agents in over a year and just wasn’t having success. I saw that the house wasn’t being marketed to the right audience, and I personally placed an ad in the right place and found a buyer.” Around the same time, he helped some friends find the house they had been looking for but their agent had failed to produce. “I decided to get my license and go into real estate to help those I cared about,” he said.
Now he’s 12 years into his as a Realtor and real estate consultant with Engel & Völkers, a global luxury firm. He said his MBA is a competitive advantage, and he has become active in local and neighborhood organizations. Philanthropy is very important to him. “I was the son of a single mom,” he said. “I remember what it can be like not having much, and how small gestures can go a long way to help someone.” He is also active in his industry. “I just finished serving three years on the Beverly Hills Association of Realtors board of directors,” he said. Hass is also on the board of directors with the California Association of Realtors and on the board of the SoCalCats as the scholarship chair.
“I’ve always had a five-year business plan,” he said. “Now I’m looking to grow to 20 percent international.” He is also engaged in the development of business plans for two different companies. “One of my partners is a fellow Eller alum,” he said. “I am very proud and blessed to be a Wildcat and support the UA in any way I can. I recently represented the UA at a college recruiting event in Southern California and plan to grow my involvement in 2016.”
Top photo courtesy Ryan Ole Hass.