"There is nothing better than watching staff deliver great results to clients."
Mission Critical Partners (MCP) is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and to mark the milestone, MCP Insights visited with the three founders to capture their memories and perspectives. This installment features Kevin Murray, the firm’s chief executive officer.
Insights: What were the biggest challenges faced in the beginning and how were they overcome?
Kevin: The biggest challenge was starting from scratch. It was a tremendous amount of time and work. We worked every day, from sunup to sundown, for a year. You have to choose a name and logo, you have to set up bank accounts and get business insurance, you’re writing proposals and making sales calls. On the weekends you’re putting desk furniture together. We were scrounging and scraping with everything we did. Luckily, we had each other—the ultimate triangle team—and some pretty understanding spouses.
Insights: What do you mean by the “ultimate triangle team”?
Kevin: Len was the money guy, while Brian’s strength was in business development. I handled client management—but we all did everything to some degree.
Insights: What was the best/most-important decision made over the first 10 years?
Kevin: We used the Rockefeller Habits from the very beginning. That goes back to our days at our previous firm. We were struggling there—as the company grew, we didn’t know how to manage it. We thought we did but we really didn’t. So, when we started MCP, we decided to embrace the Habits, which are based on principles from the world’s great business leaders. It is so important when you’re starting and building a company to have priorities and rhythm, and to keep everybody on the same page, and the Habits gave us that. It is very easy to get distracted and lose focus, and the Habits helped us avoid that. There are a thousand things you could do every day, but the Habits helped us prioritize on the things that were going to move the business forward.
Insights: What was the toughest decision?
Kevin: One of the biggest decisions was to bring Charles Conley on board at a time when we weren’t getting paid ourselves. But that was a great decision—Charles was exactly what we needed, and he was responsible for a lot of our success over the first decade. But the toughest decisions always involve people. Sometimes as a business grows, jobs outgrow people. These decisions aren’t natural—in fact, they hurt, and they don’t leave you. These are the decisions that cause sleepless nights—you worry about them and their families. But you have to do what is best for the group.
Insights: What would you change if you had the chance to do it all again?
Kevin: I would have started the company a little earlier in my career (laughs). All day long you’re changing gears and I think I did that better when I was younger. But maybe it’s tougher now because this thing we started has gotten so much bigger and more complicated.
Insights: Other than the firm’s growth, what about MCP’s first 10 years have you found most gratifying?
Kevin: In the beginning, it was working with clients and watching their reactions after we worked with them and educated them and helped them to get them from point A to point B. That was really gratifying. Today it is watching our people grow and seeing them learn and accomplish things that are really difficult. I know the feeling when you get positive feedback from a client after accomplishing something great that took great effort. There is nothing better than watching the staff deliver great results to a client.
Insights: That success can be traced to the very beginning when you, Brian and Len established MCP’s culture, don’t you think?
Kevin: We always have tried to bring in the right people and have them work in an environment where they can thrive. But it’s more than the right people—we also wanted to bring in diverse thinkers. You don’t want to bring in people who think exactly like you. So, we set out to bring in diverse thinkers who shared our vision and passion, and then created teams where the thinking was balanced. Strength Finders taught us that. Having this diverse group makes us look at problems differently, and that has been the key to our success, and what makes us different.
Insights: Again, other than the firm’s growth, what about MCP’s first 10 years have you found most surprising?
Kevin: What surprised me most is how quickly the time passed. It’s amazing that it has been 10 years and a lot has happened. Right up there was the realization that work-life balance is a myth—it’s more like work-life integration. Last year my wife and I celebrated our 25th anniversary, so I took a week off— and only called in four times. That’s probably the longest I’ve been away in the last 10 years. You have to keep things on the rails, and if you’re away for a while, things tend to veer.
Insights: If you could name just one, which area has MCP had the greatest impact, and why?
Kevin: Our focus on enterprise clients. These are the industry’s most impactful entities, which happen to be in large places where the biggest problems are. When we design solutions and work with them to make their communities safer and better. In many instances, we’ve been able to leverage their influence to have an impact on the industry at large. Also, pushing the industry in a way that is best for the communities and not best for vendors. there’s been recognition of that—to me, that’s where our impact is.
Insights: What will MCP and the industry look like a decade from now?
Kevin: The systems used in public safety are going to become more integrated and more interconnected. Data will play a much bigger role in decision-making. There will be more collaboration, as well as resource and information sharing to solve problems on a statewide or regional level, not just on a local level. For our part, we will apply our vendor-agnostic approach to help our clients implement best-of-breed solutions that will help them reach their goals and solve their problems.