As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Murphy. Steve is CEO of Epicor Software Corporation, a global leader providing flexible, industry-specific software designed around the needs of manufacturing, distribution, retail, and service industry customers.
He spent more than 20 years in the technology sector, where he had worked on many different levels within a company. In fact, his first job out of college was on the factory floor at Procter and Gamble. While there, he saw first-hand the power software had to solve business problems. For this reason, Steve made the decision to leave for Harvard Business School, where he obtained his MBA in Accounting and Finance. Since then, he served in various sales and operations leadership positions at Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and Manugistics.
Before joining Epicor, he served as president of OpenText, a $2B global leader in enterprise information management with 12,000 employees worldwide, where he was responsible for all customer-facing activities including sales, marketing, partners and alliances, global technical services, customer support, professional services, sales operations and cloud services. During his time at OpenText, he delivered outstanding operational performance and was instrumental in the completion and integration of four major acquisitions.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I was one of those curious kids who liked to take things apart and put them back together. Around the age of eight, I was known as my neighborhood’s “master tree house builder,” and other kids would come to me for help with pulley systems and the like.
I ended up getting a degree in mechanical engineering, and my first job out of college was working on the shop floor of a laundry detergent factory. While there, I encountered problems that ultimately required software solutions. After seeing the power of tech, I knew I wanted to dive deeper into that industry. Simultaneously, the more exposure I had to business, the more I realized I needed to know more about finance. So, after five years in the workforce, I went to Harvard full time, where I got my MBA in Accounting and Finance. Since then, I served in various sales and operations leadership positions at Oracle, OpenText, Sun Microsystems, and Manugistics.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Part of my management training as a process engineer at Procter & Gamble included learning all the different jobs at the distribution center, including learning to drive a forklift.
During a run, I pulled a crate of laundry detergent from the warehouse and drove half a mile to load the truck. There were a bunch of people following me, but I didn’t know why. Turns out I had smashed a box of the soap and left a trail all through the warehouse. At 22, it was definitely embarrassing, but it was also a great lesson. It taught me the expertise required for different roles, which can often be taken for granted by management. Now, as a CEO, I want to foster an environment where each employee knows they are valued for the unique skills they bring to the table.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Against the Gods by Peter L. Bernstein is great. It can be a tough read, but it will make you better at everything you do, business-wise.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When you started working with your company, what was your vision, your purpose?
I joined Epicor in 2017, and my two primary focuses were company culture and product knowledge. First, it’s important to me that our employees work in a supportive, transparent environment that values their expertise. Second, in order to keep our competitive edge in the markets we serve, I am focused on ensuring our employees continually develop strong knowledge of our products as well as knowledge of the tough business problems our customers are looking for us to solve. Our expert employees are our key differentiator.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Be impeccable with your words. As a CEO, it’s your responsibility to manage a high-performing executive management team. To be effective, you must be deliberate, accurate and fair.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
My wife and I have three kids, and like most parents right now, we face the challenges of helping our kids adapt to an at-home school environment. My daughter is in high school, and this situation also affects her being able to celebrate major life milestones. I truly feel for all the students who are missing out on prom and graduation, as it heightens the sense of isolation.
More than anything else, my wife and I are focused on keeping a positive outlook that our kids can find comfort in and adapting to this situation so that home feels stable regardless of what is going on in the outside world.
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Like many businesses, one of our biggest internal challenges is ensuring our global company culture is maintained virtually to combat employee isolation. We want our employees to feel connected and supported, and I believe it’s important for our executives and managers to lead by example. Just recently, I hosted a virtual happy hour for our ELT. Others are hosting virtual trivia, Pictionary, and coffee and tea breaks, as well as global all-hands meetings. The ELT also continues to provide internal video communication, and engagement with these efforts has increased 60%. These small efforts go a long way to keeping our global workforce engaged daily.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the corona-virus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
When it comes to supporting my family and loved ones, I think the most important thing to do is listen and provide emotional support. When doing so, I try to be mindful that each person has their own reactions to the situation. Don’t dismiss or devalue a loved one’s feelings if they differ from your own, and don’t feed negative feelings with more of the same. Instead, offer each other support and help one another navigate any negative feelings. Attitude is everything.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
The customers I’ve spoken with recently all want to better position their businesses for future disruptions. They want to be more confident in their business resiliency. Each business will be looking to lean in to the opportunities that are unique to their market, but in a broader sense, we all have the opportunity to course correct business processes that we now know need to be adjusted, thanks to the new perspective this situation provided. We all have the opportunity to increase agility as well as the connectivity between our employees and other aspects of our business.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Many people anticipate increased remote work, but the forced isolation has also shown us the importance of human connection and interaction. It will be interesting to see what balance is struck. Regardless, the need for tech-powered agility within business will continue to grow.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We’re a global company, so my goal is to make sure we are sensitive to the different personalities and needs of our employees. The safety and the well-being of our employees will remain the top priority, and anything we do will be weighed by that. Patience is going to be key. Clearly communicating and managing expectations will be vital. And thoughtfully increasing the quantity of time with employees in person and/or at the physical location of our office, will slowly make things feel more normalized and address feelings of isolation.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Each business is different and should look at their own unique pain points, but if you have concerns about the flexibility and adaptability of your supply chain, generating long-term revenue, or simplifying your business process, you might want to consider an ERP solution if you don’t already have one in place. Business resiliency is more important than ever — I don’t see that going away.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Never let perfect be the enemy of good.” There’s nothing wrong with being a perfectionist, to the extent that it doesn’t keep you from accomplishing the mission and getting things done.
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