When you read about a successful professional in just about any industry, people often say that person was “born to do it.” Of course, it might look that way to someone on the outside looking in, but the person who has achieved such success knows it has required hard work and a lifelong, consistent pursuit of excellence.
For Rachel Lopez, president of Resource Management, Inc. (RMI), that pursuit began at age 15, when RMI was just getting started. Rachel’s father, Reinaldo Lopez, Sr., founded the company 26 years ago in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and his daughter had a ringside seat, watching the energy of a new company being built from the ground up.
“I left my paper route to work at RMI,” Rachel says with a smile. “I was RMI’s first employee.”
Rachel describes her professional background as a “PEO homegrown experience” and something she always wanted to do.
“It was a natural decision for me,” Rachel says. “I came on board very early in the business, and it was exciting. There was all this incremental growth happening with a lot of things developing. I definitely wanted in on that; I wanted to be a part of it.”
Rachel began her tenure with the company while still in high school. Her first job was in the payroll department, processing payrolls. She later moved into human resources and compliance, where she discovered an aspect of PEO that especially piqued her interest: workers’ compensation insurance.
“I spent a good deal of time working in the safety and claims department,” Rachel recalls. This helped her broaden her knowledge of the benefits a PEO can provide.
RMI is a family business that includes Rachel’s brothers. Alex is vice president, and Naldi is a director. Now that Rachel has taken over the executive function of the business from her father, Reinaldo remains on the board of directors as RMI’s founder and will focus his attention on sales management.
“Sales management is a great place for him to be,” Rachel says. “As founder, he was RMI’s first salesperson, and he drove the growth of RMI very early on. It’s a passion for him. He really enjoys the business development side of things.”
In her executive role, Rachel provides oversight of companywide operations as well as a vision for how the company will evolve to meet clients’ needs in the future.
“So much has already been accomplished in the 26 years we’ve been in business,” she says. “My vision is to continue to be a partner for our clients, a partner that adds value, a partner that is able to help our clients grow, to continue to help them be successful. As much as the PEO is there to help support our clients and their employees, the PEO is also in a position of learning from our clients, what their marketplace bears. And we have to be able to adapt and be responsive to their industries’ needs. And so being able to identify those things and come up with additional support and solutions to help our clients is one of the most important things for us to continue to grow and be successful.”
RMI is headquartered in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and has offices in Doral/Miami and Orlando, Florida. This can present challenges as well as opportunities.
“Each state is a little bit different, and it’s incredibly important to be knowledgeable about what those differences are,” Rachel says. “But while we have different locations, we have a ‘one team’ mindset. We’re united as an RMI family, so it’s natural for us to just pick up the phone or jump on a videoconference. We’ve been doing that for many years, long before the pandemic made it necessary. We just had to add a few more accounts for Zoom!”
After her two-plus decades in the industry, Rachel still looks forward to going to work each day.
“There is so much about the PEO industry that is exciting,” she says. “I like the role it plays in the success of other businesses. I like that we are able to help owners of small- and medium-sized businesses achieve their goals by helping them manage their risk and liability. I love that we’re able to put them in a position where they can be competitive in their marketplace, offering benefits to their employees and making everyone’s lives better.”
Rachel sees a future of opportunity for PEOs that are flexible and willing to adapt to new realities.
“We must be responsive to our clients’ needs, always seeking new ideas, new solutions, implementation of new services. We also need to be diligent in finding efficient ways to deliver for our clients,” she says. “This will require a hybrid delivery method, considering the multigenerational staff that a lot of our client companies have. We need to leverage technology while maintaining our boutique style. That means ‘high touch’ HR consulting but also easy access to go online for clients who prefer to view their employee files or client information on demand when they want it.”
Rachel says that RMI’s new product and service development often comes in response to a client’s request. The company’s marketing team also uses client surveys to learn about clients’ needs and areas of interest that might lead to new product offerings.
In addition to the many opportunities on the horizon, Rachel does see a few threats—or disruptors, as she prefers to call them. They include technology and competition.
“Technology could be a threat, could be a disruptor if we’re not getting ahead of it, utilizing it, and granting access to all of our clients,” she says. “In addition, there are a lot of the benefit providers and insurance companies that are starting to have their own technology platforms to provide payroll and other services. Still, there’s plenty of room for all service providers to flourish, be successful, and have a positive impact on clients’ success.”
The top threat to PEOs in Rachel’s view is a lack of education.
“Florida being the birthplace of PEOs, people in Florida are more familiar with the PEO model and the benefits it provides for businesses,” she says, “but in Massachusetts, there’s not much saturation in our market, and so it requires education for them to know what we do and how we support businesses. With my long background in PEO, my question is why wouldn’t someone in a small or medium business go with a PEO!”
Rachel has watched Reinaldo’s participation in FAPEO over the years, and she plans to follow in his footsteps.
“My father has been very involved in FAPEO for many years, and I think it is one of the best-run organizations,” she says. “The fact that it has championed and defended our industry so well in Florida, I think FAPEO should be the model that is used in all other states. The FAPEO team has done an excellent job in Florida, and I wish we could get this level of advocacy in all the other states. Plus, the willingness of members to work together to help the industry and other FAPEO members is awesome. As I become more involved, I do want to be a part of that dynamic organization.”
Rachel has two sons, and the RMI family tradition continues.
“They work with me at RMI, one of them part time, the other one full time,” she says. “I enjoy spending time with my family. I like health and fitness, living a healthy lifestyle. Hiking and kickboxing are my two favorite methods of exercise. I also enjoy cooking and travel. I haven’t been able to travel as much as I’ve liked, but I’d like to do more of it in the future.”
Rachel began giving back to her community at a young age, volunteering with literacy programs, and she continues her community involvement through RMI.
“Both my parents were involved in helping the community, and from the time I was 8 until I was a teenager, I taught the elderly, who hadn’t learned when they were young, how to read and write. It was so rewarding,” she says. “Now, at RMI, we’re involved with many local organizations, including United Way. We also work with colleges and universities, and we have attracted great talent working with them. I’ve been able to extend job offers to these students. So, it’s very rewarding as well.”