— By Beverly Raphael Altman —
At RCC Associates, we are not strangers to adversity or challenges facing our industry.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was intended to run in May 2020 but was sidelined along with many other articles due to the onset of the coronavirus epidemic. We are running it for you here now, as a break from COVID-related material.]
There is no shortage of challenges when it comes to being a leading commercial general contractor specializing in restaurant and retail construction. At RCC Associates, we are not strangers to adversity. In 1998, my husband — the company’s founder, Richard Raphael — passed away, leaving me to lead the firm as a lone female president and CEO in a largely male-dominated industry. Here are some of the philosophies we practice remaining relevant and overcome challenges within an ever-evolving landscape.
Surround Yourself With a Great Team
When I assumed the helm of RCC, it was very uncommon for a woman to be president
and CEO of a construction company. However, the team my late husband had assembled and nurtured embraced having a female leader, including our EVP and my partner still, Rick Rhodes. Back then it was rare, especially in construction, for a company to espouse an open-door policy and family-friendly working environment, but I developed the company’s culture to fit my style — and it worked. As a result, we’ve both maintained and attracted new talent which has allowed us to remain reliable within the industry, build trust, retain repeat business and deliver superior quality and service. Our seasoned team paired with favorable economic conditions and a “building boom” have allowed these past few years to be some of our best in the business. Since 1998, we have grown from $17 million average annual revenue with around 20 employees, to close to $100 million with 90 employees, and licensed in 33 U.S. states. We’re also the Number 1 woman-owned business for 5 years running as per the South Florida Business Journal.
Be Willing to Adapt
Despite our nearly 50 years of success, there are challenges that we consistently face. Often clients — particularly independent owners or those new-to-market — don’t fully understand the time they need on the up-front in order to set themselves up for success. From the time they sign a lease, the clock is ticking. When we are officially engaged during the preconstruction process, as was the case with Time Out Market Miami, the 18,000-square-foot experiential food hall, bar and entertainment venue that we completed in 2019, our team was brought on 7 months prior to groundbreaking by the client and construction management firm, Stys Hospitality Initiative, in order to help drive the schedule and manage costs. Consultants such as architects, designers, engineers, etc. need to be carefully selected based on areas of expertise and suitability for the specific project. We don’t want clients to be paying rent on a space that they’re not able to occupy. Particularly in the restaurant world, a significant delay can be the difference between a successful opening and a death sentence. Of course, construction is an imperfect process, and — most critically — all players need to develop a partnership in the common aim of ensuring the client’s success, proactively anticipating and working together to create solutions to inevitable challenges.
As a premier restaurant contractor based in the Southeast, we’re fortunate to partner with some of the most talented and creative designers and architects in the world. From that vantage point, we know that embracing new trends is a must when designing and building today’s commercial spaces. Consumer behavior is changing, so it’s vital to remain relevant. For restaurants, that means creating a dynamic and unique ambience that won’t be easily duplicated by competitors. We are lucky to be headquartered in sunny South Florida where the weather is usually our friend. Al fresco seating and rooftop bars are de rigueur, and we have developed an expertise in their construction, with relevant considerations including retractable roofing, waterproofing, hurricane codes and structural/load requirements. One of our recent projects, MILA — a stunning “Mediterr-Asian” restaurant, lounge and bar on Miami Beach’s famed Lincoln Road designed by L.A.-based OV & Co. — is a perfect example. The 13,000-square-foot rooftop venue (pictured below) is comprised of a 150-seat interior dining room and expansive terrace featuring a series of reflecting pools. It was an incredibly complex and nuanced build, and I’m proud to say that our team exceeded all expectations.
As we move forward and grow as a firm in this ever-changing construction landscape, above all we strive to remain true to these principles. I’m confident that they are so deeply ingrained in our talented team of professionals, especially our vice president of operations and my daughter Robyn Raphael-Dynan, that RCC will continue to build not only projects — but relationships — for another 50 years.
— Beverly Raphael Altman is president and CEO of RCC Associates, a leading commercial general contractor specializing in restaurant and retail construction based in South Florida. For more information, visit www.rccassociates.com.