The combination of a career in the medical field while simultaneously developing and operating businesses in the construction and real estate fields is a unique journey that would be unlikely to occur, but that is exactly what Rachael Boyer did. Despite focusing her education and career in the medical field, Boyer developed a taste for business as she and her husband, Jeff, launched and grew their specialty coatings company and later diversified into several other businesses in the real estate and construction industry. After years of working as a Physician Assistant and later as a Vice President of Operations for a healthcare system, Boyer made the decision to officially retire from healthcare and focus solely on the businesses and create new opportunities to serve her community. As a result, she assumed the role of CEO for The Coatings Authority and The Home Authority.
During her transition from healthcare to strictly business operations, Boyer spent six months advancing her business knowledge from experienced business professionals across the country. Once she acquired this “street smart” business knowledge, which she describes as lessons that were never taught during her MBA, Boyer put a ten-year plan in place to take the businesses to the next level.
Under Boyer’s leadership, The Coatings Authority was rebranded from the originating company and later diversified into a sister company, The Home Authority, where Boyer serves as a general contractor for custom new home construction, remodeling, and design. Boyer evaluated the originating company’s past customers and projects, and for her, it was common sense to transform and diversify to grow these companies to unprecedented levels, while planning for the development of additional companies.
Since making the transition, the company has thrived and Boyer has never once regretted leaving her medical career behind. After 23 years in business, Boyer sees her passion growing stronger with every completed project and continues to do what she loves, serving the customer and community.
Rachael, you have worked in both the healthcare and construction industry. How did you get your start in these careers, and how did you develop them both simultaneously?
As I was growing up and learning more about what my interests were, I had no interest whatsoever in business. I had no background in business or construction. I had many interests, but I didn’t quite know how to tap into anything in particular. When I went to college, I decided to go down the medical school route. I elected to become a physician assistant, which ultimately led me to my career in general surgery where I performed advanced laparoscopy and launched a bariatric program and a nutrition program for the healthcare system I was working in.
While I was going to school and completing my training as a Physician Assistant, my husband decided he wanted to launch a business that would allow him to be in the construction trade. So, we launched The Brush’s End Painting Company in 1996. For both of us, our interest in the business grew because we didn’t have a choice! We had one income with running this business. We had to make the business work. We had no business knowledge, but I knew it was the only thing we could do to keep our income coming in while I completed my education.
As we worked together building our business, I started to really develop a passion for business and construction. After I finished my medical training, I had the best of both worlds by being gainfully employed in the medical field while also being an entrepreneur with my husband. However, I felt I needed to have more formal business training. So, I completed my MBA and received my masters in business administration while still working both in the business and medical field. Following that, I left my career as a Physician Assistant and transitioned into a Vice President role within a large healthcare system in the upper Midwest.
In that time, again, I was able to fulfill my passion because there were many different growth strategies both for the internal programs I operated in the healthcare system and related to the construction of the facility. I was able to use my knowledge from our business to inform the choices I made in my leadership role in the medical world.
In 2016, you retired from healthcare and started focusing your time exclusively on the construction business. How did that decision come about and where did you start once you became a full-time CEO?
I made the choice to retire from healthcare because I decided I had missed a lot of opportunities with my family and with growing our business as I was spread pretty thin. I decided to retire completely from healthcare and make the transition into full-time running, operating, and growing our businesses.
I went on a six-month journey to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up! I traveled around the country and learned from the most brilliant leaders in business about what I would consider to be “street smart” business strategies versus traditional business training I had received with my MBA. There’s a big difference between getting a college education with an MBA versus getting some very practical tools and tips for launching, growing, expanding, modifying, and changing your business. Fortunately, I was able to connect with and learn from some of the brightest minds in business.
After that six-month journey, I had a complete plan for the next five to ten years. I started executing that plan, which began with the rebranding of The Coatings Authority. As a result, The Brush’s End, Concrete FX, and Blast FX were merged under the new company, The Coatings Authority. Over the course of twenty-three years in business, we had been offering remodeling services under the painting company. This was an incredibly natural transition for me. I worked one-on-one with customers to complete custom coating projects, specifically cabinet refinishing, painting, and concrete coatings, and consistently found myself in the middle of full-scale remodel projects with these same customers. What started as cabinet refinishing more often than not led to multiple remodel projects. These experiences led me to ultimately rebrand this side of the business under The Home Authority to serve as a general contractor for custom home construction, remodeling, and design.
My passion within this business stems from making the process as enjoyable as the end result – ensuring that each family is getting something custom tailored to them. I don’t believe in a “one size fits all” approach to home remodeling or custom home building, as every family’s design desires and functional needs are so unique to them. I also believe that efficient remodeling and new construction is absolutely a possibility when the planning and scheduling phases are executed correctly. Being able to work with a family to bring their remodeling or custom home dreams to life in a way that makes sense to them, is efficient, and is ultimately a reflection of their family is incredibly fulfilling to me.
Boyer is one of those special business people who love a challenge. She is the type of person who needs to compete for success to feel fulfilled as a CEO. It is a unique trait in which long stretches without challenges make her bored. Fortunately, every project her companies undertake is a test. Each offers Boyer the chance to piece the projects together to deliver the best possible end product for clients.
What motivates you in growing a business from the ground up?
Simply put, I love a challenge. I don’t ever like to feel bored in what I am doing, and starting from scratch presents me with that metaphorical mountain to climb. I am also very capable of seeing a project unfold in my head, understanding where things need to start, the steps that need to be taken, and visualizing the ultimate goal from day one.
Putting the pieces of the puzzle together is exciting to me, and I find the prospect of a large-scale project incredibly exciting. I like to say I bring projects from “zero to hero” – whether it is a kitchen in complete disarray, a networking group that needs a focus and purpose, or a business idea that must be brought to fruition. The grand ideas, being the person driving the vision and the bigger picture, excite me so much more than focusing solely on the day-to-day. Of course, these daily to-dos are fundamental to a successful business, but I strive to juggle both the fundamentals and the dreams simultaneously.
Boyer’s companies have seen incredible growth with more than a 300% growth year over year. Her goal-oriented focus has enabled the businesses to increase, improve, and develop. Through her learning, Boyer found out she must share the company’s value with customers. Only then would they know just how special her companies are and the value they bring to the customer and community.
You have seen tremendous success with your companies year after year. How have you achieved this incredible success?
What I found was my success came when I started to really focus on our businesses versus being distracted and pulled in so many different directions. I started with a very strategic and specific branding plan and marketing scheme to grow the companies. Previously, we didn’t focus on marketing. My marketing budget was around $90 a month! We grew by word of mouth because of our quality. Our intention when we launched our first company was not to be the biggest but to be known as the best. What I learned in my six-month journey is that if I don’t share the value I bring to the community or to my customer, to the patient, or the client, then I’m actually ripping people off.
We started sharing the value we bring. We started sharing the difference in our company, in the quality we produced, and in the services we provide. That made a huge difference in the success of our companies because it positioned us with our brand to be known as the best in our community.
The other thing we did to differentiate and to create success was to focus on a blue ocean strategy. One example of this is that we officially named the proprietary process we created over the course of twenty-three years in business. We are now currently in the process of trademarking the name – The AUTHORICOAT Process. The AUTHORICOAT Process allows us to differentiate ourselves in the market and do things in a way no other company does. We are able to tap into a variety of different niches and offer services and products that other companies aren’t able to. The success came with a focus, a very strategic and specific branding plan, and a very specific marketing plan.
How difficult is it to deal with rapid business growth, and what are some of the mistakes you avoided?
When we originally launched The Brush’s End Painting Company twenty-three years ago, we had no business knowledge. We made so many mistakes because we had poor information coming our way. We tried to just do it on our own. We tried to pay for everything on our own. When we started growing the company and started learning and obtaining more business knowledge, training, and focus, we still continued to make some of those mistakes. We didn’t anticipate the number of resources, cash on hand, and employees it would require to be able to support our growth efforts.
When we really started growing The Coatings Authority in 2016, we were in a position where everything looked fabulous on paper, but our employees couldn’t keep up with the growth. We had to adjust our actual strategy and our revenue growth plans. We also had to create the systems and processes we needed to be able to ramp up and train our employees on our AUTHORICOAT Process to avoid the issues of not being able to serve our customers in a timely fashion.
We had to be willing to back up in order to go forward. That was a bit of a tough learning curve to figure out the math behind how many employees we needed to cover that growth and make sure we had the right people in place in order to take that journey further. When we launched The Home Authority, we did that entirely differently than we had with the original company, The Brush’s End Painting Company. We had a very clear strategic plan. We had a very specific branding and marketing message all built before we launched.
We launched, and in our second month, we hit our break-even point. It was very different from the process and the journey we went through with The Coatings Authority. A lot of that just came from what I would consider failing forward for many years! I am a risk taker. So, I never thought of it as failing. I just thought of it as opportunities and obstacles to overcome. However, it was a lot more refreshing to be able to launch The Home Authority and not go through the same pain points as I did with The Coatings Authority and the previous businesses.
Often, businesses struggle to change with the times or adapt to trends. According to Boyer, The Coatings Authority and The Home Authority have been ahead of the curve during their two decades-plus in business. The company prides itself on its diversity and it is diversification that keeps Boyer and company on the forefront of the construction industry.
You launched your first business in 1996. How has the industry changed in the last two decades, and how have you adapted to those changes?
As the market shifted in our business, we shifted with the market. We have typically been ahead of the market by five years. We were first to market in a lot of the different specialty things related to construction. These shifts have always kept us at the forefront of innovation and have kept us challenged and interested in what we are doing. We have intentionally set our strategic plan for diversification.
I think a lot of business owners and contractors don’t focus on the future. They don’t have a good grasp of what’s coming and how the market is shifting. I’ve always had a great desire to understand what’s going to be happening five to ten years from now. Now, no one can specifically predict, but because the industry has changed, we’ve really had to learn how to diversify in advance of industry changes. We adapt to those changes by being ahead of the game, by being many years ahead of the curve.
We’re constantly looking at shifting our businesses around to accommodate the growth and the changes that are happening in the market right now. New home construction in our area is down 40%. A lot of the new home construction contractors who haven’t diversified are finding themselves in a difficult position.
We adapt and adjust to the market trends strategically and at a more rapid pace than our competitors. We tend to launch and start things more quickly than most others may feel comfortable with. I do a lot of research. I look at the population and what their current needs are, not just in the real estate and construction industry, but also in the retail industry and the technology industry. I look at what the shifts are in those industries and identify how they might impact how we’re serving our customers and the community. For any business owners, it’s a good idea to look outside your industry and be aware of what’s coming down the pipeline in order to adjust your business before the change happens.
The Home Authority and The Coatings Authority have always been family-run businesses. Of course, that comes with its own issues. But Boyer believes getting the right work-life balance has benefited her and her family since the day they opened the companies’ doors.
What are some of the issues involved with running a company with someone you spend so much time with outside of the office? As a wife and mother, how difficult is it to get the work-life balance right while running your own companies?
With the amount of potential around me and the ideas I love to always have brewing, I could easily give up on sleeping and work around the clock! Of course, this is not realistic, and burnout and job fatigue are two things I seek to avoid at all costs. If I am not happy and healthy, I cannot give the level of energy I want to give to my big ideas, cannot keep everything running smoothly across the multitude of businesses I am responsible for, and am unable to be there for my clients who depend on me to give doses of confidence throughout their building or remodeling process. Even more importantly, if I am giving too much to work, I cannot be the person I want to be for my family – and they are absolutely number one in my life. Creating a schedule that makes sense, knowing when to step away, and understanding that in order to do it all I have to accept it all may not get done immediately. These are all keys to maintaining a semblance of balance.
While I was practicing as a Physician Assistant and later as a healthcare executive, I missed out on a lot of life with my family. I missed out on a lot of time with our son growing up and missed out on time with Jeff. If I wasn’t at work for the healthcare company, I was working on our businesses. I completed my MBA during that process. What I found was that our son was becoming more absorbed in reading books instead of interacting with us. When I started waking up to the real world after I left healthcare and just focused on the business and my family, I realized we had missed out on a lot of years of having that work-life balance. We made a conscious effort to not miss any more years together.
What is your approach to networking within your community?
Networking is fundamental to growth both as a business and as a person. Word of mouth has been critical for my businesses, which is the biggest compliment I can ask for. I attribute this both to completing projects above and beyond my customers’ expectation and being a familiar face in my community. Working with people in other fields, growing groups of like-minded people seeking to help each other develop professionally, and engaging with people doing unique and exciting things are all key to bettering myself and my businesses.
I am involved in several networking groups, both locally and internationally, and I find that I not only receive but have the opportunity to give back within these groups. I have also been licensed as a coach and trainer so I can better communicate and help others in the business world. I’ve been able to have the experience of learning and being taught by incredible business owners and leaders in business from across the country and internationally. I love the opportunity to share that same teaching and training and methodology I’ve learned from them. I don’t offer coaching and training as a profession, but I love to share any of the knowledge I have through speaking engagements and business training events.
Boyer doesn’t stand around too long, and you will never find moss growing on her feet. She is constantly coming up with new ideas, plans, and businesses. This year she will be launching a few new businesses that aim to sustain the growth of her existing businesses. It is a proactive plan that will see Boyer continue her around-the-clock work schedule.
You are an entrepreneur who seems to have several projects going on concurrently. What do you have on tap for 2019 and beyond?
In 2019, we are launching a few new businesses that will help us better improve our service to the community and will help sustain the growth of our existing companies.
We are currently in the process of launching a new model in how we serve our community from the construction and real estate perspectives. We’re launching in advance of knowing what’s happening with our millennial population, how the next generation likes to be able to plan their lives, and what they want. We also have to be able to accommodate the changes of the Baby Boomers who are now transitioning in their lives in the real estate and housing industry as well. In this model, we will be utilizing technology as a key to the development and operation of these companies.
We’re also diversifying into another company model that will allow us to reach a population we typically haven’t worked with in the past. We are focusing on providing access to high-quality affordable housing opportunities and serving customers who are looking for financial education in relation to real estate. We will have a financial education platform for renters or new home buyers, so they can prepare for their next stage in their life. Many people don’t really have the financial education to get their credit scores where they need to be to be able to afford a mortgage or really know what they can afford. With our experience and expertise in the housing industry, we know we can serve our community by giving people the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about renting and homeownership while serving customers along their life journey.
What is your advice to other female entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
Do it, jump in, go for it. Don’t hesitate. I am in the custom home, remodeling, and real estate businesses because I have a passion for it, I am successful at it, and I see potential in it. I want to empower other women to feel the same way, to go after goals and careers they are passionate about, regardless of who typically fills the shoes they wish to fill.
Any entrepreneur who has a vision, but doesn’t know how to execute on launching and actually starting, needs to get the support they need, instead of trying to do it all on their own. Jeff and I spent so many years funding our businesses, trying to do all the accounting, trying to do all of the employee management, all of those different things on our own versus hiring people who were skilled in those areas to help us. As an entrepreneur looking to start your own business, work with people who have the ability to complement your skillset to help drive whatever it is that you’re looking to launch.
I would also advise people to be very careful about what they share, how fast they share it, and whom they share it with. Additionally, financially prepare and separate yourself legally from your businesses. Have a very good plan in place financially and legally to create that separation.
Finally, don’t spend too much time writing up a strategic plan and business plan. Have the specific things you know you need to have in place and then launch. Allow the shifts in the business and industry along with the ebbs and flows to naturally lead you in the next direction. A lot of people have these great ideas, but just don’t know how to get started. They think they have to do this one, two, three step plan. Instead, they just have to take a step. They lose their opportunity because someone else comes to market before them. So, do your research, take the necessary steps to prepare, but don’t suffer from paralysis of analysis. Take the risk and move forward!
The last two decades-plus have been non-stop for Boyer and her businesses. Despite the success she has gained in the real estate, construction, and remodeling sectors, it doesn’t appear she will be slowing down anytime soon. Having reached great heights in her industry, Boyer will simply look for the next challenge as she provides customers and community with the best businesses possible.
By Drew Farmer
Images courtesy of Studio Three Beau
Journalist and author. Contributor