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Business operations is the core of the company. It focuses on the infrastructure of the organization and the specifics of the business. For manufacturers, operations encompasses the production facility, the supply chain and its distribution channels. In construction, it includes the equipment, projects and supplies. In a professional services firm, operations involves aligning customer requirements with professional resources. Every business will use a unique set of variables to define their business operations. The business is optimized when operations performs at peak efficiency.
The technology infrastructure that provides the communications, data and applications that drive the business creates the foundation for operations. Technology has changed every aspect of business operations, and as technologies continue to advance, businesses will continue to innovate. Upgrading systems for marketing, sales and customer experience requires a large investment of funds and an even larger investment in change management. Backend operations management, ERP and other operations technologies boost productivity for both factory and knowledge workers. Cross-functional applications for knowledge sharing, collaboration and communications can be life changing in the information age. Cybersecurity has never been more important. The pace of innovation will benefit only those organizations capable of and prepared for embracing big data, artificial intelligence and the “next big thing.”
Finding Solutions Among Friends
Family businesses have unique challenges. Richard Murphy’s Vistage group was a welcome sounding board.
Vistage was designed to provide executives with leadership training and peer support to help them succeed in their businesses. But Vistage isn’t just about learning, it is also about teaching. Richard Murphy, president and CEO of Murphy Warehouse Company, a 113-year-old, fourthgeneration family business, is proud to have inspired fellow Vistage members with his nationally recognized approach to sustainability.
Murphy and his business have been leaders in sustainability for more than 20 years. This commitment began with Murphy planting acres of native prairie on his logistics campuses, which help with storm water retention, as well as carbon sequestration, a process that captures and securely stores carbon dioxide. In fact, Murphy created the largest site in Minneapolis that doesn’t pay storm water fees. Additionally, all of the buildings Murphy owns are LEED Gold and Energy Star certified and have solar panels.
Murphy regularly receives invitations to speak about his sustainability programs and the potential economic advantages for businesses. Over the years, he has been both a teacher and a student in his Vistage group, sharing his knowledge and learning from others. He has also formed deep friendships in the group. And those friendships proved particularly important when he tackled what he has dubbed the “50- Year Legacy Project.”
Five decades ago, Murphy’s father borrowed money from his brother and used stock as collateral. Murphy’s father repaid the loan, but his uncle refused to relinquish the shares. As a result, his uncle owned 50 percent of Murphy Warehouse Company—a wrong that was not made right until Murphy and his cousin devised a plan.
It took years to create and execute their creative five-step resolution. During the process, Vistage was a vital sounding board for Murphy. He shared the plan with his group and his Chair for input. He also discussed it in more intimate settings with members with whom he was close.
Last year, the family found closure. The 50-Year Legacy Project concluded with Murphy’s cousin selling two operating companies to Richard’s side of the family, with all cash and investments on the book, for $1—a happy and satisfying solution for all shareholders.
Murphy’s advice to fellow CEOs tackling a challenge is to think differently and explore solutions outside the box. Vistage helps executives do just that—consider alternatives and challenge their own way of thinking.