February 19, 2016

Building a Family Firm

By Nick Patterson
– Southern Living Magazine –

This family leaves its footprint all around Memphis. You see and feel it everywhere, from beloved Belvedere Boulevard to Ridgeway Center and other trademark office complexes to the fine homes and offices at Schilling Farms, River Oaks, and The Cloisters.

And that same family makes just as big an impression inside its firm’s own corporate headquarters. Here, young people come for summer jobs; decades later, they’re still here.

“My dad encouraged me to work different places to see what I wanted to do,” recalls Henry Morgan, Sr., president of Boyle Investment Company and son-in-law of the founder. “I was still in college. I got a summer job here, and they asked me to come back. That was 40 years ago.”

That’s a story repeated with slight variations over and over again at Boyle. It’s a lesson in the loyalty inspired by a firm where even new employees can develop ideas and are allowed to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow.

“It’s the only job I’ve had other than odd jobs in high school and college,” says executive vice president Mark Halperin. “Boyle employs a unique group of men and women who treat each other with great respect and thoughtfulness.”

Not a bad commentary on the internal workings of a development company known for its long heritage in this iconic Mississippi River town.

Russell E. “Rusty” Bloodworth, Jr., now executive vice president, recalls meeting founder Bayard Boyle, Sr. for the first time. “I walked in off the street; I was about to go into the military,” Rusty recalls. “They took me up to meet him, and he was just so gracious. They didn’t have a spot for me, but they asked me what I could do. I said I would do anything they asked me to do. They said, ‘You’re on.’” The company held his position while he served in the Marines.

“We have tremendous freedom to do the things we have a passion for,” Rusty continues. “The company trusts us to do good for both Boyle and the community.”

Through the years, the firm has frequently hired people before establishing clear-cut responsibilities for them, Mark says. “But they were perceived as people who would fit into our culture,” he explains.

“There’s an interesting lack of second guessing,” he adds. As a young employee, he made an error that cost the company a lot of money. He soon was summoned to a meeting with the then-retired Bayard Senior. “He invited me in and wanted to hear about the mistake. I thought I was going to have an opportunity for a new career,” Mark says.

Instead, the company elder listened to the young man’s explanation. “He said, ‘I can sort of see how you made that mistake,’” Mark recalls. “He said, ‘Would you do me a big favor? Would you try not to make that mistake again?’ I’ve made lots of mistakes over the 35 years,” Mark says. “But I’ve never made that one again.”

The Boyle Company Beginnings: A Boyle family ancestor, John Overton, founded Memphis in 1819 with Andrew Jackson. In 1906, Edward Boyle designed and developed Belvedere, a neighborhood regularly considered as a Memphis favorite for its spacious, tree-lined promenade and elegant manor homes.

The modern firm, established in 1933, took shape under the direction of Bayard Boyle, Sr. The company grew into a major proponent of mixed-use development, including massive office complexes and upscale residential areas around the city. It also incorporated elements of New Urbanism in its design philosophy. A map of Memphis could show nearly 60 Boyle developments, ranging from retail to industrial. Recent years have seen the Boyles expand into Nashville as well as in Mississippi and elsewhere.

Bayard Sr. knew his way around a piece of land, says his son, company chairman Bayard Boyle, Jr. “He had a gift for figuring out where the best stuff was going to go,” the junior Boyle remembers.