Boyce Muse is known as the King of Concrete. His company, Muse Concrete Contractors, is the largest concrete contractor in northern California. Boyce owns two homes, boats, Porsches, BMWs and even his own plane. Traveling the world with his family—from Alaska to Australia and then on to the South of France and finally South America—Boyce is a man who appears to play as hard as he works.
Yet to see where Boyce came from makes his achievements all the more incredible.
Growing up in Redding, California, Boyce was the eldest of five siblings in a family that struggled every day just to get by. Living on welfare, his family, Boyce said, survived mainly because as kids, they just didn't know anything else. "We didn't know how bad off we were ... You just know that you're hungry a lot."
After his mother was killed when he was just 8 years old, Boyce and his siblings were separated and sent to live with various relatives. "I lived with 10 different families all over the country and went to 15 different schools. It was hard to make friends, it was very lonely not knowing how long before I would be uprooted and sent somewhere else. I was another mouth to feed in a family that was already struggling."
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When Boyce was 11, his father remarried and reunited the family, introducing them to five new siblings—but it certainly didn't reflect the idyllic Brady Bunch image. There were now 10 children living in a two-bedroom house. "I did not ever get to be a kid; there was always a lot of responsibility, and you had to be very self-reliant," Boyce said.
Three years later Boyce ran away from home and worked a myriad of odd jobs to support himself. "I was washing dishes, washing cars, busing tables. It was all about survival—nothing more," he said.
When Boyce eventually reentered school, he met the woman who would change his life: his wife, Joan. Back then she was a 16-year-old high school cheerleader, interested in studying business to become a legal secretary. Boyce recalled, "I remember thinking, 'This is the girl for me,' but I didn't think she was interested. But I was relentless in my pursuit, and she finally gave in."
According to Joan, he certainly made an impression. "He was persistent and a little bit bold. He was fun, exciting and challenging all at the same time. He pushed me out of my comfort zone." She added, "And even then, I could see that once he got his mind set on something, I knew he would do it."
It was 1974 when Joan introduced Boyce to a friend who was a foreman on a construction site. "I went from earning $1.65 an hour cooking chicken for Colonel Sanders to making $3.50 an hour pouring cement. I thought I won the lottery."
For five years Boyce worked for other people in the concrete business, until he decided he wanted to go out on his own. "I never liked taking orders from other people, and now I saw a way out of my own poverty: through hard work."
So Boyce and Joan decided to invest in their future. By that time, Joan had reached her dream of working as a legal secretary and had $10,000 in a pension plan. "He was very passionate about being able to do it 'better himself,' Joan said. "It was a leap of faith in him and with him. "
With that $10,000, they bought the basics to start a small concrete construction business. Boyce's dreams were simple. "We didn't buy anything but concrete-related tools and equipment, wheelbarrows and shovels. All I wanted was to make enough money to buy a little house and have a little yard—that's all."
Drumming up business was pretty basic: Boyce put flyers up in the neighborhood, knocked on doors and visited construction sites to solicit work. In the beginning, he was working small jobs, like patios, sidewalks and small foundations. The business began to grow, but it didn't really make any money for the first three years. So that's when he decided to take the biggest gamble of his life.
"I saw a slipform machine—a specialized piece of equipment that could do 10 times the amount of work I could do busting my back," he said. "I found a used machine that was $60,000, but I did not have the money to purchase it at the time."
This man, who grew up with nothing and finally had a business and a home, decided to sell his house and gamble on an even bigger dream. He explained, "My mind-set is always not to settle for what we have today but to go for a little bit more. I talked with Joan, and together we decided to sell the house and invest in our future."
Joan's thoughts on the gamble were a little less enthusiastic: "I was not a gambler and was extremely nervous, but he had so much excitement and confidence, that convinced me we just needed to go for it. "
It was a smart move. Profits went up substantially after they acquired the slipform. After the first year, their gross revenue was approximately $300,000; five years later their gross revenue was $3,000,000. Within 15 years their contracts soared from million-dollar contracts to $10-million-plus jobs.
Now, 33 years after Boyce and Joan took their leap of faith, Muse Concrete Contractors employees more than 120 workers and is currently approaching $20 million annually in gross revenue. (Boyce serves as president while Joan is chief financial officer.)
It is said that with great risks come great rewards, and no one embodies that adage better than Boyce Muse. When asked how his childhood struggles impacted his current success, Boyce responds modestly, "I'm sure I've had as many challenges as the guy down the street, but from every one of those challenges, I took it on and I found a solution and I moved on. I don't like to stay in the problem."
His counsel for aspiring entrepreneurs and businesses: "See life looking forward through the windshield and not looking in the rearview mirror all the time."
Tune-in Wednesday night at 10 p.m. for the premiere of "Blue Collar Millionaires" on CNBC.