Two New Careers? Why Not?
March 13-19, 2023
By David Laprad
When Ryan Ard reached the age of 50, he considered two options for a new career: Realtor and lawyer.
Instead of choosing one, Ard decided to become both.
“I need to always be moving forward,” he says. “If I’m stagnant, then I’m not growing myself or the people around me.”
Ard contemplated the next phase of his life in January after leaving a remote sales job. Although it’s only March, he’s already become a licensed Realtor (one can imagine him plunging into his real estate classes even as he declared his intentions to his family, like a thrill seeker who announces their intent to jump into lake water as their foot is leaving the cliff) and he begins online law school in May through the Los Angeles-based Concord Law School.
“I’ll be a 1L,” Ard says with the frankness of an undergraduate casually affirming the next phase of their education. To him, there’s nothing extraordinary about studying to become a lawyer at age 50; it’s merely what he’s doing next.
“I thought it would be cool to go into contract law,” he explains. “I’ll be 54 when I finish school and take the bar, but so what?”
As Ard’s legal career takes shape on a distant horizon, real estate is here, now, staring him in the face. He has a living to make, he says, so he needs to press forward.
“I need to get my name out there,” he asserts.
Ard says he’s taking his cue from an out-of-state competitor who has a ubiquitous presence well above eye level in Chattanooga. (To wit: This Realtor’s name and face are on countless Scenic City billboards.)
“Mark Spain has done a good job of selling his name locally and regionally. So, using a competitor as an example, I need to make my phone ring and then have enough charisma to keep them talking or meet with me in person.”
Ard is certainly no stranger to earning a commission. After a six-year stint in claims management with Progressive Insurance that ended in 2006, he took the first of what would be several sales jobs.
From director of sales for APU Solutions (a startup that allows clients to search for car parts nationwide), to sales and marketing manager for Servepro (a water damage restoration service), to partnership manager for Azuga (provides fleetwide GPS tracking services), Ard worked for companies that sell products in various industries.
The one thing all of the positions had in common, Ard says, is that he had to sell himself to a potential client before he could sell his employer’s product.
“Ninety percent of selling any product was selling myself,” he estimates. “If the person inquiring about the service from Azuga didn’t like me, then they weren’t going to give me the time of day to learn about the product I was selling.”
Ard says the same will hold true in real estate.
“I see real estate as a sales role,” he continues. “There’s a lot of marketing involved. You have to sell yourself and what you can do for your client. And then you have to deliver on the promises you made. If you’re representing a buyer, for example, you need to protect them and represent their interests while negotiating the contract.”
Ard says he believes he’s identified a brokerage that will allow him to spread his name far and wide – RE/MAX Renaissance, where managing broker Dawn O’Neil oversees a stable of active agents.
“I wanted to align myself with a company that had not only a local but also a national presence,” Arc clarifies. “Chattanooga is one of the hottest markets in the U.S. for people who are relocating, and as the city grows and more companies decide to move here, they’re going to use a brokerage they know and trust when they begin relocating employees.
“Renaissance has an excellent reputation and makes a lot of sales wherever it does business. Working with a market leader will make marketing myself easier.”
Although Ard is new to home sales, he says his track record of success in other industries is bolstering his confidence in his ability to succeed in real estate. While working as the director of sales for APU, for example, he more than tripled the company’s revenue over a two-year period. And while serving as regional vice president for AudaExplore (which purchased APU), he secured two seven-figure accounts that generated more than $5 million in revenue.
His plan to form a team with another Realtor is also boosting his optimism. Joining him in his endeavor is his wife, Kerry, a Realtor from Florida who will soon be licensed in Tennessee.
“My wife is very passionate about real estate,” Ard says. “I’ll be selling homes full-time and she’ll be partnering with me part-time.”
Forming a real estate team won’t be the couple’s first mutual endeavor. Ard and his wife also own several rental properties in the Chattanooga area, as well as a 37-foot Class A motorhome. They use the latter to “experience” the U.S., Ard says.
“We love to travel and be outside. You’d look at me and say, “There’s no way,” but we like to run 10K and 15K races. We did a 15K in the Adirondack Mountains in New York and a 10K at night near Vegas called Devil After Dark. It’s held at night because running in 90 degrees is better than running in 110 degrees.”
Although the motorhome is road-ready, it’s parked while Ard revs up his real estate business, giving his neighbors in Hixson a rare glimpse of what it looks like when something in his household is standing still.
A Columbia, South Carolina, native and former resident of Jacksonville, Florida, Ard says the U.S. Navy instilled an appetite for movement in him during his tour of duty from 1996-2000.
He now has seven sons – including three stepsons from his current marriage – and says he strives to be a good role model to them.
Ard also seeks to add value to enterprises outside work and family. As a vocal member of the board of directors for the homeowners association in his community, for instance, he strives to recommend solutions to problems and then push them forward rather than complain uselessly.
If Ard continues his journey uninterrupted, he might someday be lending his voice to a committee at Greater Chattanooga Realtors or making his voice heard at a meeting of the Chattanooga Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, which welcomes attorneys who are within the first five years of their practice.
He’ll be 54, but so what?
David Laprad is the editor for the Hamilton County Herald in Chattanooga. You can email him at email@example.com
Ryan Ard is a new Realtor with RE/MAX Renaissance. He comes to the profession after 16 years in sales and as he is preparing to begin law school. Photo by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald