- One Relationship at a Time
"I had a class with Dr. Crowley at Auburn, and I vividly remember him asking us to state why we wanted to be in the construction field
I told him I liked being outdoors; playing in the dirt, having dirty boots and getting muddy. That was my view of what construction was
- Daniel Murray, President -
Murray Building Company, Inc. is a full-service General Contracting firm celebrating ten years of success. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, the Company provides a wide range of services in Healthcare, Commercial, Mixed Use, Retail, Municipal, and Institutional construction. Murray has based their core principals on Honesty, Teamwork, and Relationships. These values have brought the company from a humble, one-man team to the multi-million dollar company that it is today.
As a child, Daniel Murray was fascinated by the construction industry. Having a grandfather who owned and operated a site and utility contracting business afforded him the opportunity to observe building construction at an early age. A love of working outside, and a desire to build something that could be touched and felt inspired him to attend Auburn University and pursue a degree in Civil Engineering.
By 1996, Daniel had begun his career in construction through the co-op program at Auburn. He spent his summers and several semesters working with Brasfield & Gorrie in Atlanta, learning the ins and outs of the industry while gaining a hands-on perspective of life on the jobsite. This was an eye opening experience, drastically different than that of the classroom pe
rspective. "I quickly realized that I didn't know a thing about construction,," recalls Daniel. These early experiences in the trenches proved to be invaluable in later years, and were instrumental in feeding the desire to build a company of his own.
"...the subcontractors are looking for the best opportunity for themselves as well.
If you're always just looking for the lowest number, they'll stop bidding your work."
- Daniel Murray -
After graduating with a bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering in 1998, Daniel moved home to Birmingham and officially joined Brasfield & Gorrie as an estimator in the commercial and retail divisions. During these years, he focused on the estimating side of the industry - learning what it takes to make a project successful on the front end while remaining cost effective through close-out. Staying within budget is crucial to the client, however Daniel soon realized that the key to providing both a cost efficient and lucra
tive budget was by building solid relationships with local subcontractors and vendors. "You pride yourself on giving your client what they want - the lowest price. But what you realize over time is that the subcontractors are looking for the best opportunity for themselves as well. If you're always just looking for the lowest number, they'll stop bidding your work." Daniel made a concentrated effort to build rapport with the subcontracting community, and became involved in various industry related organizations such as SubAla, Associated Builders & Contractors, and Associated General Contractors.
After spending two years in the estimating department, Daniel moved on to project management, working onsite at the Brookwood Mall Renovation in Birmingham. "This is where I got to live the dream that I had in class in Auburn - I got to get dirty; walk around in boots, meet people in the field and see how things really go down; to touch it, and feel it." From this point Daniel moved into the Healthcare division, getting his boots muddy once again on the campus of UAB while building the new $180 million North Pavilion Hospital. Learning the nuances of the various disciplines from estimating through project close-out was crucial to building a thorough understanding of the industry, and ultimately gain the education needed to run a successful contracting business.
"I attribute the formation of my construction skill set to Brasfield & Gorrie,"
says Daniel. "I was always intrigued by Miller Gorrie's character and success story. I would consider him a role model, and the things I learned from the many talented people at B&G was encouragement to go out on my own."
A New Direction ...
It was at this point in his career that Daniel was given an opportunity to start something new - the commercial arm of an established residential contracting business located in Homewood, Alabama. In August of 2006, Daniel left Brasfield & Gorrie and became the managing member of Twin Commercial, LLC. For the next six months Daniel was the sole employee, working to build the company's brand as well as the relationships needed to begin working.
Everyone wants to hire an experienced contractor - but how do you get the experience
until you start working?"
- Daniel Murray -
This opportunity came through a personal relationship that Daniel had built with Scott Collins of Baseline Consultants. "When we decided to build our office, we knew that Daniel had started his own company," says Scott. "I knew that he was
reliable, and a good guy, so we felt comfortable giving him and Twin the opportunity to bid the project, and ultimately build it." The new 8,000 square foot office building was the first ground-up project for the fledgling company, and marked the beginning of an upward growth spurt both in volume and in personnel. Daniel hired Steve Jordan as the first Superintendant for the company, and immediately sent him to manage the Baseline project. Work began in January 2007 completing in just 6 months, solidifying the first real client relationship for the company. "They were attentive to our needs and managed the project extremely well while completing it on schedule and within budget - which i
s crucial to a company like Baseline!" From this point the company was awarded a small tenant fitout project in Homewood's prestigious SoHo district, as well as a 3-story eight unit condominium project on Lake Martin. It was at this point that Daniel and partners William and David Siegel realized that there was a difference in the business models of the two companies, and Daniel was given the opportunity to purchase the bulk shares of Twin Commercial. In 2008 Daniel took full ownership of the company, and Twin Commercial, LLC became Murray Building Company, Inc.
The Early Years ...
The early years were productive. The office was located on Linden Avenue in Homewood, and now employed 3 team members, including Tony Rouse, who joined Murray as a Superintendent. "Daniel has a phenomenal talent for business. In the beginning we took the small jobs that the big companies weren't interested in. Eve
ryone wore every hat. We would estimate and budget the job together, then go out and build it together.´ Daniel operated as the Project Manager, dividing his time between the jobsite and the office, building the business one crossbeam at a time. Tony knew that they were building something special - something that would last. "It's easy to work for someone you respect, and Daniel would strap on a tool belt and be out there in the trenches with the rest of us."
"Everyone wore every hat.
We would estimate and budget the job together, then go out and build it together. "
In the beginning the Company focused on hard bid work to build backlog and fill the gaps between office and retail projects. A majority of these hard bid projects were at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Daniel's early experience in healthcare construction made the company successful in constructing many projects at the University Hospital. Maintaining a safe environment for patients and staff throughout construction is of vital importance, an
d the company's focus on ICRA and the use of EDGE Guard Barrier systems as a means of environmental disturbance control were helping to make them leaders in their field. Healthcare construction is a specialized skill set, requiring acute attention to every detail - forever keeping the future staff and patients foremost in your mind. Robert Sharpe, Director of Hospital Construction at UAB has worked with Murray on multiple projects over the years. "The UAB Health System and University Hospital has had a relationship with MBC literally since their inception. They have worked on healthcare proje
cts of varying sizes and complexities and have shown that they have the knowledge and experience to understand healthcare construction and to execute complex projects with quality and timely delivery.". This attention to detail and client focus paid off. Over the next few years the company's volume grew, doubling from $1.5 million in 2007 to $2.5 million in 2008. In 2010, just four years after becoming a stand-alone entity, Murray grossed an annual volume of $10 million. Daniel remembers, "I thought, if we can just keep this up, we're gonna be huge!"
A Culture to Build On ...
But being a small company had its advantages. As the economy took a downturn in 2008, Murray was able to not only remain in business, but be profitable, and unlike many of their competitors, avoid downsizing. A series of successful hard bid projects maintained the necessary backlog to support the minimal overhead, and solidify Murray as a smart and serious competitor in the industry. Daniel's early experience in building relationships with subcontractors became a driving force in developing the company business plan. A professional relationship built on honesty and integrity is far more likely to last long term, while maintaining an open door policy between the contractor and the Client ensures a successful project. Murray shifted their focus to a "Value Proposition" approach, offering not only clients, but subcontractors and vendors the opportunity to work together in achieving project success by utilizing the right people for each project. The concept of providing not just a low number, but a proven team who would deliver a quality end product became the gateway for the company to become more selective in the types of projects that they pursued. "We bend over backwards to help our subs, because I learned early on that they can make or break you," says Daniel. "Being selective of who we ask to bid, and making sure these guys aren't competing with 15 other companies on every project has afforded us relationships with subcontractors who will offer the same amount of value to our clients that we do." A switch to a negotiated contract approach afforded Murray with opportunities that have been profitable both in volume, and in relationship value. Focusing on a value based product rather than simply a low-bid approach guarantees a sound, well built facility that lasts. Baseline Consultants can attest to this fact: "We're going on nine years in our offices, and couldn't be happier. We haven't had a single issue." In an industry filled with buzz words such as "excellence" and "client satisfaction",Murray has committed itself to setting new standards of quality by approaching each project with a fresh perspective, challenging themselves on a daily basis.
"A professional relationship built on honesty and integrity is far more likely to last long term."
- Daniel Murray -
Business development strategies shifted due in large part to the addition of Chad Wilson, Director of Construction and Mark Garner, Senior Estimator. Their expertise and experience in the industry have opened doors for the company to be competitive, but selective. "The more mature you are in your career, the more you realize the importance of being more than just a low number. We're not always the low cost provider, and we don't want to be." Over the ten year history, the company has evolved, choosing to work with clients who appreciate a value proposition rather than just a low bid. "We want to offer our clients the very best, and the relationships that we have built with our subs allow us to give this value added service." Being a small company allows for more individual time and attention spent with clients, a trend that Daniel intends to keep alive and at the core of the company's long term business plan. Many of Murray's employees have worked for large companies, and have seen how the job can become bigger than the relationship. Maintaining the small company mentality and remaining client oriented is the goal of every employee - providing the professional services of a large company, in a smaller package.
Our initial goals in establishing our culture were to create a work environment
where people actually enjoyed being here..."
- Dave Gray,
Learning from the successes and mistakes of other companies is paramount, and Daniel credits much of his focus on culture to client and long time friend Dave Gray, President and CEO of Daxko. "
Our initial goals in establishing our culture were to create a work environment where people actually enjoyed being here; could be successful in their careers, respect those they work with and in turn be rewarded for their contribution",
says Dave Gray.
While constructing the corporate offices for the software company in 2011, Daniel was able to see the effects of a healthy corporate culture firsthand. "
For any business owner trying to establish or change a culture, make it your #1 priority and keep it there continuously,"
advises Dave. "It can't be a short-term initiative, because it's never "done." It also can't be delegated. In order for the culture to thrive, it must be driven and maintained from the top." Daniel took this advice to heart, committing himself to creating a work environment that would build a team of committed professionals.
As volume has grown, so has the team. Maintaining and reiterating the importance of culture in the company is key to Director of Business Development Blaine House."Our culture is based on respect, integrity, and character." A focus on family, and an understanding that a healthy corporate culture is many times a byproduct of healthy personal and family relationships is at Murray's heart. "Seeing kids sitting on the credenza on a Friday afternoon is pretty common..we have families in here all of the time, and we want it to be that way."
We're all working
in the same direction
the same wagon.
In 2015 Murray relocated their offices to 28th Avenue South in Homewood. This was an opportunity to incorporate the physical aspect of the corporate culture by designing the space to fit the goals and structure of the company. The space was designed with the goal of providing flexibility and resources to work as a team. Blaine's goal for maintaining the culture is simple: "We hire professionals who possess a certain skill set, and we give them the flexibility to do their jobs. We provide the responsibilities and allow them to perform. It's a culture of growth and respect for each other." Being a part of the team means sharing in the successes as well as the failures. It is being able to put the right individual into the right environment in order to produce the desired end result - a successful project and a satisfied client. Creating a space with open offices encourages interaction amongst the team. Individual office space is small, allowing for the privacy of phone and computer interaction, but encouraging a community and team effort for review of plans, take-offs, and project files. The modern feel of the space is accented with heavy wooden doors and large colorful art. An open break area lends a "homey" feel to the space, and the large "War Room" is used not only for training, estimating, and client interaction, but is also a resource for downtime. "We can put together a $10 million project estimate, and then watch the Masters - we celebrate hard work!" says Blaine.
"Being part of a team is being able to put the right individual into the right environment
in order to produce the desired end result..."
- Blaine House -
And keeping the corporate offices in Homewood - a place that Daniel considers home - was equally important. The ability to walk out of your front door to a coffee shop, the park, restaurants, church, and even the office is what drives many individuals and companies to relocate to the quaint community. Long time friend and client Rich Campbell of Veritas Commercial Real Estate has spent most of his career working within the City of Birmingham, and partnered with Murray on the fitout and revitalization effort of the new offices. "The unique thing about Homewood is the sense of community - it's the central core. It was exciting to partner with Murray, both as Clients and as friends."
Building a Legacy ...
Building in and around the City of Birmingham has been a significant part of Murray's goals of adding to their home community. Due to their reputation of commitment to the project and integrity in their relationships, the company has been awarded many culturally significant projects within the City of Birmingham, and throughout the State of Alabama.
- DAXKO -
Birmingham based software and technology giant DAXKO contacted Murray in 2011 regarding a new Class A office space for their growing company. DAXKO's clientele includes such database driven companies as the YMCA, and the JCC. Dave Gray, President of DAXKO remembers wanting to hire Murray from the very beginning. "
I know when we were getting our business off the ground our long-term success was at least partially ba
ed on those early custo
mers giving us a chance. I
wanted to be able to do the same thing in this case. Daniel always
ame across as a trustworthy, hardworking guy. So when it came
time to make a selection, I wanted to choose someone whose business we thought
we could help... But, we also had to believe they could get the job done. "
Despite the building owner's misgivings about using a smaller contractor for the high profile project, Murray's reputation for honesty and integrity was the final catalyst in securing the project. "I met Daniel at O'Henry's late one evening to get his personal commitment that he wouldn't let the project fail. He gave his assurance that night, and proved it with the end results. In my "unbiased opinion" that end result is one of the best workspaces in Birmingham!"
The project included 24,000 square feet of tenant fitout within a building that was continuously occupied by working professionals. Creating the focal point of the unique space included cutting a 600 square foot opening in the fifth floor concrete in order to install a monumental steel staircase to allow for an alternate method of travel between the fourth floor cafeteria and workspace to the fifth floor public lobby and conference room. "Working with Murray was easy - the entire team was engaged, and genuinely cared about a fantastic outcome."
In 2014 Murray constructed one of their largest projects to date - University of West Alabama's Spieth Hall. The existing 50,575 square foot dormitory was originally built in 1968 and served as a residence hall for men. Murray worked with architect design team Goodwyn Mills & Cawood to convert the space into state-of-the art classrooms and laboratories for the School of Nursing. The addition of offices for faculty and staff, a common area for students, and a large lecture hall utilizing stadium style seating and advanced A/V equipment provided students with the most up to date and efficient learning space. Interior renovations to the facility included a full upgrade to all finishes, infrastructure, mechanical and electrical systems. The exterior of the building was cleaned, restored, and sealed to provide extended life for the structure, and a new roof system was constructed. Exterior sight lighting was added for student safety, as well as additional concrete sidewalks and handicap ramp to access the building. The $5.3 million project completed in December 2015.
- Bakers Row -
Perhaps one of the most high profile projects for the company came in 2014. The iconic Merita Bakery located on First Avenue South was set to become a trendy mixed use development, adding office, retail, and restaurant space to the booming downtown revitalization movement. Merita closed its doors in 2012 in the wake of the bankruptcy of parent company Hostess Brands, Inc. leaving the 30,157 square foot facility vacant, and available to the possibility of new life. The original structure, built in the 1930's, is a longstanding part of the Magic City landscape. Therefore, it was the goal of the development and design
teams to maintain the integrity of the eighty year old structure. "When we first toured through it, we saw the bones of the building and we saw a lot of opportunity...," said Corporate Realty's Director of Development Brian Wolfe. "It's just something you look at and think, I can preserve a piece of this." Murray, along with KPS Group architects and Walter Schoel Engineering Company joined LIV Development and Corporate Realty on this much anticipated project. The team shared the common goal of preserving the history and integrity of the building, while bringing new life and purpose to the structure. As a part of this effort, the angled sawtooth windows and ceilings were left intact, the original Merita sign has been moved indoors, and even outlines of tools painted on the walls of the factory have been preserved. Exposed metal beams and ductwork lend to the industrial feel of the space. Hardscape improvements and landscaping help to tie the property in to the local aesthetics, and add to the character of the Railroad Park area. A metal building located at the rear of the bakery now serves as covered parking. The new "Bakers Row" opened its doors over the summer of 2015, welcoming the first tenant - project architect KPS Group - occupying 7,500 square feet of the restored space. Corporate Realty soon joined the tenant list, utilizing 4,400 square feet. The $5 million development joins Railroad Park, Regions Field, and Good People Brewing among others in the up-and-coming Parkside District.
Friend and long time client
al Estate says
really think about it we have
acular contractors in town,
A whole bunch of different
contractors who really manage their p
rojects well. Well, a
lot of peopl
e do good work. But my experience wit
h Murray is based on trust. I hire them because they're solid people and I know I can trust them. There will always be challenges and successes, and when you're working with people where there is a baseline of trust, working through the challenges is far easier."
A Sense of Community ...
Being visible and involved in the community is important to Murray. Team members participate in local charities as an opportunity to give back, and to be leaders in the community. The Children's Harbor Pig Iron BBQ in the Fall and The Exceptional Foundation Chili Cookoff in the Spring are just a few of examples. Spending time together as friends builds camaraderie among the team members, and Murray organizes several internal gatherings throughout the year, such as cook-outs, summer picnics, and a Christmas party.
"It's not all about work,
it's about giving back
to the community"
- Blaine House -
Simply building a successful construction company was not all that Daniel set out to do. It was not about the individual man, but the generations of people who would come after him. This mindset has influenced the management decisions of the company from day one - building a place where people want to stay. Casey Stricklen joined the Murray team for that very reason. Having the opportunity to build your community, and establish solid roots is a real recruiting tool for Murray. "It was family and the desire to be with them that made me choose Murray over a larger company. I spent 3 of my first 5 years of marriage on the road. That works for some people, but I'm a Mississippi boy, and I enjoy being at home with my family." Knowing that you are literally building your community, providing something tangible for future generations is motivation to many. "Being able to work with local clients - restaurateurs, surgeons, small business owners- gave me a unique opportunity to not only get plugged into the local industry professionally, but on a personal level." Hiring individuals who possess the right skills, drive,
and integrity to add to the growth of the company is important; retaining these individuals long-term the ultimate goal. Blaine believes that the answer to the company's low turnover rate is simple: "We don't micromanage. We hire people who know the business, know their craft, and work hard. We provide the resources, and let them do their job."
Putting the company mission statement into action is the responsibility of every team member. Hearing the affirmation of this mission directly from a client is the ultimate reward. "I think what ultimately sums it up for me is their character - both individually and as a company," says Rich Campbell.
" I feel like when I hand them a project or ask them to take care of something it is done in a moral and ethical way. I like knowing that when I get them on a project I really can let them run with it. I trust that they will check in with me when they say they will, and I trust that they will take responsibility for things when they don't go as planned, as can often happen on a project. As a property owner, knowing that you really do know the person on the other side of things; that they are trustworthy and that they have faith in God and that guides who they are and how they do business - that is a big deal to me."
A Vision for the Future ...
Daniel measures his success by remaining humble, and focused on the big picture. "We have been successful, and we have been humbled. Does moving into a bigger, nicer office mean we have arrived? No. Have we had to become strategic about the kind of people who are a positive influence on the Company? Yes. And some decisions have been painful." After ten years in business, it's all about making sure that Murray as a company is motivating their people, and that these individuals know that they are building something that is going to last. Becoming a visionary for the Company and ensuring that each generation is committed to teaching and leading the next is Daniel's ultimate goal for Murray Building Company.
Tony Rouse reflects often on the company's humble roots, and how far they have come in ten short years. "It's been eye opening to watch the company grow from just 3 employees to 32. This success is due to Daniel - he's not afraid to go to work and get his hands in the dirt. That's something that everyone can respect in a leader."
Murray Building Company
1900 28th Avenue South | Suite 100
Birmingham, Alabama 35209