Working Through Word-of-Mouth
Rich Byer’s Construction
Business Grew Successful
Based on His Reputation
Rich Byer was hard at work the second day on his first project as a general contractor when someone came by and said, “I know how to do that job in two hours.”
Those words stuck with Byer for the rest of the week as he finished up a 1,000-square-foot private chapel in San Bernardino. They continued to stick with him down through the years since building the project in 1977. The will to do it faster and better burned white-hot within him from that day on, he says.
Today, Byer, 45, president of Bycor General Contractors Inc. in Mira Mesa, can look back on his dream all those years ago with pride. He can look around him to see the realization of that dream brought about by his skill and his will, to a company that made the 12th spot on the San Diego Business Journal’s 1999 List of Largest Area Building Contractors.
Bycor General Contractors had gross revenues of $50 million last year, up from $49 million in 1998 and $31.6 million in 1997.
Along the way to the top, he learned the skill of working with people and new technology to increase his corporate stamina. He also defined his management style in four basic rules:
1. Lead by example.
2. Take care of your employees financially and emotionally.
3. Give clients the absolutely best value for the money.
4. Stand behind what you do.
Byer, born Dec. 30, 1954, in San Bernardino to a plumbing contractor father and a homemaker mother, dreamed of being self-employed while a business administration student at the University of California, Berkeley in the mid-1970s
He dropped out, worked in construction, and when he got his general contractor’s license in 1977 he started work on his dream.
The chapel project was followed by several years’ worth of custom-home building in the Inland Empire and North County after a move to Solana Beach in 1977.
After dealing with nit-picking new-homeowners who kept him busy making minor cosmetic corrections to their new houses, Byer landed his first commercial construction job, an industrial tenant improvement project in Oceanside in 1981.
“It was a whole different type of clientele,” he says with relief. “I was referred to the job by a real estate broker friend, and that is kind of the way our commercial construction business has continued , through referrals.”
He estimates the company’s business comes 85 percent of the time from referrals. He, Scott Kaats, CEO, Van Smith, vice president, Scott Hodges and Wayne Brunton, project managers and the rest of the 85-member staff have built close to 7 million square feet of tenant improvements since 1981, he says.
“We’ve also done 6 million square feet of building shells, mostly concrete industrial tilt-ups and wood frame retail projects,” Byer says.
After all those hot years in San Bernardino, he admits he likes the cool ocean breezes of Encinitas where he, his wife, Connie, live with two of their three children, Rachel, 10, and Blake, 7. Another son, Chad 23, does not live at home, he said.
Byer, who donated construction work to help remodel the Downtown YWCA and Monarch High School there, is active in the Encinitas YMCA’s Indian Guides-Indian Princess program. He also raises funds for the organization.
He frequently donates construction materials, hauling them to Habitat for Humanity’s construction thrift store in Lemon Grove.
When he’s not reading aloud to his younger children, Byer enjoys autobiographies and Tom Clancy novels.
He enjoys rock music, particularly the Beatles, Santana and The Who. Music at Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay is his favorite live music venue.
Byer relishes family camping trips, basketball, golf, surfing, and skiing. He even pays to take his entire company on an annual skiing trip to Mammoth.
He sees sunny weather on the horizon for the San Diego County construction industry for the next few years.
“San Diego is poised to do great. Biotechnology and wireless companies are sprouting up here,” said Byer, who has built several facilities for the high-tech and biotech industries. “We’ve got a lot of people moving in here, so there will be a lot of demand for all types of construction until at least 2005 or 2006.”
Cynthia Davis, director of project development for McMahon Development Group LLC of Solana Beach, is a customer of Bycor for whom Byer has completed several projects.
“Byer is a hands-on owner who monitors the economics and the quality of construction conscientiously during the construction phase of development,” Davis says.
“We’ve been working with him for almost a decade, and he has built a dozen projects similar to the 78,000-square-foot building he’s developing in Poway for us. He’s reliable, skilled and a visionary.”
Kevin Moriarty, vice president of development for Health Care Group Inc. of San Diego, echoed her comments.
“They’re finishing up the third largest project for us down in the Point Loma area. It’s a residential care facility for Alzheimer’s disease patients,” Moriarty says. “He’s a charismatic guy, very hard-charging and his organization reflects his values. He’s a straight shooter with a lot of integrity.”
One of Byer’s favorite autobiographical quotes is from Henry Ford: “If you use your imagination to see how much you can give for a dollar, instead of how little you can give for a dollar, you are bound to succeed.”
Title: President of Bycor General Contractors Inc.
Education: Attended UC Berkeley
Birthplace: San Bernardino
Family: Wife, Connie; children, Chad, 23; Rachel, 10; and Blake, 7
Recreation: Family camping trips, basketball, surfing and skiing