Disruptors. They are the few and the fierce. In our series, Leading between the Lines, I have the opportunity, and the pleasure, of meeting with some of South Florida’s most dynamic female business leaders, ones who are disrupting their industry, approaching things in a new way, solving new problems, and effectively pushing the status quo into a new frontier. I want to know what it really takes, what they’re actually up against, and how it feels each step along the way. Meet Robyn Raphael-Dynan, President of RCC Associates, a family business with over five decades of success in high-end commercial construction including projects such as restaurants, retail, stores, hotel renovations, fitness studios, banks, corporate interiors, and specialty entertainment venues.
Robyn joined this family business after graduating from Florida State University in 2002 and started from the ground up as a Project Coordinator. She tenaciously learned every facet of the business which precipitated her rise over a period of 20 years to her current position.
As President, Robyn oversees the day-to-day in every department of the company. She has directly increased the profitability of RCC by streamlining processes and procedures and facilitating an environment based on teamwork. Robyn manages more than 50 office staff and more than 40 field staff, with 40 active projects at any given time. She is intimately involved in every part of the business from estimating, to project management, accounting, and new business development.
Robyn is a member of the Board for Habitat for Humanity and was co-chair of its 2019 and 2021 Women Build with her mother and RCC’s CEO, Beverly Raphael-Altman. Robyn is also an active member of NAIOP, the renowned commercial real estate trade organization for which she sits on an exclusive roundtable with executive women within the commercial real estate field in South Florida, as well as the ICSC [International Council of Shopping Centers]. Robyn also sits on the Board of Directors Junior Achievement of South Florida.
Despite her rise to the top in the male-dominated industry of construction, Robyn’s proudest accomplishment to date is her family. Read the full interview to hear Robyn’s incredible story.
Nicole: What motivated you to get into construction and join the family business? What lead to the decision? What was going through your mind on that day?
Robyn: My father, Richard Raphael started RCC 51 years ago. He passed away at the young age of 53 in 1998. I was 18 about to leave for college at FSU. My mom stepped into the business as a means of survival. After I graduated, I entered the business in an entry level position and have worked my way to the president position over the past 20 years. My motivation has always been keeping my dad’s legacy alive and I LOVE working alongside my mom, Beverly Raphael.
Nicole: What has been your proudest achievement? Why?
Robyn: My proudest achievement are my 2 kids – Riley (14) and Brody (10) and my husband Jason of 16 years. My family is everything.
Nicole: What have been some of your failures and challenges along the way? What have you learned from them? What have you most improved on? How?
Robyn: Being a working mom and wife and figuring out how to balance both. I think as a working mom you always feel like you are supposed to be wherever you are not. I think as my kids have gotten older the challenges have changed and, in some ways, it’s gotten easier, and some ways are harder. It’s a constant tight rope we all walk.
Nicole: What has surprised you most on this journey and throughout your career?
Robyn: I never thought I would love construction or know how to manage so many people. When I first started, construction seemed like a new language I was learning, and I still pinch myself that I learned it and understand it so well. I also never imagined how fulfilling having my own career would be. It allows me to have 2 identities: as a mom/wife and businesswoman/philanthropist. I enjoy the challenge of both each day (some days more than others).
Nicole: What influences and inspires you?
Robyn: 100% my mom, Beverly Raphael. The way that she handles tough situations with such style and grace. She has always put family first and has led RCC with that same compassion. She has opened so many doors for women in construction and it has been amazing to be a part of.
Nicole: What scares you? What are you currently challenged with? And how have you addressed it?
Robyn: I think the scariest thing in my life right now is that I have entered the teenage years with my 14-year-old daughter. I love watching her grow into a young woman. She’s a hard worker in everything that she does so she puts a lot of pressure on herself. The new world of social media adds another layer of fear for all parents, I think. Every year we lose a little more control but it’s the next phase of parenting and they truly are such important years. I try to be open to hearing the good and the bad. The hard part is not reacting so that she continues to share openly. It’s a work in progress.
Nicole: What is a common challenge for your customers or clients? How does RCC solve this problem?
Robyn: We are in a unique niche of the construction industry. RCC specializes in building high end restaurants, which of course was severely impacted by the Covid pandemic. We really had to change our business strategy and take on the challenges our clients were facing. Finding ways to incentivize restauranters to keep building during the shutdown became our focus. We asked our employees to focus on being empathetic to our clients who were facing such a difficult and scary time. We needed our clients to know we were in it with them, and their survival was our survival.
Nicole: What is the biggest misconception about your industry?
Robyn: Sadly, contractors get a bad rap. We undo common misconceptions every day. Our mission is to show true transparency to our clients. We let them be a part of the process every step of the way. We have a saying – absence of an explanation breeds paranoia- so we try and make sure the client always knows where the project stands in terms of time and money. I think the most important thing to build is trust and to do whatever you say you are going to do.
Nicole: What is the one thing you wish more clients customers knew? What advice can you give to those considering taking on a construction project?
Robyn: Right now, time is of the essence. With the material and labor price increases and constant shortages, it is imperative to start planning early and make decisions quickly. Being proactive is essential in this climate.
Nicole: What does the future of this industry look like?
Robyn: Construction is always changing. It’s an industry where you can never know or learn enough. I think one thing we have learned through the pandemic and other economic slowdowns is that no matter what, people will always want to go to restaurants. The hospitality industry is thriving and is focused on creating experiences. We are seeing a lot of elaborate outdoor dining spaces and installing air quality HVAC systems to keep patrons safe and feeling comfortable.
Nicole: What are your goals currently? What is next on the horizon for you and RCC?
Robyn: RCC is geared up for its biggest year yet. Last year we did $110M in revenue and this year we are expecting to do close to $125M in revenue. Managing the growth of our company and our 115 employees is a constant challenge. We are going to be finishing the iconic Mayfair Hotel in Coconut Grove in the next few months and we are looking forward to starting some exciting new restaurant and hotel projects in South Florida such as Hampton Social in Delray, Sixty Vines across the street in Boca Center, Aba in Bal Harbour, Hell’s Kitchen by Gordon Ramsey in downtown Miami just to name a few…
Nicole: What steps or advice would you give to women who want to be successful in this industry?
Robyn: Construction is a great career for women! It can be intimidating to enter a male dominated industry, but women naturally possess a lot of the key personality traits that are important in construction. We are multi taskers, we are organized, we are communicators, we are compassionate, and we tend to be proactive. Recognizing the value that we bring to a team or organization is the first step in gaining confidence to voice our opinions and take control of a project as needed. In the end I believe your work ethic ultimately is what will drive your career. If you love what you do, it will translate into your passion and commitment in whatever path you take.