Rick Murphey earned a living straight out of high school. The year was 1979, and while the country was fighting a growing energy crisis, fueling the worst recession since World War II, Murphey scored a job as a hot roofer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Those days are well behind him as he now enjoys the success that four-plus decades of hard work delivers. Of his entry into roofing, he says it was grueling work. Also, around that time, a new roofing system emerged and would subsequently change the course of Murphey’s career.
“Single-ply systems were the new technology back then and I was interested in a cleaner alternative to hot asphalt systems,” he said.
That passion for a new roofing system helped R L Murphey Commercial Roof Systems carve itself a niche in Texas’s competitive roofing market as a single-ply roofing contractor, specializing in new construction.
The company has since racked up multiple accolades from manufacturers thanks to quality workmanship and a can-do attitude, which hasn’t faltered in the face of a global pandemic and ensuing supply chain issues.
“The key attributes that make our company successful are trust, consistency, communication, and transparency,” Murphey said. “We provide a high-quality roof installation at a competitive price in a safe work environment for both our employees and clients.”
Spurred on by Single-Ply
Following his stint in Cedar Rapids, Murphey moved south to Texas, where he found work in the roofing industry and quickly climbed the ladder of responsibility, moving from foreman to superintendent. After establishing himself, Murphey subcontracted labor for a few years before a Dallas-area single-ply roofing company hired him as an estimator and project manager.
In 2002, after several years as an operations manager for the contractor, Murphey and his wife, Sally, founded R L Murphey Commercial Roof Systems. By early 2003 the company had secured its first project, with Murphey handling estimation and project management while Sally managed the company’s accounting, banking and insurance needs. Murphey recalled the hectic schedule they had to juggle while caring for their daughter.
“Our daughter was just starting elementary school at that time and we made an agreement that one of us would always be home to meet the school bus,” Murphey said. “That meant bringing work home, working late into the evening, and it wasn’t unusual for us to be faxing out proposals at 11 p.m.”
Sales grew, precipitating the hiring of additional staff. Today, the company has 40 employees who have the benefit of working flexible hours, a policy the Murpheys implemented when starting the company. Sally and Rick remain involved in the company’s day-to-day operations.
“We also try to keep crews together as much as possible to build more of a team,” Murphey said. “We provide competitive pay, paid time off and opportunities for advancement. We also offer a retirement plan with a company matching portion.”
Today, the company specializes in large-scale warehouses, distribution centers, food processing and cold storage facilities, commercial offices and retail centers. Notable clients include Hilton Hotels, IKEA, CVS, Amazon, and Walmart.
R L Murphey estimates 95% of its work is for new construction, with a fraction of jobs involving reroofing. The company has a dedicated team that makes up the service department, which handles leaks, repairs, and tenant finish-outs. The company says most jobs and leads are privately negotiated, based on its reputation, instead of using advertising and marketing campaigns.
“We’ve installed more than 50 million feet of single-ply roofing and we’ve built a reputation for high quality singly-ply roof installations,” Murphey said.
Quality is built into the process at R L Murphey Commercial Roof Systems, with work checked daily along with thorough pre-inspections prior to the manufacturer’s final job inspection. In that respect, manufacturers like Carlisle have bestowed the company with multiple recognitions, including its Excellence in Single-Ply Award each year from 2004 to 2019 and again in 2023; its Applicator Hall of Fame Award, marking 250 “perfect” 10 installations in a row; and its Perfection Award in 2021, awarded to the top 5% authorized applicators based on installation quality, low warranty claim incidents, and continuous product application.
The accolades don’t stop there, either. Manufacturing giant Johns Manville awarded R L Murphey its “Pinnacle Council” Award in 2011 and again consecutively from 2013 to 2020, and its “5280 Council Peak Advantage” Award in 2017, 2019 and, again, this year. GAF presented it the Master Select President Club Award.
Murphey said these awards reflect the company’s highly-skilled and dedicated labor force. Training and education are mainly provided through manufacturers’ training classes, ensuring employees understand each manufacturer’s specifications. Given the inherent risk involved, safety knowledge is an equally paramount concern. Safety orientation and presentations occur throughout the year with topics spanning the gamut from fall safety to CPR.
Surviving the Pandemic
No sterling reputation or amount of emphasis on quality could have shielded R L Murphey — or any other company — from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Murphey recalled one of the worst experiences in the company’s history was while navigating the limitations caused by so much upheaval.
“The biggest challenge during the COVID pandemic was keeping people safe and healthy,” he said. “We used the standard CDC protocol at the time including limiting exposure, hand washing, hand sanitizer, masking when necessary.”
And, just as other roofing companies, the succeeding supply shortages and material price hikes following COVID have proved challenging.
“We’ve been able to deal with these challenges by being upfront and transparent in our communications with the general contractors,” Murphey said. “We plan ahead, and communicate clearly and often with our general contractors.”
Despite recent difficulties, Murphey says he’s optimistic about the future of his company and the industry in general. When asked what advice he would pass along to any current contractor facing struggles, Murphey encouraged them to stay positive.
“Throughout the years we’ve all dealt with good and bad times in our businesses and right now there is a lot of stress and uncertainty about the future, but don’t let it distract you, stay positive and focused on running your business, maintaining your relationships, and taking care of your employees and your customers,” he said.