It’s not hard to see that Amy Hass is a person of intrigue. After all, she is the CEO of one of the most prominent real estate development companies in the metro. EPIC Companies, a company she took a chance on and joined as the first employee back in 2016. She is only 32 years old and is constantly looking to improve.
We talked about all of that and more!
How did you end up in this line of work?
I was working retail at the time and I wanted to get out of working nights and weekends, and I am good friends with the former marketing person at Spicy Pie (the President of EPIC Companies Todd Berning owns Spicy Pie). And so they told me about a position that had open for a new company that Todd was starting. I was interested in the opportunity, so I went in and interviewed. I like to say each of us kind of gave each other a shot. From there, I started leasing out our apartments and worked my way up.
Was there any sort of apprehension with such a big shift in industries?
I was nervous as I’d never done anything like this before, however; I was told on the first day—and it’s stuck with me—that EPIC will always have my back. If you screw up on something, think of it as a learning opportunity. That original message was valuable for me because I taught myself a lot through different channels/research and slowly created policies and procedures as we grew.
What were some of the larger learning curves you had to adjust to?
I would say property management in general: how it’s run, how leases work, how security deposits work, really anything involving the renting of an apartment. I had no experience in the industry so in the beginning I wore a lot of hats and learned a lot. I’m glad I went through the ins and outs of the organization as I feel more knowledgeable about what I do now.
Where do you find purpose in your job?
There are several things, but the most meaningful is EPIC’s community enhancement aspect. Being able to do great things for our local communities really drives me. Our employees also give me purpose day in and day out!. I love hearing their ideas, watching them learn alongside me, and seeing dreams become reality. We cultivate an atmosphere of continual learning and growth at EPIC.
What’s it like being part of a company that has really taken off in such a short amount of time?
I feel very blessed to have started with EPIC in 2016 and to see how it’s evolved over the years. It’s been thrilling to be part of the growth and celebrate the wins and losses with such an empowering team.
On another note, it’s also very humbling. When I was originally interviewed, my boss had sketched out a version of The Lights and downtown West Fargo on a napkin. At that time, I was unsure how the community would accept a project like that but being part of the process and seeing the passion as it came to fruition was incredible.
What do you think have been the keys to that success?
I think communication is the key to success and something that we strive to work on each day. One of our values is to evolve and adapt, as we continue to grow, we’re constantly learning and improving with each project. Our employee engagement and culture are also important to our entire team. We love hearing ideas that help us build a culture where employees thrive and feel valued.
In what ways does EPIC try to differentiate itself from similar companies in the area?
I would say creating communities within communities. We have truly changed the meaning of live, work, and play. Our mixed-use projects set us apart whether it’s the commercial space, apartments, plaza spaces, or even now bringing condos, hotels, and a waterpark to the mix we are trying to think on step ahead. At the end of the day, creating a heightened quality of life for our tenants is what we are about.
What do you look for in commercial tenants?
We look for an extensive variety of commercial tenants whether it’s office, retail, customer-serve, you name it, and we have a space for you. With mixed-use, it’s important to have active tenants who bring customers in throughout the day including businesses such as bar/restaurants, retail shops, coffee shops, and more.
We want tenants who are community-driven and want to enhance the area they’re in. Our commercial tenants are partners of ours who often can see the vision before it’s a reality.
So you have EPIC Events, EPIC Charities, Construction by EPIC and EPIC Realty all under the EPIC Companies umbrella. How do you manage to oversee all of that?
It’s a team effort for sure, I always credit the people behind the scenes and at the end of the day it’s about. Having good leaders in place honestly. Our Vice Presidents are very knowledgeable in their departments and lead the day-to-day. I work with them one-on-one to discuss budgets, strategic planning, the future, goal setting, etc. I really rely on that group to help run the company and allow myself to see the long-term goals of our company.
Time management is crucial when in a leadership role because time it is a finite resource. I’m in a book club with another CEO in town, and we strategize together as we read through the books. I recently finished The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni which opened my eyes to a number of ways I can become a better leader. Delegating and leaning on your leaders—along with hiring correctly—are also really important for a company to be successful.
Our company culture centers on relationship building, and we hire on “heart.” If you’re a good fit for EPIC, we’ll find a role for you. We work hard to keep our environment fun and upbeat, and we’re always learning and adapting as we go. Surrounding yourself with good people is huge and sets our team apart from others.
When you say “hire on heart” what type of person is a good fit for EPIC?
I would say someone who is passionate about being part of a community project. Our developments are full circle from start to finish and we play a large role in getting them to feel that way. We always say we’re involved with the community inside and outside of our four walls.
We have a volunteer committee (Volunteering by EPIC) that includes more than half of our employees on staff. We volunteer our time and donate monetary donations throughout the area. This has really changed our company culture and we love it when our employees get involved!
Going back to that meteoric rise, what were some of the biggest hurdles that EPIC faced?
The most recent one I am continuing to work on is making sure we don’t lose our culture as we gain employees. That’s one topic I’ve been sure to read about! When we’re doing our strategic planning, it’s something we take into consideration and make sure our culture isn’t diluting because of our growth. Many of our employees want to work here because of the team atmosphere and culture that has been created.
Is that ability to learn from mistakes that we talked about earlier something you try to bring to employees now that you’re in management?
Yes! No risk, no reward. We have our employees’ backs and letting them learn from mistakes is a crucial part of their development.
Did you know?
EPIC Companies is an avid supporter of the arts and proudly displays local work in the hallways!
What do you do with your free time?
My free time is spent with my family and friends. My two nephews, I don’t have any kids, are a big part of my world. They’re 10 and 11 and they live in South Dakota and I try to see them as often as I can. I enjoy reading and doing puzzles and watching Golden Girls. That’s probably the gist of it.
We touched on your reading a little bit earlier. Are you always reading business-oriented books?
Yes, I’m typically focused on reading leadership books, but I also read a lot of books on personal growth.
Do you feel like doing puzzles and whatnot helps your brain? Is that part of your strategy as a business professional?
Absolutely, another thing I try to do is sudokus because it’s a different type of brain break and it helps me distress.
How recently did you start doing that?
In the last couple of years. I’ve also started to take piano lessons to utilize a different part of my brain. That has been really fun.
Was there anything specific that spurred these new activities?
Honestly, when I turned 30, I entered a bit of a self-discovery journey. This journey has helped me not only personally, but also professionally develop into a better leader.
What does self-discovery look like for you?
Trying new things and understanding more about myself as a person. For some reason, I was nervous about turning 30. I’d experienced business success, but on the personal side, I had a lot to learn.
I do really enjoy my job, what I do, and the people I’m surrounded with. I enjoy working so much that I realized I was ignoring the nonwork side of my life. Thankfully, I now recognize just how important it is to have downtime as well. It has helped me become a better leader by; not being solely focused on work all the time. Life is short so we must enjoy each day!