Hank Rupp did what every professor dreams their students do: he took class concepts from his EMBA program at the Argyros School of Business and Economics and applied them in real life.

When learning about the idea of Competitive Advantage, Rupp knew he had one with his 36 square mile ranch and its unique tasting room status. Rupp is the Chief Operating Officer of Rancho Guejito, a 23,000-acre property in Escondido that is entirely licensed as a tasting room. Because the whole property is licensed, Rancho Guejito can offer tastings to guests anywhere onsite. Rupp knew he could deliver experiences no other winery could match: wine tastings that shuttle guests to multiple locations on the ranch by way of helicopter, giving aerial tours in the process. The Argyros School’s emphasis of pushing students to innovate and think outside-the-box facilitated Rupp’s development of the idea while completing projects during his EMBA program.

Rupp took his time in the EMBA program seriously, always looking for ways to apply his studies in his day job, and the Chapman MBA allowed him to do that. Along with the technical skills he learned, Rupp recalls “innovation training” he received, where he and classmates were encouraged to think differently and in ways to develop something unique. In addition to the helicopter tour, there is live music at each stop of the tasting that allows visitors a look back in history not available anywhere else, wine tour or otherwise.

Rancho Guejito encompasses the last undivided Mexican land grant in the state and is virtually unchanged from its granting in 1845. Showing guests this protected and unchanged property, bringing them back in time hundreds or thousands of years, represents another way in-class concepts were applied in the real world. Rupp and Rancho Guejito have resources that are truly impossible to imitate anywhere else, so they developed a strategy to align their capabilities with their strategic thinking and exploit their competitive advantage.

Another classroom concept was instrumental in the development of a different wine tour option. Rupp took the idea of Market-Based Management (MBM®) learned in his Organization and Management class and applied it, empowering employees to give suggestions that advance the company and ranch together. Frontline employees often have unique ideas that bring value others do not think of, so going directly to those most familiar with the tours for ways to improve or innovate guest experiences opened new possibilities. This openness brought the suggestion of hay rides as a more economical alternative to helicopter tours, an option coming soon. Rupp’s application of MBM® opened a new way to attract guests and is another example of taking the Chapman MBA curriculum and finding a direct way of implementing it to improve business.

EMBA classes visit Rancho Guejito each year as part of their first residential in San Diego.

Hank Rupp was a successful business leader before beginning the EMBA program at the Argyros School, but his time here made him an even more effective and stronger leader.

Read the San Diego Union-Tribune’s recent review of Rancho Guejito’s helicopter wine tour.