Take time to decompress. To be honest, I struggle with this one. I’m constantly on-go from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed. Most weeks, I’m probably only operating at 50% because I’m burned out. By taking a week off, you can come back at 100%.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Ryll.
An entrepreneur and certified residential appraiser, Paul Ryll is the co-founder of Oscar Mike Mobile Appraisals and is currently developing an innovative app that is set to disrupt the residential appraisal industry. Ryll is also a successful restaurateur and recently launched a new fast-causal Mediterranean concept, Parsley & Mint, with one location open and two in development. A former United States Marine, Ryll is literally “Oscar Mike” — military speak for “On the Move”. Being on the move can mean many things, and in Paul’s case, it’s all about adapting, growing, and knowing when to pivot when needed.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I learned a lot about change and adapting in my childhood. I grew up with a single mother in South Florida and due to her job as a flight attendant, I had to be passed around a lot to friends and family due to her schedule. We didn’t have much money, but this allowed me to learn how to adapt to surroundings and live scarcely, which did help me later on in life due to the organic education that adversity can bring. After living in Fort Lauderdale, I moved to Winder, Georgia for high school. It was very much a big-city-to-small-town move for me, kind of like Footloose. I began my college career at The University of Georgia. After a year spending more time in the bars than the library, it was time for a change. I signed the papers to join the Marine Corps on the same day I should have been sitting for my end-of-year exams. This chain of events led me to serve in the United States Marines from 2001 to 2009.
Thinking back on it now, my childhood and young adult years were very formative in shaping me into who I am today, including how I run my businesses. I grew accustomed to change at an early age, and I think that’s one reason I’m now able to move quickly on business decisions and pivot in new directions when needed. For me, the onset of the pandemic wasn’t a time to feel sorry for myself as the world hit pause. It was a time to pivot — a time to think big. The world changed forever in a matter of weeks, and I saw opportunity to adapt right along with it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I actually have two. The first is borrowed from the song, “The Melting Point of Wax” by Thrice. The lyrics read, “I will touch the sun, or I will die trying.” This line immediately spoke to me at a time when I needed to be spoken to. Sometimes timing is everything. In that moment, I knew I wanted to be successful, and nothing was going to stop me.
The second quote is really a guiding principle for me. It’s by anthropologist Margaret Mead and states, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I firmly believe in this quote to my core. In business, most people focus on profit and prestige, but in my case, I really do try to make decisions that better the world, even if they’re small and seemingly insignificant.
With Parsley & Mint, we use fresh, healthy ingredients and source them from as close to the stores as possible. We use biodegradable products. We employ people who need to get back on their feet. And for Oscar Mike Mobile Appraisals (OMMA), while it may sound cliché, we help people realize the American Dream. Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions people make in their lifetimes. Being a part of these small, yet powerful “micro movements”, if you will, is something that inspires me.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I’ve found a lot of the business and self-help books to have the same message, just worded differently and reading them just seems repetitive. Recently, looking outside of traditional business literature, I came across The Club by Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg. It’s not a business book but rather a history of the Premier League. Throughout the book, I found useful parallels on how to properly network, market, negotiate, and buy and sell. It is an absolute master class of MBA topics and informs the reader how to (and in some cases, how not to) do business.
I’ve read it twice now and plan to read it a third time. I’m actually going to suggest it for the book club at my co-working space, and I’m going to have my team read it as well. I was really shocked at how much I learned from it. If you look at it through the right lens, it’s really fantastic for business.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
It all started in the Marines. I began serving in 2001 and was on active duty until 2007, followed by two years in the reserves. When I got out, I bounced around working corporate jobs for a while, never really having any solid direction. Then, I moved down to Folly Beach, South Carolina for two years and just took a break from the world.
When I was ready to re-enter the real world, I finished my undergrad and got my appraisal certification in order to start Oscar Mike Appraisal Group in 2014. I was a certified residential appraiser in South Carolina and then went on to pursue a Master of Science in Real Estate and Infrastructure from Johns Hopkins University. I was also appraising homes in Virginia at the time.
I then returned to South Carolina to scale the business. I took every opportunity to learn, attended conferences, read the latest publications, and stay engaged within the industry as best I could. All of this led to the creation of OMMA, which we’re currently preparing to launch.
On the restaurant side, I started working at Outback Steakhouse as a busboy and dishwasher when I was 15 and have worked in the industry ever since. In the Marines, I would go out and get a job as a bartender or bouncer at every active duty station. I continued to work in the industry even when I held 9–5 corporate jobs. I then bought franchise rights for a Tex-Mex concept in Clemson, South Carolina.
I think my education and career history demonstrate that it’s okay to have a non-traditional path, and also that it’s never too late to change gears. In fact, I think that “escaping the world” for a bit was life-changing for me. I encourage anyone unclear of their life direction to pause and take the time to do something different (and maybe unconventional) if they are in the position to do so. You’ll be surprised at how sharp your thinking becomes after clearing your mind for a bit.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
This is a great topic. I’ll start with Parsley & Mint. When the pandemic began, my business partner and I were sitting in an empty restaurant the day after getting shut down. In that moment, we decided to be as positive as possible despite the situation. We had to figure out how we could avoid being in a similar situation again and also how we could better position ourselves when we opened back up. We started thinking about cuisine options and how food is delivered and consumed. We had a working business plan before we decided on the cuisine type for our new concept. The business plan was fast-casual and focused on the latest technology. Essentially, all of the changes we made during the pandemic were incorporated into a new, future-proof plan.
On the real estate appraisal side, I initially thought that appraisals would decline due to COVID as many people in the industry did. But instead, they ramped up due to people being at home, needing to make life changes, using the latest technology, and taking advantage of historically low mortgage rates.
We started getting slammed with refinancing work, but there was a major problem — no one would allow us in their house. That’s when we started relying on desktop and exterior appraisals. I began to think about how the industry might look moving forward. Why couldn’t we continue with these approaches and make them better? The new appraisal process was cutting down on labor and also offering a more affordable option for lenders. I knew there was something there. And this really led to my “aha moment”.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
Within my real estate appraisal business, there was a feature of our workforce management software that allowed us to send a link to the homeowner and then have them send us images back in the form of a report. That’s when a light bulb popped on over my head. All of the sudden, we had better data because it was coming directly from the homeowner. Why not design a software that allowed the end-user to perform their own inspection and then upload it into our appraisal software? It’s simple data conversion, followed by running comps and completing minimal paperwork. And there would be huge savings for the lender. That’s when everything came together for me. We were on to something.
For Parsley & Mint, my “aha moment” occurred while I was working with my classmates at the Culinary Institute of America, where I’m currently pursuing a master’s degree. A particular project was focused on the Mediterranean diet. Suddenly, I realized this style of cuisine could be successfully delivered as our new business plan outlined. In that moment, the business plan was matched with a cuisine, and Parsley & Mint was born. There was no question that we were moving in the right direction.
How are things going with this new initiative?
We have an exceptional business plan for OMMA and are about to launch the product in September at the Valuation Expo in Las Vegas. I really think it’s going to disrupt the industry in a very positive way. We’ll continue to introduce the product to the industry at a series of tradeshows and then roll it out, market by market.
With Parsley & Mint, we’re about to open our second location with plans for a third in the works. We are also expanding our offerings with Parsley & Mint through meal planning, retail products and catering. Everything is moving forward, and it’s exciting to see it all come together. At this point, I’m seeing my “aha moments” really come to fruition.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I was fortunate to have a crew of exceptional leaders in the Marines who were very diverse in terms of their leadership styles. I was able to take the very best from each person’s leadership style and apply it to my own life and career. For instance, I had one superior who was very strict, but he operated in a way that led me to understand why he was strict. I had another who was very compassionate, which really stuck out as a differentiator in the Marines. All of the styles I came across molded my leadership style into what it is today. I like to think my leadership style is more balanced than it would have been had I not been exposed to such diverse leaders.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Everything has been pretty methodical to be honest. However, one really interesting aspect of my journey that has significantly shaped my new direction is the co-working space where I rent an office. Known as Endeavor, it’s a creative and collaborative setting that’s perfectly positioned for networking the right way. With Parsley & Mint, Endeavor led me to find my branding expert, PR firm, and one of our vendors. With OMMA, I found our developers as well as branding and PR. I think it’s really interesting that both of these businesses were truly born as a result of a collaborative co-working space. It’s pretty energizing to think about.
Simply put, I wouldn’t be moving in this new direction if I were merely working from my basement. I would encourage entrepreneurs to get out there and find a communal setting with like-minded people. Get to know them. Hear about their businesses. Grab coffee or a drink. The rest will be history.
What are your five things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You can’t do it all yourself. When I started my first company in 2014, I wanted to do it all on my own. However, I quickly realized that if I wanted to grow and scale the business, I needed experts surrounding me — whether it’s for marketing, branding or accounting. There are only 24 hours in a day, and no one can do it all.
- Follow your instincts. While surrounding yourself with experts is important, it’s critical to keep in mind that YOU are an expert in your own industry. At the end of the day, you know your business best, and the voice in the back of your head is usually right.
- Smart networking is necessary. I think I have a legitimate phobia of being stuck in the hotel ballroom networking events with stale Bud Lights, name tags and five-minute speed dating conversations. However, I do think it’s necessary to position yourself in places where you can meet people in your own industry as well as other industries. It’s all about finding a setting that’s right for you.
- Take time to decompress. To be honest, I struggle with this one. I’m constantly on-go from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed. Most weeks, I’m probably only operating at 50% because I’m burned out. By taking a week off, you can come back at 100%.
- It’s okay to be different. Within certain industries, you’ll find pressure to conform. However, if you are different and unique, you should embrace it. Be a market disruptor, and you’ll end up changing your industry.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Mental wellness is more important than ever right now, and the news can certainly have an impact a person’s well-being. This is one of the reasons I try to limit my news intake. There’s a lot of information out there as well as endless points of view, so I really take everything with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, I try to focus on what I can control.
I pay attention — and everyone should. But at the same time, I would encourage people to limit their news intake. Stay informed, but don’t let it ruin your day. It’s all about balance and also listening to different sources in moderation.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I think we all need to be better to each other. I know, it sounds like a Miss America answer…world peace! But in all seriousness, we need to focus on each other as people and also watch out for each other’s mental health.
While we still need to refocus on rebuilding economies since COVID began — which is obviously very important as a business owner — we also have to focus on people and their wellbeing. Start small. Hold the door open for someone. Ask them how their day is going. Give them a compliment. I just think we can all do better. Sure, there are big problems to solve in the world, but I believe we can all make a difference in how we act and what we do each day.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Absolutely. Chef José Andrés. I’m a big fan of his and have been for a long time. In fact, I just ate at his restaurant, Jaleo, in Orlando last week, and it was phenomenal. Andrés started World Central Kitchen to reach those impacted by disasters, making sure they are fed and taken care of. I’d like to know how he got into this and how I can help. (Who knows, maybe I can do something similar one day.) So many people have been inspired by Andrés, and mostly, I would just want to thank him for what he’s doing in the world and let him know he’s appreciated.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!