January 5, 2024
“I wanted to build a business to help others, because it really changed my life for the better and gave me the freedom and flexibility to live a lifestyle by design.”
Ryan McKenna is a longtime Ashcroft investor, as well as the operator of his own real estate investment firm (founded in 2018 in Glenview, Illinois). Looking at his wife, two daughters, and the fulfilling life they lead, Ryan says, “today, I feel like I am thriving, very happy, and built the lifestyle that I’ve always wanted.”
However, getting there wasn’t exactly a straight line drive.
When Life Throws a Curveball
Ryan played baseball at Arizona State University, achieving a dream he had trained for since he was 12 years old. “I had aspirations to go on play in the major leagues,” explains Ryan, “but that was cut short by a serious medical issue.”
Ryan was diagnosed with ITP. “It’s a blood platelet disorder that is very similar to leukemia or lupus,” he describes. “That pretty much changed the trajectory of what I thought my life was going to look like––play at the next level, make a lot of money, and then invest it. That was always my goal. I come from an entrepreneurial family, so I’ve always wanted to run my own business, become an investor, and live off of the investment returns.”
Luckily, Ryan was able to turn his discipline and dedication for baseball into a plan for a very different life than he imagined.
“I was sitting in a hospital bed in the early 2000s rethinking my future, because I was really no longer going to be able to play baseball from what the doctors had told me. It was a very scary time when you pour everything into one path and suddenly need a Plan B. That’s when I was introduced to Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, which later became a blueprint for my business and investment strategies.”
Coincidentally, an ASU teammate’s father was an apartment syndicator and helped Ryan learn about multifamily investing.
“I knew that sports was out of the question and I was going to have to make it in the business world,” remembers Ryan. “That’s when I doubled down on learning about real estate investment and business in general. I wanted to build a company. Everything I trained for––all the discipline, the motivation, the late nights that I put into my baseball dream––I transformed that into what I was going to do in the next phase of my life.”
From Bases to Business
Ryan took various entrepreneurial roles and began learning from the mentors he saw running companies and building businesses. That led him to pursue an MBA at the University of Notre Dame. “It was very important to me personally and from a business perspective, because I was coming back to the Midwest from Arizona and knew my roots were here and this is where I was going to build from.”
According to Ryan, one of the best aspects of the program was collaborating with classmates to test out thoughts and ideas in real-world business scenarios. “I had a good platform to springboard off of. And leading up to that, I was making investments in multifamily syndication with firms like Ashcroft; so, it was great to see that work for me personally, but also bring that to other people who didn’t know that this type of investment was out there.”
The Pros of Real Estate Investing
Reflecting on his time at Notre Dame, Ryan elaborates, “that’s what really inspired me to launch the business. I did want to help others and to continue growing and investing in this space, because I did a lot of research and I just haven’t found anything I feel personally is better than multifamily syndications from a passive investment perspective, when you factor in the tax efficient income potential for the upside.”
“The number of investors who come back multiple times says something about this type of investment that I think is very unique and still way under the radar.”
Ryan’s personal success, his clients’ gratitude, and his results with Ashcroft have all contributed to his confidence in real estate syndication as an investment vehicle.
“If the next best comparison is the stock market,” says Ryan, “in my opinion, it’s pretty far off. What’s so appealing about it is you can do it passively while you are working full-time. If you’re a busy working professional, you can find the right people through building relationships in this space and then execute on a real estate investment strategy that would be really hard to do on your own.”
And as a bonus, “It’s fun to see your investment portfolio grow and expand,” he says. “This is a therapeutic type of investment! You can invest passively and get all the same benefits as you were actively investing.”
Teaming Up with Ashcroft
Ryan met Joe Fairless through a former mentor several years ago. ”You know his name within the industry,” remarks Ryan. “They’ve set the bar very high.” Now a co-syndicator with Ashcroft, Ryan built on his first deal and is up to 12 investments with the Ashcroft team.
“We’ve done very well together. I’ve been very happy, and Joe has continued to be a great friend and partner. He’s got a wealth of knowledge and he’s put together what I think is the gold standard for multi-family syndication in this new era of investing.”
Ryan credits Ashcroft as a real starting point for getting into the syndication business, and it seems he’s been batting 1000 ever since. “It started out small,” he remembers, “and we’ve done over 100 syndications with our investors. I’ve personally invested in over 100 deals in the past. So we’ve done it on the co-general partner side, the active side of the syndication business, and also on the passive side.”
A Playbook for the Future
Although the market remains in an uncertain place, Ryan is optimistic about the future of this type of investment. “It is tough, from a macro-environment-level with high interest rates, particularly for properties that were purchased a couple of years ago where it’s taking a hit on the cash flow. We’ve had some deals where we’ve had to pause distributions or reduce them, and that’s not fun. But it’s also part of what could happen. We’re going to go through different cycles. I think you really need to look at this from a long-term perspective.”
“That’s why I think it’s important to diversify. It’s also important to not be afraid of what’s happening right now because it’s providing some tremendous opportunities. The way I look at this is if you invested a few years ago and some of those deals are a bit harder because of the challenging environment right now, every new investment you make in a deal right now, is coming at a discount relative to what it would have sold for a year ago––you’re just dollar costs averaging down your positions.”
Importantly, Ryan points out that timing the market perfectly is impossible, but investing with someone you trust in good times and bad is crucial.
“I think if you have an approach where you’re consistently investing with people that you know, like, and trust for the long term (and they’ve got a great track record), you’re going to end up doing well despite some downturns we might go through.”
“Having a strong operator behind the deal is very important because they can weather this storm, and I have full confidence that we’re going to get through this and we’ll be fine. There will be some bumps and bruises along the way––it’s part of investing, that there’s risk in it. I do think we’re going to go on another run after we kind of flush out whatever needs to get flushed out here.”
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