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The women behind Ryan Murphy construction

Karen Ryan and Lara Murphy have built a general contractor traditionally, with a few twists

Jan 6, 2017

by Michael Ganley


Photograph Ryan Girard
Number 30 on the 2017 Fast Growth 50 List

Head office: Calgary
Co-CEOs: Lara Murphy and Karen Ryan
Revenue: $4.4 million
Revenue growth year-over-year: 27%

Alberta Venture is late to the telling of the Ryan Murphy story. The construction company has been featured in the Globe and Mail, the Calgary Herald and Canadian Business magazine. It’s been feted by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and Women Building Futures. It made Profit magazine’s list of Canada’s fastest growing companies and, last year for the first time, Alberta Venture’s Fast Growth 50 list.

Why all the attention? Well, besides the good news story that Ryan Murphy is growing quickly in the tough Calgary market, it’s because the company has a great origin story, and because it involves two women in the male-dominated world
of construction.

Back in 2008, Lara Murphy (far left) was a recently transplanted New Brunswicker working as a project manager for a mid-sized ­developer. On a job in Banff one day, she met fellow project manager – for another contractor – Karen Ryan. They recognized in each other a rare fellow traveler in the women-in-­construction world and bonded. A friendship turned to a business partnership, and Ryan Murphy – the gender confusion caused by the name is intentional – hasn’t looked back.

Murphy says she is a bit tired of the “women in trades” angle, but acknowledges that it has helped people remember the company and says she and Ryan have taken advantage of the attention to draw talent and work to the firm. And the company has leveraged that attention to build a large presence on social media, in particular Facebook and Twitter. “Social media is the 21st century’s word of mouth,” Murphy says. “We’ve made a conscious effort to try to stand out from the crowd on that front. It works well because we work with so many great clients there’s a cross-promotional availability.”

But Murphy says, ultimately, Ryan Murphy’s success comes back to the traditional pillars of focusing on the needs of the client, building that relationship and partnerships within the industry, and doing good work.

Finally, she gives a shout out to the community in which Ryan Murphy operates, saying a lot of small entrepreneurs have helped out over the years, never more so than during the tough times. “People seem to be more willing to do a little bit extra to promote one another’s businesses,” Murphy says. “I’ve found that very uplifting.”

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