, 2018August 2
Following in father’s footsteps has been a tradition in the James Ryan family.
It began with football at Brighton High School, where having a Jim Ryan lining up under center every 30 years or so was the norm.
It continued into real estate and property management, where a Jim Ryan has always been at the top of the corporate structure at Ryco Management.
First, the football. Jim Ryan Sr. was a backup quarterback at Brighton High School in the 1940s. Three decades later, his son, Jim Jr., played two varsity seasons at quarterback before a shift to tailback.
And then after another three decades passed, James III guided the Barons offense for three years before moving on to Yale University, where he played NCAA Division I lacrosse for four years.
That’s a lot of passes thrown in a Brighton uniform by someone named Jim Ryan (although Jim III goes by James).
The tradition of succession continued to the workplace. Jim Sr. founded Ryco Management LLC, in 1971 with the construction of Powder Mills Office Park just off Pittsford-Victor Road.
As Jim Sr. prepared for retirement in 2000, he passed the Pittsford-based business on to Jim Jr.
Then last week, Ryco Management announced that James III and his wife, Lauren Sands, were joining the management team. This is where the tradition meanders a bit, however. Jim Jr. isn’t leaving the company so he’ll now have his son as a partner.
While Jim Jr. — armed with an MBA from Harvard Business School — was certainly capable of assisting his father in the 1980s and 1990s, dad opted to fly solo.
“My father never liked the idea of a family business,” Jim Jr. said.
So following graduation from Middlebury College in Vermont, he got his start in the business world working for former commercial printing giant Case-Hoyt.
That experience created the foundation for his next venture. In October 1992, Ryan branched off with another member of the Case-Hoyt sales force, John Hayes, and an acquaintance, Jerry Chambers, to found GLC Business Services Inc. GLC is still based in Rochester, providing outsourcing to businesses, especially law firms.
“Jim had met Jerry, who was working for Xerox, and we just thought Xerox was not really providing service to Upstate businesses,” said Hayes, the COO at GLC.
Off they went on their own to fill the void. It was a leap of faith, to be sure.
“We started without a client and we all had little kids,” Ryan said.
Their first landlord: Jim Ryan Sr., of course. GLC leased an office at the Ryco Management building. Success soon followed.
They landed Lacy Katzen as their first client. Not long after, Harris Beach came aboard.
“When we were at Case-Hoyt, we both had terrific customer service skills,” Hayes said. “We realized a happy customer can lead you to a successful business.”
GLC established a foothold in the marketplace and began to thrive. But when Jim Sr. was nearing retirement in 2000, he asked his son if he’d like to take the reins. Jim Jr. agreed, partnering with John Anderson in running Ryco. Jim Jr. was front-and-center; Anderson was more of a silent partner.
Jim Sr. had built Powder Mills Office Park in the early 1970s and expanded it in the 1980s. He then acquired Fishers Place around 1990. They were quality properties, well maintained and meeting tenants’ needs.
While Jim Jr.’s background didn’t include commercial property ownership or management, he was ready for the move to Ryco.
“I took real estate courses, I took finance courses (in college),” he said. “Without knowing it, I was getting ready for my real estate career.
“And really, real estate’s like any business. It’s selling, it’s keeping your customer happy, it’s solving problems.”
Those are qualities he demonstrated at Case-Hoyt, and has maintained while running Ryco. The firm acquired neighboring Basin Park, home of CNB Wealth Management, in 2006, and then added 1 Fishers, headquarters for the Golisano Foundation, in 2011.
“This is definitely a relationship business and I enjoy getting to know the tenants,” Ryan said.
Expansion is continuing, too. Earlier this month Ryco bought Corporate Crossing, a 210,000-square-foot office park in Bushnell’s Basin that is home to The Bonadio Group, GateHouse Media and Martino Flynn, and branched out to Brighton to acquire Canal View, a 120,000-square-foot facility that is home to Rochester Cardiopulmonary Group and Gallo & Iacovangelo.
A new building across Pittsford-Victor Road on the east side, known simply as 1162, will be ready for tenants in September.
1162 was a vision of Jim Jr. and Anderson, but Anderson died in a freak rappelling accident in Costa Rica in September 2017. James III and Lauren Sands joined Ryco by buying Anderson’s interests.
The 1162 project continued, thanks in large part to the support of Canandaigua National Bank and LeFrois Builders & Development, Ryan said.
“When John died, we did not have a loan signed, and we did not have a contract signed with the contractor,” he said. “But they kept building for a month and a half and kept it on schedule.”
Ryco is proud to be local.
“There’s 2 million square feet of office space along this corridor (Pittsford-Victor Road) and over the last 10 to 15 years, we have the only locally owned and managed space,” Ryan said. “There’s a void in services. When something goes wrong, who do you call?
“Our tenants are our friends. Our tenants are our best prospective tenants.”
Indeed, space is nearly all occupied. The occupancy rate is close to 100 percent, he said. The norm in the industry is a vacancy rate of around 12 to 15 percent.
There are 10 employees based out of the Powder Mills Office Park headquarters. Ryan’s wife, Caroline, is the property manager. Another dozen people are employed in management services.
“We provide soup to nuts, from executive suite tenants all the way up to corporate headquarters,” Ryan said.
Ryco is toying with the idea of a WeWork model. WeWork, a national firm, provides shared workspaces and business services for entrepreneurs and companies, from desks or just table space in common areas, to private offices and conference rooms.
“They’re making a splash in big cities; it’s lifestyle-type office space,” Ryan said. “We’re probably going to jump into that. We have some ideas on how to create some co-working space.”
While property management has become his focus, he has plenty of outside interests, starting with sports of all sorts. He’s a past president of the Harvard Business School Club of Rochester. He’s an emeritus member of the Wilmot Cancer Institute advisory board, after years of service on the board. He was a community member on the Democrat and Chronicle’s editorial board, bringing a more conservative viewpoint to the table.
“Jimmy is unique, he’s affable and he’s opinionated,” Hayes said. “He’s an unbelievably popular guy and he knows everyone.”
Ryan’s latest passion is Rochester Prep Charter School, where he’s on the board of trustees.
A chance discussion with Joe Klein, CEO of Klein Steel, at a Harvard Business School Club of Rochester event piqued his interest. He’s been hooked ever since, believing the school provides children in the city school district with a path to success.
“When I went for a visit, my analogy was that it was football practice in the classroom,” Ryan said. “It was very disciplined and I was really impressed with the behavior of the kids.
“And then I saw the test scores, and they’re on par with Brighton and Pittsford. You can measure the return. The test scores are a validation it’s working. We could solve a problem that I thought was maybe unsolvable.”
Considering he knows a little about success in the business world, he just might be right.
firstname.lastname@example.org/ (585) 653-4020
Jim Ryan Jr.
Title: President, Ryco Management LLC
Education: Bachelor’s degree in economics, Middlebury College; MBA, Harvard Business School
Family: Wife, Caroline; son James III, 31; daughters Alexandra, 29; Elizabeth, 27
Hobbies: Sports junkie, political junkie
Quote: “Our tenants are our friends. Our tenants are our best prospective tenants.”
Originally published in Rochester Business Journal.