Measured Growth with a People-First Pledge
Boyer Building Corp.
When he was 37, Gary Boyer, a professional construction manager with a decade of experience, knew two things: 1) the construction business can be turbulent and 2) he wanted control over his career.
With that in mind, he set out to build his own business in a way that could provide his personal and professional family with as much stability as possible, no matter the economic conditions. His measure of success would not be annual revenue, project size or cost, or even geographic boundaries. It would be consistency, employee satisfaction and market force independence.
Boyer Building Corp. is the realization of that dream. The turnkey general contracting, consulting and construction/program management company has become a leader in the Orlando, Florida, area, specializing in resorts and large properties, all while preserving Boyer’s people-first principles.
Boyer Building Corp. was founded in 2002. At the time, Boyer had worked for 17 years in the construction industry, moving from a day laborer to construction manager after earning a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida’s School of Construction Management.
“Over the course of those years, I learned a lot about the business of construction,” says Boyer. “As a construction manager for one of my employers, I managed more than $80 million in projects. But, I’d always had a vision about running my own business—a dream to build something based on my experience and with my own personal philosophy.”
The opportunity came soon after 9/11, when the economy slowed, and Boyer was laid off. He had just turned 37, with a wife who was just returning to work and two young children. He had an offer to work directly for one of his former employer’s clients but turned the job down.
With very little savings, he formed Boyer Building Corp. Now all he had to do was find clients.
Boyer’s first business opportunity would come from a nearby homeowner’s association subdivision. The association needed a county variance, permit and construction of a wall.
He got the county approval and proceeded to construct the wall predominantly by himself, and then used the earnings from that project as seed money for his new company. His first big client was Orlando, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Lake Buena Vista in 2003. At a friend’s recommendation, the director of engineering at the hotel contacted Boyer about a $105,000 job to replace rotting wood trellises that stretched 100 feet up the exterior walls of the hotel. Other contractors were reluctant to take on the job because of the danger.
Excited about the opportunity and not afraid of heights, Boyer borrowed a lift, completed the inspection, put the drawings together and got the job. He also hired his first Superintendent, Kenny Knighten, a skilled craftsman who Boyer knew from previous jobs. Knighten started his career in the citrus manufacturing industry at 19 years old. When he got laid off, he went into construction as a laborer and carpenter’s apprentice and worked his way up. Prior to Boyer, he was working for a small doors and hardware company as its Superintendent.
Before the trellis job was scheduled to begin, Boyer bid on and won another job, this time with Marriott’s Cypress Harbour Villas, for an $85,000 lobby renovation. With their industry connections, he hired carpenters and others with specialty skills, such as fire sprinkler installers, to help with the job.
Boyer recalls, “Both the trellis job and the lobby renovation went really well. I was excited and confident in our abilities—and now we had money in the bank and proven experience on our own.” The Marriott brand has since become Boyer’s most valuable client. He adds, “I’ve been working on projects for Marriott Resorts all over Central Florida continuously for 13 years straight, facilitating renovations worth over $50 million.”
In 2017, Boyer Building Corp. was named to the University of Florida’s 2017 Gator100 and ranked No. 38 among the honorees. Sponsored by the University of Florida Alumni Association, in partnership with the University of Florida Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center, the Gator100 recognizes the 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or led by University of Florida alumni around the world.
Since the early days, Boyer’s core team has grown to 12.
Knighten, Boyer’s first employee and now Vice President of Operations, says, “I’m proud of the company and the way Gary runs this business. He does what he promises and never reneges on a deal.” Knighten recalls the early days when the trust between the two was cemented. He says, “During a slow period, Gary and I had a conversation about the future. At the time, I was 43 and working for him on an hourly basis as superintendent. I told him that I can’t survive on 20 hours a week. He said, ‘I can’t promise you anything, but if you’ll stick with me, I’ll make it worth your while.’ Of course, I’d heard that a thousand times from other employers. But I stuck with him and have never regretted it. He does what he says, every time.”
Knighten believes that what draws employees to the company is Boyer’s business ethic. He adds, “Most companies are first focused on the bottom dollar. But Boyer takes pride in his employees. He runs it like a family business and actively looks to reward good work with advancements from within. Everyone has the chance for new opportunities—all they have to do is work hard and ask.” For instance, Matt Johnson joined in 2010, with over 28 years of experience managing large projects, including the $227 million Hilton Orlando Hotel and Convention Center on 6001 Destination Pkwy in Orlando. Johnson came to work as Boyer’s Director of Operations and a few years later was promoted to Vice President. Similarly, David Plyler started as Superintendent in 2012 and is now Construction Manager.
Boyer hired Kizzy Ferrer in 2013. She had been working with an electrical contractor, but wasn’t happy. Boyer says, “I liked Kizzy from our first meeting. She’s a dynamic woman with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. While she didn’t have a lot of general contracting experience, she had the right attitude. She is everything any owner would look for in an employee. We can teach most any skill; but nothing replaces energy and a willingness to learn and work hard.” Today, Kizzy has moved from Project Coordinator to Assistant Project Manager.
The Human Factor
Looking back at the company’s growth and his employees, Boyer acknowledges that, as the owner, he feels a huge responsibility to his team. He adds, “I worry about them. I know their families. In fact, I personally hired every individual on my core team. They’re talented, hardworking and I like them as individuals—not every owner can say that.”
It’s also why he does all he can to help them grow as individuals and professionals. For instance, he offers education and continuing education programs, such as Dale Carnegie® leadership training courses. He’s also highly supportive of associations such as the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), of which Ferrer is now the President-Elect.
As a woman in construction, Ferrer says, “I have a voice and chance to step up. That’s huge. When I consider the tremendous support and mentorship I’ve received from the leadership at Boyer, I couldn’t have wished for a better place to land. One of the things I love most about working for Gary are his sentiments about giving back to the community. This is the first employer that I’ve worked for that echoes the importance of giving back as one of its core tenets.”
Ferrer points to Boyer’s contributions to the Habitat for Humanity 2017 Women Build event. Ferrer continues, “I told him that I was raising money for and participating in the event, and without hesitation he matched each donation. He’s my role model, leading with compassion and teaching others to lead by being the best example of leadership yourself.”
Boyer especially takes pride in hearing his employees say how much they love coming to work. He explains, “I know I’ve done something right, because I hear laughter every day in our office. I’ve made a conscious decision to try to create a stable company. I stay away from low-cost-driven projects, instead focusing on negotiated relationships. It’s hard for any owner to be human when pushed by inhuman specifications.”
Even during the recession, Boyer managed to keep his people, noting, “I’d been through those cycles enough in the early days of my career. It’s important to me that we’re balanced and as recession-proof as possible.”
Pride of Place
Like it’s done throughout its history, Boyer Building Corp. continues to take on projects of all sizes. The team will do a $20,000 job one day and a $3 million job the next. Boyer adds, “Our job is to take the stress off our clients by handling work from permitting through construction; we’re a one-stop shop, all with a sensitivity to a hospitality client’s guests.”
The company regularly works for the major hospitality operations in the Orlando area, including Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort, Walt Disney World, DoubleTree by Hilton and, of course, the Marriott companies. It’s also completed a few public projects, including school renovations and work for both Brevard County, City of Orlando and City of Winter Haven.
When asked about his vision for growth, Boyer is quick to say, “It’s not how big we are, but how we perform and that we’re doing things the right way. I never want to put myself in a position where I must win a project to keep the lights on. Controlled, deliberate growth on our terms is the vision.”
The business is run debt-free with a $25 million bonding capacity and an enviable experience modification rate of .71, along with a track record of successful projects and trusted clients. “We’re kind of the David in a world of Goliaths in many ways,” Boyer explains. “I don’t see us as just a commercial contractor—we are a family of professionals, essentially a team of problem solvers that builds projects and has fun in the process.”
Vicki Speed is a freelance writer based in Colorado.