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March 2007
Above and Beyond
By Casey Jacobus

      Established in 1995, Boyle Consulting Engineers was founded with a focus on bringing a new mindset to the business of land development and construction. Chuck Boyle wanted his new company to play a proactive role in advising clients on everything from choosing a site on which to build, to monitoring the construction process, to finding the right solution for any problems that developed. For 11 years, Boyle has striven to be the first and best choice for comprehensive geotechnical, environmental and construction materials testing and site monitoring services in the Carolinas.
     “Whether it is a residential development, shopping center, office building or warehouse, our job is to keep the project moving on schedule,” says Boyle. “Our goal is to help the developer or owner realize an investment that is focused on tangible profits rather than funding corrections.”
     Judged by any standard, Boyle has succeeded. What started as a two-man firm over a decade ago has evolved into a 27-employee operation today. Boyle has realized double-digit sales growth and earned the loyalty of clients like Ric Killian of RDK Homes, L.L.C.
      “Whenever I look for professional services, I turn to Boyle,” says Killian. “I’ve known him for 10 years and I trust him. I am always confident that I can rely on his work and his advice to steer me in the right direction.”

 Down to Earth
     Chuck Boyle is more than an engineer and more than a business owner. He is a true entrepreneur. Unmotivated by making money alone, he felt compelled to begin his own business by the need to create something new. He saw a way to improve the “dirt business” and he went for it.
     “Fear keeps many people from making a change or doing something that totally exposes them,” says Boyle. “My tolerance for risk is more than most.”
     Perhaps Boyle’s background encouraged his aptitude for taking risks. One of nine children, Boyle grew up in a military family. As an “army brat,” he adjusted to moving frequently and making friends at every new base. He graduated from West Point in 1983 and served six years on active duty in Korea, flying reconnaissance missions over the DMZ and training new recruits to operate aircraft surveillance equipment. He left the Army in 1989 and went to work at a Dupont chemical plant in New Jersey. In 1992, he moved his young family to North Carolina to work for Law Engineering. Three years later, Boyle was ready to strike out on his own. 
     The same day Boyle tendered his resignation at Law, his wife told him she was pregnant with their third child.
     “‘We can do this,’ I told her,” Boyle laughs. “The first year was all about survival. The second year was better and we went from there.”
      Boyle saw the opportunity to take a traditional business and improve it through innovation. By meshing new technology with experienced leadership, he believed he could make consulting engineering a different business than it had been. For example, he implemented a GPS system to keep track of people in the field. At an investment of $8.00 per month a handset, the device increased both scheduling efficiency and accountability. 
      A much more expensive innovation came in 2004 when Boyle got the idea for combining his passion for flying and photography with the task of providing in-depth environmental and geotechnical testing and analysis of properties. By including aerial photographs in his reports and drawing on the unique analysis capability he had gained during his military service, he could provide an enhanced service to his clients. 
     Boyle purchased its first airplane, a Cessna 172 SkyHawk, in 2004. Since then the company has traded the SkyHawk for a Cessna Centurion C-210. Its equipment arsenal includes vertical and oblique digital photography, professional grade optics, and a GPS locating device to allow quick targeting of the sites for efficient and well-planned, accurate image collection of the highest resolution quality necessary for analysis. 
     Combining the aerial photography capability, military reconnaissance background and experience in construction monitoring. Boyle is able to offer a highly specialized and one-of-a-kind enhancement to its capabilities that has proven to be something that developers and stakeholders in projects are interested in contracting. In fact aerial photography and its analysis has become integral to Boyle’s way of doing business. 
     “While developers have used aerial photography for years as a means of showing properties from a marketing perspective,” states Boyle, “We use it to analyze what’s going on at the site from pre-construction throughout development. There are impacts you can only visualize and understand when looking at them from the air.”
     Boyle flies each project once a month, taking 400 or so photos each flight. Company engineers analyze each photo as part of the client’s debriefing process to reveal all the aspects that affect a development’s progress. 
    “Everyone gets the same big picture view of a project at the same time,” says Boyle. “It’s hard to attach a dollar amount to this, but cumulatively it has to be in the millions. It helps a client keep the project on track and to head off costly mistakes.”
     Aerial reconnaissance also creates a unique niche for Boyle. In researching possible competitors, Boyle found no other engineering testing and construction-monitoring firm in the country that offers this highly specialized service.
     “This new service puts Boyle in a class by himself in the industry,” says Sherre DeMao, president and chief marketeer of SLD Marketing/PR Inc. “It takes him to the next level strategically.”
     DeMao has been working with Boyle since early 2005. She says he is a “fabulous client who has embraced the opportunity to position himself” within a competitive industry.
      After talking with many of Boyle’s clients, DeMao encouraged Boyle to apply for the Charlotte Ethics in Business Award given by the Charlotte Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals. She was not at all surprised that the company was one of eight finalists.
      “Boyle runs a top-notch all around operation,” says DeMao. “Being a finalist for this award speaks to everything about the company, from its fiscal operations to its marketing strategy. His clients all respect him and appreciate his honest and straight-forward approach.”
     One of those clients is Childress Klein, one of the largest real estate developers in the Southeast. Boyle has done environmental testing and geotechnical engineering on various Childress Klein projects, including the Park Avenue Building. Boyle is currently working with the developer on a shopping center on Highway 160 in Fort Mill.
    “We have an outstanding relationship with Boyle and his company,” says Partner Chris Thomas. “We appreciate both the excellent quality of his work and his responsiveness to our needs.”
     While Thomas says Childress Klein has not yet made use of Boyle’s aerial reconnaissance capabilities, he finds it an attractive addition to the company’s services.
     “I’m sure we will use it in the future,” says Thomas. “It will help our retailers see the location of a potential site in relation to other sites, such as the airport or downtown Charlotte. Many of our retailers are requiring this information in order to receive corporate approval for new projects.”

Down to Business
     Chuck Boyle is not all there is to Boyle Consulting Engineers. Boyle has built a diverse and experienced leadership team that shares his values and objectives. Among the key players on the team is Shipping Yang, chief engineer at Boyle, whose addition to the staff a year ago has relieved Boyle of some of the technical responsibilities at the firm. Yang, who studied at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China and has a Ph.D. from Iowa State University, is responsible for the technical review and overall quality control of all aspects of Geotechnical Engineering and the construction materials science.
     Todd Spanish is Boyle’s Environmental Services Manager and also oversees Boyle’s Geospatial Services. Todd Tamasy is Operations Manager and responsible for coordination between Boyle’s Laboratory, Geotechnical and Construction Materials Testing departments. As Operations Manager, Tamasy is also responsible for informing a client of potential site issues that may arise during development and construction.
     In addition to these three key staffers, Boyle also depends heavily on Tracie Schoenwald, who has run the accounting and human resources office for the past six years. 
    
“This is the core leadership group that makes things happen,” says Boyle. “They all have different roles, but I depend on them to work together as a team.”
     As the company has grown Boyle finds his own role in it has changed. He can no longer do everything himself.
     “I’ve had to adapt,” says Boyle. “ I’ve had to learn to direct others and provide systems to manage them. I’ve become less of an entrepreneur and more of a leader. If we continue to grow, I risk becoming less of a leader and more of a manager.” 
      Consequently, Boyle is uncertain what path the company he has built from the ground up will take in the future. At its current level of 27 employees, he believes the company has reached a crossroads. 
      “I don’t know that I could control or lead a firm much larger,” he says. “ I could leverage what we have into something bigger. I could mentor and grow more department heads into leaders who would be capable of stepping up to the plate. But then I would be a facilitator, a business owner, and no longer a ‘hands on’ innovator.” 
      Boyle and his staff like the size of the company as it is, with a culture that encourages a team orientation. Dee Langley, who joined the company six months ago as aerial and marketing administrator, says, “It’s a great place to work. It’s a vibrant group of mostly young people who all get along. There are no politics here.”
      Still, one hears the entrepreneurial spirit speaking when Boyle says, “I hope one day to retire or go do something else. A change would be for my own gratification, not necessarily for the company at large.”
       Boyle knows that if and when the time comes that he is driven to create something new, the staff he is mentoring now will be capable of running Boyle with the same high standards he has established for the company. Meanwhile, Boyle says he finds satisfaction in providing an opportunity for his employees to do something personally rewarding. And for him, “As long as I can look back and say I wouldn’t do anything differently, I feel successful.”

Casey Jacobus is a Lake Norman-based freelance writer.
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