Leaner. Stronger. Better.

Recovering from our recent office fire sheds new light on everything


Published on 08 Jul 2019

The New Normal

If you’ve ever encountered a true epic disaster event in your life you understand the phrase, “Things will never be the same again.” Better known as “the new normal.” However, that doesn’t mean the new normal can't be better than the old one. It actually can be better if you have a mind to see it that way—what we call the remodeling mindset.

So, in the aftermath of our recent office fire we came up with a new motto that embraces this idea of a fantastic “new normal” for us at Murphy Bros. — Leaner | Stronger | Better.

Businesses are no different than you or I. They hold on to stuff they hope to use in the future too.

What Does "Leaner" Mean?

Imagine if someone came into your garage while you were sleeping and got rid of all the junk. All the old paint cans, hopelessly outdated boxes of “how to” journals from 1980, scraps of wood you thought you might need some day, jars of mismatched nails, dead batteries, old tires, dead Christmas lights—the accumulated stuff with it’s own special kind of gravity that grows heavier and thus harder to toss with each passing day. All gone. How would you feel? Robbed? Panicked? Elated? Free? Exactly.

"Leaner" is NOT about being fat or skinny. It’s all together different.

Fire door protects break room & offices from direct fire impact. Not going to miss that little underpowered microwave!

That’s essentially what happened to us on the 23rd of May, 2019, when fire engulfed our Blaine offices and reduced all of our 36 years of junk along with most of the good stuff to ash and soot covered tombstones.

“After a loss like this it’s almost impossible not to re-evaluate everything,” explains owner John Murphy. “I think it’s the act of re-invention, of re-creating what you’ve lost that gives you permission to rethink everything.”

Our garages will never look like this for more than a day of course, but you get the idea. There's nothing here that isn't used.

Murphy adds, “It’s not that we weren’t doing things well. After all, we do have a lifetime 95% client satisfaction rating with GuildQuality and an A+ rating with the BBB. No, this is about two distinct opportunities—Not letting the junk back in the front door and tactically re-evaluating the way we do things. ”

Will this make Murphy Bros. even more economical and efficient? “That’s the goal,” says Murphy. “You know, if you look at the term LEAN in today’s service and manufacturing world you’re talking about the principles of “continuous improvement”, which was made popular decades ago by Toyota, but has only had nominal impact in our industry,” explains Murphy.

LEAN doesn't transfer exactly to the service industry, but much of it does—waiting, re-work, over processing.

The Jaw-Dropping Potential of LEAN

Imagine if you spent the same number of hours working but doubled what you were able to accomplish. That’s essentially the promise of LEAN—doubling capacity by eliminating seven kinds of waste.

To our homeowners that means even fewer mistakes and unnecessary delays. To us it means working with more clients each year and doing so with fewer headaches and within shorter time frames. To our trade partners it means a more predictable partner, with fewer crisis events.

“To be clear, the key word here is fewer, not all. Remodeling is by its nature unpredictable and messy. But I believe we can make it less so,” explains Murphy.

Owner John Murphy addressing Murphy Bros. staff about the "new normal" and opportunity that awaits.

What Does "Stronger" Mean?

The recent fire at our Blaine offices exposed a number of things that seemed prudent and convenient, but really weren’t either anymore. For instance, certain aspects of our infrastructure had become dated, less capable of sustaining continued growth and carried more risk that necessary. We sure as heck won’t place our primary server on the second floor storage area behind a steel stud wall next to our paint operation again!

It’s NOT about being weak or herculean. It’s also all together different.


From left: Lead carpenter Mark Arntzen and design/builder expert Jonah Smith recovering our computer server only to find out soot damage was too much for it.

“We got lucky there with the server. Most of it survived long enough to recover the data. But it’s a good example of convenience winning out over security and safety. It was easy to get at to fix and update, but unnecessarily exposed,” explains Murphy.

“So, what we really mean here is getting a stronger infrastructure that can sustain both the unpredictable disaster as well as the predicted growth that is currently upon us,” says Murphy. “More space, a more functional layout, updated systems, it all will make us a more robust enterprise for what’s ahead.”

What Does "Better" Mean?

Having more space with greater functionality and with continuous improvement efficiencies on the process side won’t make us perfect. “But it will make us better in a couple of ways,” explains Murphy. “Since remodeling is inherently unpredictable, being more capable and efficient will make us better at reacting to unforeseen challenges.”


It’s NOT about being perfect, just excellent.


We like to think of our quality of workmanship and remodeling experience as our very own gold standard.

“Our rebuilding efforts will give us more bandwidth to deal with the unexpected. And, I expect us to do an even better job at handling the challenges,” concludes Murphy.

“Focus on making yourself better, not on thinking that you are better.”

Why not perfect? Perfect isn’t sustainable nor is it reasonable to expect flawed humans to perform perfectly all the time. We are about excellence not perfection.

“We want excellence in everything we do, all the time. That’s the goal. Making these improvements out of the ashes of this fire will give us a singular opportunity to do just that. Now it’s up to us to make Leaner Stronger Better happen,” says Murphy.