On Wednesday, May 29, as many as 101 Wharton alumni and guests attended the Wharton Club of South Florida’s 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year Award ceremony honoring Beverly Raphael, president and CEO of the South Florida-based general contracting firm RCC Associates. This biannual event was held at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Stuart Sobel, partner at the construction and real estate law firm of Siegfried, Rivera, Lerner, De La Torre & Sobel. He had the privilege of introducing Raphael, his first law client, as well as a friend and colleague for 30 years.
He described Raphael as a risk taker, one with entrepreneurial spirit that was evident from the beginning. When she took over the reins of RCC Associates after the death of her husband in 1999, Raphael had not been involved with the business. Takeover rumors were rampant, fed by the perception the company was failing due to the death of its founder.
Rather than selling to the highest bidder, Raphael studied hard and took counsel from those she trusted, even as she raised two daughters on her own. When she took over, the employees taught her how to be their partner and leader. One of her biggest challenges proved to be the breaking of the glass ceiling in the world of construction, and she successfully grew the company through a go-slow, analytical approach. She refrained from making radical changes in her first six months at the helm.
She cut back on the amount of business the firm was doing to refocus on what it did best. Revenues decreased from $21 million in 1998 to $17 million by 2000. Raphael stuck to her belief that she could take RCC’s unique culture and develop it into something even better. With that, and an astoundingly loyal staff, she and her employees set out on expanding the company and RCC blossomed. Revenues will reach $100 million this year.
Raphael says she was much more successful at walking into the business and building on its success than she was at being able to strike a work-life balance. She calls her daughters, Lindsay and Robyn, her greatest accomplishment, and she describes her husband, Joel Altman, as her supporter and her “rock.”
Congratulations to Raphael on being named our 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year. Her accomplishments are many, her tenacity is to be admired and her success is to be applauded. This year, we could not have selected a more deserving recipient, a grandmother of five, a supporter of many philanthropic causes and an ardent Miami Heat fan. While we may have made the evening memorable for Raphael, she made it all possible for us to thank her and honor her with this most prestigious award.
Richard Viens, WG’08, is the CFO/COO of GridGlo, a predictive data analytics company. He is also the president of the Wharton Club of South Florida.
Editor’s note: Additional photos of the event are available at http://clients.southfloridaphoto.com/whartonrcc.