The making of a good boss: Paula Woodring’s business love story

While most young people were preparing for their senior prom, Paula Woodring was preparing to buy her first home. 

She says she didn’t know what she wanted to do when she grew up, and yet, this could have been a solid clue. 

“I was just graduating high school when I, kind of, fell into what has become my career,” Woodring recalls. 

She had a boyfriend, and his parents had a loan with Beneficial Mortgage. Woodring and her boyfriend would always drop off the house payment for them. She’d strike up conversations with people in the office, to attempt to distract them from the fact that the payment was late. 

“Their names were Pat and Bobby. Pat was the office manager and Bobby was the front desk person. They were lovely women,” Woodring says. “And, one day, Pat was like ‘Oh my God. I think this would be an excellent job for you.’”

At the time, Woodring was getting ready to graduate high school. She was set to graduate early and was on the early release program. She was 18 years old and in the process of buying her first home, which was a block away from her grandparents’ house. She had saved all her money from working, collecting money out of newspaper stands for the Blue Springs Examiner, and had already applied for her home loan. 

She accepted the job at Beneficial Mortgage and, from there on, she became a powerhouse in the industry of titles and loan mortgage processing services. 

In 1989, when she first took a step into her career, she was making $15,200 a year.

Today, she is a founding partner and chief executive officer of RELTCO, a national title company, which is on track to do $15 million in revenue, in 2024. The ride was bumpy, but she got there with grace and a charming sense of humor. 

She feels deeply, works hard and does her best not to sweat the small stuff. She’s a mother of two daughters, who work at the company. And now, she’s a grandma. 

Admittedly a little unlucky in love with men, the real loves of her life are her daughters, her grandson, and her business. 

THE FIRST FAIRY TALE

Woodring was born to very young parents in Raytown, Missouri. Like star-crossed lovers, they were from “different sides of the track,” as Woodring would say. They wanted to marry but her mom’s parents wouldn’t agree, they were young and, at the time, didn’t think they were a suitable match. 

“Mom’s father did not think that it was the best thing for either of them but, lo and behold, I was coming no matter what,” Woodring says with a laugh, and a tear in her eyes. 

But Grandpa Woody, from Woodring’s father’s side, did approve so, marry they did. And married they stayed, from 1970 until 2022, when Woodring’s mother passed away. 

She was close to her grandparents, and parents, so she gets emotional when speaking of them. Their hearts, their kind nature. Their shared closeness. In her yard, overlooking a lake, in Odessa, she has a collection of orchids planted into trees that were once her mother’s. She said they remind her of her mom and keep her grounded. 

“I had wonderful parents,” Woodring says, adding that she had “the epitome of the completely normal childhood.”

Growing up, Woodring’s father worked in a factory for a paper company. Mom maintained the home. 

“He always had the aspiration, the goal and the drive, to be something else,” she says. At night, he attended school. First at Clemson University, in 1989, and later he graduated from Hamilton University, in 1992. 

“I think I get my drive from him,” she says. It’s also where she gets her love of cars. But, she says, she was no tomboy. “I was a prissy girl. I didn’t want to walk on the grass. I learned to ride a bike in the yard, and I was eight before I did, because I was scared to get dirty.”

She did tap, jazz and ballet. She was a studious student. She didn’t really know what she wanted to do, as far as a career goes, but she wanted to be like her father and be in business. 

BECOMING MOM

“I just happened into my career, like so many do. I wasn’t going out and going ‘gosh, I want to be in mortgage or title.’ And that’s not something that was a dream, but does anyone dream about that?” Woodring says, with an animated laugh.

Woodring was a homeowner, she was working full-time and taking classes at a community college. “I was busy,” she says, cheekily. 

She stayed in the business as she built her life, on her own terms. 

One of the businesses in which she stayed, for a good number of years, was MetMor Financial, which was later acquired by Mellon Bank. Here, she worked for what she calls “a good boss,” which left an impact on her. 

During her time, MetMor was owned by a man named Jerry Hoerner. “I learned from Jerry that you must have a good boss. You must be a good person,” she recalls. 

MetMor was located in a big building, occupying about four or five floors. The employees all wore name badges and Hoerner would make a point to say people’s names and learn them. Woodring recalls that even if he did take a peek at her nametag, she never knew it. It was a small act of leadership that she still remembers fondly, to this day. 

“When he would acknowledge you in the morning, it was a good way to start your day. It was genuine. You weren’t just a number,” Woodring says. “I thought, if I ever get to be a boss, I want to be like Jerry. And so that was a huge thing, the kindness.” 

Fast forward to 2013, Woodring became the boss, but first, she became a mom. 

In a similar story to her own mom and dad she met a very nice man, a “country boy” to her “city girl,” and they fell in love. “We made beautiful babies, but we didn’t have a lot in common.” 

She had her first daughter, Daniele, or “Dani,” as she calls her, in 1996. And her youngest, Gracee, in 1999. 

“Family means the world to me. When my daughters came along, I worked hard to make sure that they had a good life,” she says. 

Woodring was the breadwinner and, after her relationship ended, she was a single mother raising two young girls. 

She started working for Chicago Title Insurance company, in 1997, which led to a series of opportunities for professional development or, as she calls it, “hired to fire.” 

“Chicago Title’s offices were not meeting their quotas, at all,” Woodring says, adding that one of her tasks was to visit the offices and meet with the teams. Make assessments of what was needed to turn things around. Make friends with the teams, get them to trust her and talk to her. 

“I realized why they weren’t making money, pretty quickly. They had the wrong people in the wrong places. And I’ve always been one that didn’t need two hours with you for an interview,” Woodring says. “I prepared my report and reported it back. So, I came in as a friend, like someone that was just like, ‘Oh, I’m just here, just to see how things are going. Tell me about what you do.’ And then I went around, met some of the realtors sharing offices with Chicago Title, [and asked] ‘Tell me about you. What areas do you do?’ And then I come, and I bring my report back to my boss and she goes, this is amazing. Now go do it.” Doing “it” meant firing people. Something no one loves to do and, if they do, shouldn’t be in the position to do so. And, just a few minutes with Woodring would have you scratching your head, wondering how someone so bubbly and kind would be able to manage such a laborious task. 

“I cried at night. I affected people’s lives,” she says. “I’ve hardened a lot over the years, since having to do that. But that was my first assignment, and it was rough. It was very emotional, very trying, very difficult.” 

THE TAMPA CHAPTER

Woodring officially moved her family to Tampa in 2005, which would become her next permanent residence, where she fell in love, once again, and became “mom” of her very own business. 

Her parents were living in Sarasota, as were her sister and her grandparents. When she was offered a job that would bring her closer to her family, it was a no-brainer. But there were some adjustments. 

“Even though I was so excited to move to Florida, I didn’t realize how hard it would be for me,” Woodring says. “Obviously, I left a place where I had a multitude of friends. I left everything. And I had family here, but they were an hour away. It’s not like they were right next door or could come over every night for dinner. I had two little girls, and I had no friends. I knew absolutely nobody.” 

To make matters worse, the business she walked into wasn’t a pleasant place to be. 

“I didn’t realize how hard it would be, in addition to coming into a company that was not anything like I was told, nothing, I walked into hell. I literally walked into hell, and I had never been there before,” she says. “The owner of that company was the most unprofessional, meanest person I had ever met in my life.”

At any given time, Woodring says the company had more than 200 employees, “and they were so disgruntled and so unhappy that they would walk up to me and complain and tell me ‘You are two months too late,’ or they just wouldn’t come back from lunch.” 

With clients still needing title insurance and employees walking out, Woodring had to get proactive to be sure the work got done. She went back to the basics and held a job fair. With her keen ability to spot talent, with confidence they would be a good fit, she was able to hire at least 60 people during that fair. She interviewed each, and every, one of them. 

She was using some of those leadership skills she picked up from Jerry Hoerner and she realized, maybe she was ready to be her own “good boss.” 

“I had a dream to have my own company and that’s the first time in my life that I actually had a dream to do something for myself, not something for someone else,” Woodring says. 

She figured if she could clean up this company, she could do anything. She kept saving up her bonuses and bided her time. She didn’t want to be just local, or even regional, she wanted to be nationwide. 

Eventually, one of the big clients of her current place of work was looking to start a joint venture. His company was Mortgage Investors Corp., in St. Petersburg, and his name was Bill Edwards. 

Woodring worked with Edwards and started a new company, from scratch, National Title Network (NTN), where she was chief operating officer, from 2009 until 2013. 

When Mortgage Investors started to run into issues, so did NTN. But meanwhile, Woodring was still building her own nest egg. She had established National Vendor Solutions (NVS), a notary/attorney signing service company for closings. 

“When all the stuff blew up and the company closed, I still retained NVS. And then from there, that just kind of branched off. And then, I decided, okay, it’s time,” Woodring says and then RELTCO was coming, no matter what. 

BECOMING THE BOSS

During her journey of building businesses and starting businesses, Woodring did find love again, in 2007. “We met playing volleyball and I adored him,” she says. 

“I was busy building the business and he was busy doing other things. Sometimes you tend to overlook some of those “other things” when you’re very busy and you’re focused on building a business. So, you have something, a legacy to leave for your kids,” she says. The marriage ended and Woodring was, once again, focused on her business and children. In a way, it fits her story. She admits, she’s not your average woman. 

Woodring loves cars, including her sleek Aston Martin, and is a huge sports buff. She holds season tickets for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. She loves to travel, and she loves to give back to causes that help animals. Her favorite charitable giving is the Humane Society of Tampa Bay’s annual Tuxes and Tails Fundraising Gala, where she sponsors a table every year. 

“If I could have 50,000 animals I would, but I only have so much time in the day,” she says. She does have a dog, Nala, and four cats. Nala goes with her to the office every day and is the “office mascot and moral booster.”

She really loves that her daughters are working alongside her. She calls it a “dream come true.” 

Gracee came on board, first, at the age of 16 as a receptionist. Dani joined later, after college,as the director of administration. 

“It’s kind of like a full circle. Such a proud, happy moment for me that they even want to work there,” Woodring says. 

“And what kind of leader is mom?” … we asked the girls. 

“She’s very kind, very loving and forgiving,” says Dani. “She’s a great fit for being the boss because she’s done every, single position and she’s literally walked in the shoes that every, single employee wears.” 

What’s next for Woodring? Slowing down a little wouldn’t be the worst thing. But mom isn’t putting pressure on her girls to follow in her footsteps. 

“I don’t want them to ever feel like my dream has to be their dream. They do an amazing job but if they have other dreams, then I want them to do what I did. RELTCO was my dream. So, if I were to die tomorrow, it would be their decision what they want to do there. Whether they wanted to be a part of it, or keep it alive, or not. That would be their decision to make,” Woodring says, as she tears up, ever so slightly. 

A good boss, indeed. ♦

WHAT KEEPS HER UP? 

The peaks and valleys of the title business can be challenging, leading to sleepless nights, as one waits for a down spiral to pass. 

“The last two years have been challenging. We had very high revenues, but the industry has taken a turn. The mortgage industry was hit extremely hard,” Woodring says, citing the high interest rates which indirectly affect her business. 

“We still have all our clients, but their volume has gone down,” she says. “I’ve had to put my sales cap on and bust my ass. I’m still, to this day, busting my ass to make up for what we lost. It’s been a constant uphill battle.” 

What does busting one’s ass look like? How about from revenue over $20 million in 2021, to dipping to $11.1 million in 2023, and now projected back up to $15 million, in 2024. That’s the tenacity of Paula Woodring

THE ONE LOVE SHE WENT BACK TO

Woodring eventually built RELTCO up and sold it to Live Oak Bank, a client of RELTCO. After about a year, she bought it back – and paid less than she sold it for. 

“With a bank owning a title company, we had to go through all these rigorous audits. It was incredibly challenging,” Woodring says. “That was another challenging part of my life, where I had just ended a marriage and I had daughters who were older. I wanted to be there for them. It took a lot of energy because the bank had audits after audits after audits. And I just said, ‘this isn’t a good fit.’ One day I just woke up and I said, ‘I can’t.’ So, I made a presentation to them, and I made them an offer.” 

It was the one love she wanted back. And she got it. 

She speaks very highly of working with them, grateful it all worked out for all involved parties. 

“They were kind men. Two of the kindest people I’ve ever known in my life. They’re from Wilmington, North Carolina. Lovely gentleman. And the relationship between the three of us was phenomenal,” she says. RELTCO still does business with them, to this day. 

The fairy tale ending Woodring deserves. 

Photos by Pamella Lee

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