Kelly welcomes her father to the show. Entrepreneurship has been in the Boyce family for many generations. Jerry shares his knowledge and wisdom about business while encouraging you to follow any goal that you desire to accomplish. Jerry knows what hard work looks like and how to build a successful family legacy. Plus, he's just a pretty cool guy. Enjoy the show!
Hey guys! I’m so excited about today’s episode. I know I say that about every episode but actually today I am having my father, Jerry Boyce, on the show. So, for those of you who know me or know my dad would most likely say things like, “He’s so hilarious!”
I really enjoy him. He has just been super influential in my life. He and my mother, Teri, both have been super influential in my life. Really, he instilled a love of business in me from a very young age, so I thought it would be great to connect him with you so that you can learn about his passions, his perspectives and what he has meant to our family as a whole, even generationally to be super committed to providing good services to other.
So, I hope you enjoy the show and here’s my dad!
K: Alright Dad, thanks for being on the show today! Can you introduce yourself a little bit?
J: I’m Jerry Boyce. I’ve been married thirty-nine years to my wife, Teresa. We have three kids. The oldest one’s Melanie, then there’s my son Andy and then Kelly, the one that’s here.
K: Yes! Me! The most important one!
J: Yeah, well, everybody thinks their important. (laughing)
K: I don’t want to get anyone in trouble with that, by any means. (Laughing) Well, thank you for sharing a little bit. So, one of the reasons I wanted to bring you here is because you have owned your own business my entire life. I thought it would be really helpful, since that’s such a passion of mine, to be able to really hear from you where that started for you and to answer some questions that I know people, when they first start out, might have. Like when I was starting out and I would call you and say, “Dad, what do I do about this?” Those kinds of questions.
So, I thought it would be helpful.
J: Sure, sure.
K: Okay, so can you tell me a little bit about…I thought it would be nice to start with grandpa’s orchard and you know, how far back owning a business goes in our family.
J: Well, in our family almost entirely as far as I can remember. Basically, the orchard – my parents owned an orchard when I was born - it was a place that was farm-like so you worked in it when you were a kid. I was waiting on customers probably at the age of six or seven. That’s where I learned to work with people and relate to them.
K: From the beginning though, that makes a lot of sense as to why you were able to connect with people.
J: Yeah, if you learn at that early age, it’s a lot easier than learning how to deal with people at a later age. Which is why, if you’re going to work with the public, starting out the younger you are, the better off you are. Getting along with them and relating to them, understanding what they want and what you need.
K: That’s really helpful to know. When you started, how many years did we say?
J: Well, actually I started farming in 1975 officially and then ran my own farming operation for ten years. Then, went to work for a contractor as a carpenter for four years. Started in ’85 through ’89 then following that, I started my own business.
K: Okay. So, basically from the get-go you were owning your own business.
J: Pretty much.
K: When you were farming, that was when I was really little. That’s why I probably don’t remember.
J: Yeah, you won’t remember any of that because basically you were only two years old when we quit farming. But actually, what started back in the orchard time. We raised our own garden and with the stuff I did I was able to sell produce and have that money when I was a little kid.
K: Oh cool!
J: I can’t really remember how old I was when we started doing that but that’s how I got extra money. You just worked your own garden.
K: That’s really cool. So, it’s like grandma and grandpa kind of really set that up as part of your life from the beginning.
K: I even remember the farmers market – one of the things I always tell Moe is I remember the honey sticks and I always wanted a whole bunch of honey sticks and you were always like, “You can have two.” (laughing) So, had you always wanted to be your own boss?
J: Oh, I don’t know if I ever set out with that goal but for me it was uncomfortable working for other people when they guided everything and you gave up so much control to work for other people. I didn’t care for that. Even if you made less or had more issues, to me it was more important to be my own boss.
K: I remember you saying to me more recently, before I decided to go full-time with my private practice. You said that there had certainly been some hard moments but it had been a good life with flexibility so I think that’s definitely important. Did you tell grandpa and grandma you were going to start your own business? How did that work?
J: Oh, I know I probably talked to Dad about it. When you start your own business it’s better to ease into it than to one day say, “Okay, I’m gonna start.”
I actually started doing small projects, working on weekends. To get yourself established, to get a little more income and get people to know your name and know that you were out there. Then I kind of took it from there. The first year was a little rough because I really didn’t have a large amount of work that I could do right away. I had a lot of people that wanted me to do work but I couldn’t do it until the weather came.
A lot of it’s about timing. We hit it on the upstroke in construction, when I started construction with the other contractor. It was just beginning to pick up. Four years later, it was booming and it kept on booming for a while which really helps if you’re – whatever you’re going into is going up, it’s a lot easier to make it.
K: Absolutely. That makes a lot of sense. When you told mom that you were thinking about this, do you remember what her reaction was?
J: She was supportive. Mainly because by that time I was pretty unhappy and she knew I was unhappy. I was not going to be able to keep doing it much longer. We’ve always, even if it costed us money, we’ve always supported each other.
K: I think you hit on something really important though, that a lot of times, though somebody can make millions in a job, if you’re miserable that affects your whole life.
J: Yeah, if you’re unhappy, why do it? Money doesn’t make everything. Job satisfaction does.
K: Absolutely. I would absolutely agree with that. I think in some ways, when you have those moments because everybody has their ups and downs so when there are downs, you’re able to get more through that, especially with something you’re really passionate about.
J: It’s a lot easier getting work if you’re enjoying it. If you’re not enjoying it, it’s just really tough to get through it.
K: So, knowing you, self-sufficiency is huge for you. You are really big on that. I wonder if some of that was instilled with you when you were little?
J: Yeah, a lot of that I’d say was when I was little but part of it, depending on the business you’re in, the more of it you can control and the more of it you can do, the easier it is. If you’re dependent on somebody else, at some point in time, they will fail you because of things out of their control. In my business, I started out as a carpenter but then I had issues getting concrete done on a timely manner. So, I learned how to do concrete. I had issues with plaster, I learned how to do plaster. I learned enough about all of the trades to become a general where I didn’t necessarily know everything about them (the trades) but I knew enough to be able to schedule them, work with them, and do some of the small basics if I had to to finish a job. Doesn’t matter how good you did your job and how fast and how cheap – if you can’t get somebody else to do their job and finish it so you can get paid, you accomplish nothing. But that’s a lesson you have to learn along the way.
K: I think there are a lot of things like that. You go into it and don’t know for sure and as you continue on you learn a little bit more as you go for sure.
J: It’s a growing process. I’ve been doing it a lot of years and you still learn. Every day is a learning experience. If you aren’t learning, you’re going down fast.
K: Absolutely. I just had a conversation with another business owner today, just in passing, and we were talking about when you cut yourself off to learning, then you really set yourself up for failure. We can always improve and get better.
I was thinking, generationally, if you think about our family – so there’s five cousins on your side. Do you realize that four are business owners?
J: No, I didn’t.
K: Isn’t that interesting? And the fifth is very successful in what she does and loves what she does. But isn’t that interesting?
J: I hadn’t really thought about that.
K: I was wondering, do you think a large part of that is it just comes generationally as well? Do you think that some of those values got passed down?
J: Yeah, I’m sure because all of them were pretty much raised the same.
K: I thought it was interesting and worth noting. So, is there a legacy that you’re hopeful to be leaving through all of us?
J: Obviously, as a parent, you hope that your children have a better life than you did and hopefully, as long as you do what you love to do and enjoy it, that’s the main thing. Money’s not the object. If you can, enjoy what you’re doing. Life’s a long trip.
K: I have one thing that I distinctly remember. I don’t know if you remember this. I couldn’t tell you exactly where, I think we were at home but, you saying to me, I think it was sometime around grad school, you said, “You can do whatever you want to do. I just want you to do the best that you can in that particular field.” You listed some different professions but you said, “It doesn’t matter what you do.” Is that your hope for all of us?
J: If you always do the best you can rather than skate, then it doesn’t really matter what anybody else thinks or what happens.
K: You know, I often think – I have a lot of people that tell me they want to try something but I think, essentially, it’s the fear of failure. For me, I’m very open and honest. I fail like every day. Basically, there’s something I want to do and it doesn’t get done and I think, “Well, that stinks but tomorrow, I’m going to do it.
J: You can’t let that stop you. If you do, you’ll never do anything. So, you just need to go do it. If you fail, so what?
K: One thing that my husband Moe told me that he heard was that out of everyone that’s ever been alive, only one thousand people are actually remembered throughout the whole course of time. So, in two generations, people are going to be forgot about anyway. So, if you think about that-.
J: Nobody’s going to remember you failed. (laughing)
K: Exactly! So, if you fail, no one’s going to remember it anyways. If you try and it works, that’s awesome. I think the end of that, the summary of that that you shared with is that really the people who are going to remember you are your family so that’s the most important, you know?
J: I think so. You know, to me it’s just…I would rather try and not make it than not try. That’s just my personal philosophy. And it’s not necessarily everybody’s, but there’s a lot of people that are brought up that way or don’t function that way. To me, personally, that’s what I believe you should do.
K: And I happen to agree with that. Certainly, each person has their own perspective and view on things but I’m someone, I realize, who jumps all in and I wonder do you feel like you do that too?
J: Oh yeah. We were married with three kids. Absolutely no money. I quit my job the last winter before the seasons. Yeah, I’d say we jumped all in.
K: I think sometimes though the pressure of it is almost beneficial.
J: I read somewhere sometime that people function better with a certain amount of stress on them and I’d have to agree that I probably do the best when there’s something coming up that’s pushing me and pushing me hard. Something like a project that needs to be done, that kind of stuff, I think some people function better under that and that’s kind of more of a personal thing but I think that’s kind of a good driving factor for a lot of people.
K: Absolutely. So, changing gears a little bit, when you think back to when you first began, what is something you didn’t know then that you know now that you really wish you would have known from the get-go?
J: That’s a tough one. Probably how to control the rate. As a business man, you want to grow. And the biggest issue that I probably faced was growing too fast. It gets out of control and you don’t control your business. You’re actually being controlled by the business.
K: I like that.
J: That’s really, really though because it takes a lot of work to catch up, to get stuff under control again where you can actually decide what jobs you’re doing instead of running around like a putting out fires. To me, most of the people that I have seen start their business in construction and farming somewhat, but mainly in construction, that’s the biggest issue. They get rolling and going too fast and everything kind of gets out of control and the next thing you know you’ve got unhappy customers, you’ve got too many bills. You’re just spreading yourself too thin. You don’t have enough good people. That’s probably the biggest thing, if you’re hiring, you could have a lot of people but if you don’t have the right people doing the right job, it just doesn’t work and you spend too much time taking care of problems and that’s for any business. They’ll tell you that not having the right people is the biggest problem.
K: You know, there is a lady that I follow. She’s like an author and speaker but she’s a business woman first and foremost and one thing that she says is they always hire for the company they want to have, not the company that they are currently. So, is that a good recommendation?
J: Oh yes. You’ve got to figure out where you want to go and who you want to be. If you’re hiring the person for the job today that you need to get done today, you’re already in trouble. You need to be thinking, “Yeah, I need a carpenter. But maybe I need a carpenter that has a CDL or can be used for the job coming up.” It’s just too easy getting to the point where you take the first body coming through the door to do the job. You aren’t really growing your company. You’re filling a void for a short time and that doesn’t help anybody.
K: Would you say that an important part of business is taking a step back where you’re really giving yourself a good perspective of it?
J: Yeah, that’s probably one of the hardest things is to actually be honest with yourself about what’s going on. Sometimes, to be honest, if I would have had, for lack of a better term, a mentor those first few years, it would have made the transition a lot easier. Someone who had already been through it that could say, “Look here, you’re taking on too much. You don’t have the people you need to regroup. We either get through it or we don’t.”
K: I was thinking too because that was one of my questions and you answered it. So, thank you! You know, now a days, we can connect on the internet if there’s no someone by us but you were just at the mercy of who you were around, essentially.
J: Right, right. Yes, you could put ads out and such at that time but basically it was only word of mouth or a thirty- or forty-mile range of who you could find. Now, you know, with the internet and everything, you can find good people a ways off and connect that way. But yes, basically all our hiring was done on personal knowledge. You either met the guy or you knew his parents or were told that this guy over here needs a job, you know? It was a lot harder then I think than it is now. Timewise even.
K: Is that something that you would recommend to somebody now that they have that capability? To find a mentor that they can connect with?
J: Yes, yes. Definitely. There’s a lot of retired businessmen. Not necessarily in any particular practice. You can mentor in other professions. A friend of mine does that or did a little bit for a while and to me, I think if you’re a young person starting your own business, if you can find somebody who has a wider view or a less prejudice view, I guess is the word I would use. None of us like to admit that maybe you’re not doing things quite right and if you can be gently told, “Hey, you shouldn’t be doing that or you should be doing that a different way.” The business is yours but a lot of times, if they actually say it, you know that’s it’s right instead of guessing. But I’m sure it’s a lot easier when you can pick up the phone, call dad and say, “Hey!” (laughing)
K: You’re right. (laughing) It’s so easy. I know I’ve called you so many times before I went full time and asked you about taxes and how do I do this, things I needed to know. It was super helpful to have that mentor for sure so I would definitely recommend it. What would you say would be your first recommendation for someone who’s interested in starting their own business but doesn’t really know how to begin? Maybe they don’t have those mentors in their life. Where would they start?
J: Well there’s organizations out there – SBA, some of those that have workshops to help you start your business. To me, the best thing to do is kind of the way I did it, in my personal opinion. Find somebody in that business, go to work for them. Meet the people. Learn the business. And then, generally most people become dissatisfied with their job after four years. So plan on spending four years with that person and you’ll know within a few months if you can last four years or not. If you can, plan on spending that four years and by that time you will know enough of the basics and you will know enough of the people in the business to have some contacts. If you can do like I did, leave on good terms, a lot of times that person will send you work.
Most of the people that I met when I worked with him actually sent me work and kept me alive that first year, including him. If you can do that, that gives you a really good start. If you can’t do that and you really, really want to go, it’s a lot tougher without having those basics and network.
It’s a network too. Everybody talks about networking all the time, but that’s the truth. If you know the people, they’ll take care of you. I do that now. I send work to the younger people and the stuff I can’t do.
K: I think one thing you said earlier too that’s really important to note on again is that you said a lot of the times if you can start out small, try it out before you jump all in to it. One, to be sure you actually enjoy it. But also, just to get your feet wet a little.
J: Right, right. If you can do it even part-time while you’re holding down a full-time job, that’s what a recommend because then, if you can force yourself to work those extra hours and you enjoy it, then you know it’s something you’re going to enjoy. If you do it for two weeks and two months and think, “Oh gosh, I don’t want to do this. I hate this!” Well, then go find something else. If you don’t enjoy it and don’t’ get satisfaction out of it, you will not stay with it.
K: That makes a lot of sense. So, going back to what you said as far as networking, would you say that working with the customers and really following through on what you say you’re going to do, is that a portion of what you think is most important in a business?
J: Yes. If you can’t get a reputation for doing what you say, you’re in trouble. That doesn’t really matter what profession you’re in. There are reasons you can’t sometimes and everybody understands that but if you consistently can’t, then the issue is with you rather than them. You need to figure out what the issue is and fix it. If you’re not a self-starter then you probably shouldn’t start your own business. You have to be the kind to get yourself up every day and want to go out and do it. If you can’t do that, then starting your own business is probably not something you should do.
K: Right. I heard something the other day about how there are two types of people – people who are internally motivated and people who are externally motivated so if you’re someone who takes someone else to motivate you, you probably want to look for a business partner.
J: Yes, right. And there are a lot of good partnerships where the partner is the driving force. I have a “partner” who’s not a legal partner in any way. Absolutely a fantastic worker. Absolutely does not want to deal with the public, does not want to make decisions or anything. Will do anything you ask and wants to work which makes my job a whole lot easier knowing that I have that one person there who will always do anything, you know? And who will last as long as I do. There’s, like I say, if you want to start a business and you can’t motivate yourself, then hook up with somebody like that.
K: Somebody who’s going to hold you accountable.
J: Yeah, they will. Sometimes it’s a little rough.
K: But definitely helpful to have. What would you say, if you look back over your whole career and think about it, you know farming and working for someone in your own business, what has been the hardest part of the whole process would you say?
J: Oh, well…people. People. Yeah, it’s people. Um, it is so hard to, if you hire somebody that’s really, really good, they’re only going to be with you a short time. The really good people are really motivated to better themselves and they will either start their own business or they will move to another company that’s bigger, can pay better, give better benefits and stuff. And you cannot fault anybody for that. But people is the hardest thing because no matter how hard you try to screen things out, a quick story that comes to mind is one of the issues with employees is legal entanglements. Whether they got unpaid alimony and stuff like. I hired a young man and he told me he had no legal entanglements at all. And he didn’t, when he talked to me. A week later, his very first day, he had to leave for a court ordered paternity test on his very first day. You don’t know how bad that young man felt having to tell me that after. He swore he didn’t know about it and he was right so, you know, it’s those kinds of things that make it interesting and make it tough before without the people who, plenty of the time you need them, it’s rough. To get something done, you end up staying later yourself to get it done. It makes it hard to be home.
K: I was thinking about that the other day and I never felt like you weren’t home for anything that was super important. I never felt like you missed out.
J: I do. I feel like I missed out on some of the things. I remember one time I came home and everybody was in the swimming pool and it was the middle of Saturday and I’m working to make sure I had the money for the chemicals for the swimming pool and everybody’s in the swimming pool and I’m going, “Wait a minute!” (laughing)
I think I missed out on some of that. I mean, I don’t think I missed out on the major things but I do feel like I missed out on some of the ball games and some of the stuff that I shouldn’t have.
K: I can’t speak for my brother or sister but that’s helpful for me. I don’t feel like there’s anything that was super important that you weren’t there for. I mean, certainly yes, it’s always nice to have your parent around which is why you’re visiting now in North Dakota! (laughing) But it is tough to balance it sometimes, that’s for sure. Especially when it falls on you. It’s different.
J: Yeah, yeah. It’s a little hard but every person’s balance is different I think, too. I think for your mom and I, she would be there a lot more than me and that’s just her opinion but like I say, you have to maintain some balance or it becomes all work and absolutely nothing else.
K: Why do you think most businesses that fail and by failing I don’t mean little day to day things. I mean completely shutting down. Not that every business that shuts down is a failure but why do you think that ends up happening?
J: A lot of the times they don’t really understand what business is. I’ve had a multitude of people that worked with me, that quit me and went into business doing exactly what we were doing, lasted a year or two and ended up quitting. Everybody has this romantic notion that you’re your own boss and money flows in and the work flows in.
It doesn’t. It’s a lot harder to be your own boss than it is…um, the first four years that I worked for the contractor were probably the easiest four years of my life as far as stress and everything. You took your check and you went home. You didn’t have any worries until the next Monday. You didn’t take anything home with you, it was just easy. If you think that’s the way it’s going to be when you’re your own boss – that you’re only going to work 40 hours and the money is going to flow and the job is going to flow, you have the wrong expectations. It doesn’t work that way.
I think a lot of people don’t understand how difficult it is and how much work it requires and how much worry, that kind of thing. I think that’s why they fail. It’s not that they’re not good at their job or that they’re not making money. They just don’t really want to handle the commitment and the time that it takes to do it.
K: It certainly does take time. When I started out, I was taking more time away from home until I got a really good system going. And even sometimes still, I work when other people are off work. When you have something you really do enjoy and even if you have projects that you’re looking forward to, it makes a difference.
J: That’s a lot easier too. I still work six, occasionally on a Sunday but I work at least six days a week and I enjoy it. But I don’t work anywhere near like I used to. If you enjoy it and there’s that satisfaction there, then you’ll keep on doing it. I used to think that the guys that would say they want to work until they drop dead were nuts! I want to retire. But you know, when you get to this age, you understand that most of the satisfaction we get is job satisfaction and you don’t want to give that up totally. I think some of the guys that do regret it immediately thereafter. So, I probably will not ever “retire.” I would just keep slowing down and doing a little less and maybe a little more fun stuff along the way.
K: That’s what I was really curious about too. People that know our family have asked me when you will retire and I always tell them I don’t really know. I don’t think there will ever be like a full retirement because I can’t imagine you not doing projects that you enjoy throughout the day. You don’t want to be able to sit there and do nothing. That’s not your personality.
J: Right. Like now it’s been two days of nothing and I’m about-.
K: Right, right. Like even today, it’s rainy and it worked well for the interview, but yeah, it makes it challenging sometimes. There’s an author and she’s a researcher, a social worker and she discusses shame and vulnerability. She’s kind of an expert in the field. One thing that she explains in one of her books called “Brave New Wilderness” – she dives into the topic of really walking out into the wilderness by yourself, feeling completely isolated and alone but knowing that that’s what you need to do and then along the way, finding people that have done the same thing. Do you feel like there was a time in your life where you felt like you were going out into the wilderness and you knew that you needed to do this but you were still hesitant?
J: When I gave my two weeks’ notice and was going to go out on my own, everybody around me, including my boss, knew it was going to happen at some point. By then, it was not a question. But it’s tough. I gave my notice in November and the worst time in our business is winter time. There’s not much you can do.
Yes, I had a little money saved up but not enough to get us through the winter. I had a wife and three kids at the time that I was supporting plus I had already agreed to hire one man to start with me and to take that on and quit at that time – yeah, it’s pretty lonely. But your mother supported that and so we did it.
K: I’m glad that you guys could support each other. Without that it probably would have been much more challenging.
J: I’m not saying it’s impossible but it’s a lot tougher to do it without a support network of some kind. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a wife but you need somebody there because there’s times where you’re like, “Oh crap, what did I do?” If you’ve got somebody there that can help you through those times, it’s not that bad.
K: I know we’ve had a conversation about this too but a lot of times I think if you look around you, you can find people that are very willing to fulfill that role for you and have really great skills to come along side of you so I think that sometimes people feel like they don’t have anyone in their life to do that. Like if they’re not married or they’re not dating but the reality is it could just be a really great friend or family member that could help out. I certainly utilize people and family. People who are invested in your life are usually pretty willing to come along side you.
So, just one last question that I’m asking everybody that I interview. Who would you say has been your biggest encourager? It can be more than one person not just throughout your business life but your life in general?
J: Obviously my wife. Um, really other than that I really…you kids have been great, don’t get me wrong and we’ve got several friends that have helped but probably our mother.
K: Yeah, she’s pretty cool, huh? Shout out to Terry! Do you have any other thoughts that you want to pass on to business owners or just people in general?
J: Not particularly. I think you pretty much covered it.
K: Alrighty! Well, thank you for coming on the show and sharing your wisdom. We sure appreciate it.
J: Thank you.