These two women take on the world of construction

When you first hear the name Ryan Murphy Construction you naturally assume the company was founded by a man named Ryan Murphy. For Ryan Murphy Construction this is a common assumption, but it could not be farther from the truth. Lara Murphy and Karen Ryan founded Ryan Murphy Construction in order to change customer perceptions in the construction industry as a whole.

There is no argument that jobs in construction are largely filled by men. When Lara and Karen first met on a job site in Banff they couldn’t believe their luck. Two women working on the same project? In their experience that was almost unheard of. After working together and staying in touch for many years they finally decided to go ahead with their plan. Using a masculine sounding name, these ladies burst into the construction scene with their new business ensuring no biases would be held against them. Of course many clients called asking to speak with “Ryan” but this didn’t bother Lara and Karen one bit. They went above and beyond their customer’s expectations and built an incredible reputation for themselves even amidst an economic downturn and peoples previous perceptions.

Learn how these ladies justified building out a business amidst an economic downturn and why this decision has in fact made them stronger.

“It was not an easy time to be in business.”*

Ryan Murphy was founded in 2008 in Calgary. If that year sounds familiar it’s because that was the year so many businesses went under due to the global financial crisis. Entrepreneurs were struggling to keep their businesses afloat let alone start a new one. Lara and Karen did the impossible.

Upon starting their business Lara and Karen couldn’t believe the opportunity they were sitting on. Upon initially starting out, the price of oil was at an all time high which caused for an overflow of clients and busy days for the working ladies. Times were good and business was even better. Then it seemed that almost overnight, the business stopped coming in. The financial crisis was taking its toll and the new business owners were questioning how they were going to make ends meet. Although things were difficult, beginning a business in a financial crisis taught these entrepreneurs some very important lessons they would not have learned otherwise. From the very beginning the pair knew they needed to over service their clients and never take a project or a contact for granted. They waited five years before hiring another employee in order to save money. Building out a business with two employees calls for some sleepless nights but this strategic business decision allowed Ryan Murphy to remain alive.

“We work at what we can, one day at a time. It may not be the most exhilarating approach, but it’s proving to be damn good business.”*

Rather than panicking over the economy, the pair focused on aspects of their business they could control. They amped up their marketing using social (since its free!) to attract new business. Since construction companies aren’t generally social media savvy, Karen and Lara were able to leverage that weakness and use it to their advantage. They gained new customers over social media and truly valued word of mouth. In order generate referral business, Lara and Karen used another tactic they knew they could control. They made the conscious decision to service a diverse client base. Rather than narrowing in on specific projects they made sure to constantly diversify their portfolio. This decision accounted for much of their referral business. The team has worked on everything from fitness studios to wheelchair accessible homes. Nothing is out of the question for this business, taking on new and diverse clients is a staple for Ryan Murphy.

“Know your business, know what you’re doing, and then the respect comes.”**

Ryan Murphy has definitely gained the respect of the marketplace. Their impressive portfolio and commitment to community is inspiring. Still, even using all the strategies we listed above to grow a successful business, Lara and Karen could have never gotten so far if they did not prioritize their financials. A study done by Intuit Canada indicated that 39% of small business owners failed a basic financial literacy test.* Far too often entrepreneurs focus on what they do best and ignore their financials. Lara and Karen were different. They understood the importance of their financial statements, perhaps since they were building out their business in one of the toughest economic times we have ever faced. To ensure their financials were kept in order they hired a finance expert. This allowed the entrepreneurs to focus on what they loved to do, while still having the funds to do so.

Reading this story you may think we are encouraging you to begin a business in an economic slump. This is definitely not the message we are trying to send! What we are trying to say is be optimistic when building your business but run it as if you were in a financial downturn. As entrepreneurs we often get carried away when times are good. We feel invincible and forget to prepare for the worst. Be level headed every day. Consider each day that you get to spend working on your business a blessing and don’t take opportunities for granted. If you can still manage to generate business in the worst economic times, it definitely means you are doing something right!

Things to consider

If you are an entrepreneur here are some thing to consider:

  • Stop focusing on factors outside of your control and zero in on what you can control
  • Consider tactics like social media and word of mouth to decrease traditional marketing costs
  • Don’t ignore your financials, they will make or break your business

Here is how you can learn more about Ryan Murphy Construction:



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