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Shoreline Foundation’s James Royo Discusses Following Your Entrepreneurial Passions

James Anthony Royo was born in Miami, Florida, and is known by everyone as Tony. Born into a lower to middle class family, his parents and grandparents worked hard to ensure that he and his siblings had what they needed.  Along with his two brothers, Tony enjoyed a typical childhood with lots of sports, mischief, […]

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James Royo
James Royo

James Anthony Royo was born in Miami, Florida, and is known by everyone as Tony. Born into a lower to middle class family, his parents and grandparents worked hard to ensure that he and his siblings had what they needed.  Along with his two brothers, Tony enjoyed a typical childhood with lots of sports, mischief, and good times.  In his youth, his family moved quite a few times, which made it difficult to keep in touch with childhood friends.  Looking back, Tony realizes that living in multiple locations taught him early on to be independent and self-reliant. 

Tony met the love of his life, Linda, during his senior year in high school and they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this September.  Their son, James Michael, and daughter, Kristen Taylor, complete their family. 

At the age of 18, Tony pursued a variety of jobs in order to save for college and moved into his own apartment.  That same year, while walking with Linda along the road, he was hit by a speeding car.  Lucky to be alive, Tony endured three surgeries and spent a month in the hospital.  In a full-length leg cast for nine months, with no health insurance, no car, no way to work, and no money, Tony lost his apartment and moved in with his older brother.  During his recovery, he taught himself to play the guitar, and learned the value of having a few close friends, who helped him through that difficult time…..friends he remains close to this day. 

Over the next several years Tony worked with his uncle in marine construction. During this time he developed a network of contacts in the marine construction industry, which included his friends, John McGee and Barry Reed.  The three had been friends since high school and ended up working on and off together in marine construction for the next 10 years.

As fate would have it, Tony suffered a back injury that caused him to get out of construction and seek employment elsewhere. These new endeavors were not professionally fulfilling, and then by chance, Tony ran into John McGee at a Cuban coffee shop in Miami.  As they reminisced about their time working together in marine construction, John said, “Tony, let’s start our own marine construction business.”  Barry Reed was quick to join the venture and Tony took on the challenge of studying and taking the tests necessary to become a licensed contractor in the state of Florida.

In just a few months after their chance encounter, Shoreline Foundation was incorporated in June of 1986.  For the last 35 years, Tony has been the President of Shoreline Foundation and the three founding partners have worked together providing their clientele with the best in specialty marine construction services throughout Florida, the Bahamas and beyond.

What do you love most about the industry you are in?

What I love about marine construction is that every project is different.  We provide marine construction services in different locations.  One project might be in the Bahamas building a large megayacht marina.  Another project might require dredging in an urban area, or building a water control structure, or a bridge or a major marine infrastructure upgrade for a Port.  Every project is different and challenging in its own way. 

What keeps you motivated?

I like the work that we do and I am motivated by the challenge of providing our clientele with a quality product and doing so at a profit.  I remember my humble beginnings and I am motivated by the fact that my partners and I have realized the American Dream as a result of our hard work and dedication.

How do you motivate others?

Anything is possible.  If we can do it, you can do it too.  You can raise yourself up, just like I did.  I think when people are working around me, it motivates them because they know that our Company’s success is proof that anything is possible if you really put your mind to it. 

How has your company grown from its early days to now?

We were providing the same kind of marine construction services in the beginning that we are performing now, but on a much smaller scale.  We started out building sea walls and docks behind private residences, driving foundation piles for houses, so mostly residential jobs. 

We were performing a lot of work in a subcontractor capacity for larger more established contractors during our early years.  Many of these projects were being built for a government agency and we realized that we had more institutional knowledge than the prime contractors we were working for.  We were the low guy on the totem pole, and everyone was looking at us for all the answers.  We said, why are we the sub here?  We should be the prime. 

During this time, on my first-ever trip to New York City, I remember being mesmerized by the overwhelming vista of the Manhattan skyline. Building after building, block after block of these impressive skyscrapers, that I knew resulted from careful planning and the capacity to accept the financial risk that is inherent in such an undertaking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, no risk, no reward was the take-away from that trip.

That’s when we decided to bid directly as the prime contractor for government projects. It is intimidating if you’ve never done it.  Now looking back, I realize that working directly for the government is not intimidating and that our decision to jump in those many years ago was the right one for our Company.  You just have to jump in there at some point.  That was the big difference that took us from being a residential contractor to becoming a bona fide marine contractor that has clients at every level, from the Federal Government to the State, County, City, as well as the private sector. 

Who has been a role model to you and why?

My wife and my grandfather have been role models to me.  My wife has always been honest, loyal, and had an unwavering love of our family.  My grandfather was just a good man and set a good example for me.  I recall his daily routine of enjoying a beer and a cigar after work.  He was very successful in Cuba and when Castro came into power it was all taken away.  He went from being very well off in Havana to working in a factory in Los Angeles.  He never complained.  He lost all of his money in Cuba.  He just rolled with the punches.  He never had a bad thing to say about anyone.  He was very steady and reliable.  He was a solid rock for me. 

How do you maintain a solid work / life balance?

In the morning, we come in at 7:00 am and open up the doors.  Throughout the workday our focus, and that of our talented staff, is exclusively on the business of Shoreline and insuring that our clientele are well served. When we turn the key at 5:00 pm, we are done with Shoreline Foundation for the day.  Then we move onto our family life.  We try to keep it that way as much as possible. 

What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?

I do my best to make sure I that I have, or have access to, the information for everything related to Shoreline Foundation.  I do my research.  I am the go-to guy.  When all else fails, everyone in the Company knows that they can always count on me for answers.  If you are going to be a successful leader, you need to be the ultimate decision maker and your decisions should be based on knowledge and on doing the right thing. 

Normally when I am called upon to provide information or make a decision, those involved have already come to their own conclusion but are somewhat unsure. When they leave my office, they say, “I thought that’s what you would say.”  To be successful you have to be consistent and base your decisions on what is best for your company. I always do what’s best for Shoreline Foundation as a company and for our employees and the families that they support. This informed leadership model provides confidence and earns the respect of your employees. 

What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment is having the respect of my children and the love of my family.  My kids are glad that I’m their dad and my wife is glad that I’m her husband.  I got card from my son on Father’s Day that said, “Thanks for taking the time to raise me right.”  Achieving that is a lot harder than running a business. 

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