Two Words About Your Community: Get Involved

May 1, 2004
The CEO of Contracting Business' 2004 Commercial contractor of the Year says your company's ability to thrive is tied to the overall health of the area

The CEO of Contracting Business' 2004 Commercial contractor of the Year says your company's ability to thrive is tied to the overall health of the area in which it lives.

by Jim Murphy

There are two major reasons for you to become involved in your community beyond your role as a provider of heating and cooling services.

The first is professional. It’s simply good business. If the community in which you work doesn’t thrive, neither will your company. There are certain aspects of any community that need help, and if your company can assist and improve those aspects of the community, there’s bound to be a benefit to your business.

Secondly, from a personal perspective, being involved in things other than the basic business is a welcome diversification and a refreshing experience.

Our community involvement at Murphy Company takes several forms. First we have a wonderful campaign with our associates every year for United Way. We feel United Way is the “mutual fund” of civic and charitable organizations. It offers a wide variety of services to the community, and it’s efficiently run.

We support United Way from a corporate standpoint by matching our associates’ contributions, and by encouraging them to become involved. We’ll often grant associates time off to work with United Way events.

On a corporate level we may contribute to other charities, especially those that are important to our customers. But United Way is the only one that has access to our associates.

I believe that to be effective in business, a person needs as much in the way of liberal arts as in technical skills. That’s why I’ve served on the board of trustees of Maryville University for almost 25 years, which includes seven years as chair.

I like the thrust of Maryville University. It seeks to integrate the liberal arts with professional learning.

I’m also a member of the St. Louis Regional Business Council (RBC). The RBC, which was formed about five years ago, consists of nearly 100 CEOs of large mid-cap companies in the St. Louis region. Its mission is to advance high-impact business, civic, and philanthropic initiatives for the betterment of the region.

The Greatest Need: Education

Education is one area in which the RBC is deeply involved.

All of the members agreed that the greatest amount of help in our region was needed by the public school system in the city of St. Louis. The school system has been under the control of an outside firm for one year. We’ve been very heavily involved with the school board to help it through the difficult steps that needed to be taken, and to help transition it back into a traditional, city-run school system.

We’ve also been fighting to secure “home rule” for St. Louis. Currently, some aspects of city government are controlled by the state. We’ve been working hard to get an amendment to the state constitution that would give the city the kind of local autonomy and authority that it needs to progress and revive itself.

We’ve formed a mentoring program with each of the universities in the area that have business programs. Each RBC member company is mentoring one student. The goal is to retain some of the talented people who are graduating from the universities in the St. Louis area, as opposed to watching them go elsewhere.

We’re also heavily involved with the airport situation here. I serve on an aviation task force for the mayor, and we give him suggestions to help maximize this vital community asset. The better the airport, the easier it becomes to attract businesses.

All of these activities fit into the common theme of helping the area in which you work to thrive, as opposed to just going about your business and ignoring the big picture.

Where to Start

To get involved in your community, start with your local Chamber of Commerce. Also look at your local school districts and see what you can do. And don’t overlook being involved with a trade association as a form of community involvement. Contractors as a whole can take positive action to help an area progress, so there’s a great value in trade associations.

The main thing is to get started. Once you show an interest in improving the community, the word will get around and people will want to talk to you — and do business with you.

You can reach Jim Murphy at 314/692-1510, e-mail [email protected]