Cam Murphy (ADMBA, ’14) is guiding his family’s aircraft maintenance enterprise, FEAM Aero, through a pandemic and the most tumultuous business era since the Great Depression. He credits his success at keeping his employees working in this fraught atmosphere to the sturdy business infrastructure his father laid and to his Aerospace and Defense MBA from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business.
“My father had the hardest task – starting this business with just two guys and a truck,” the 2017 member of Forbes’ “30 Under 30” class says. “I am able to build upon his strong foundation. It’s my way of pushing the legacy forward.”
His ADMBA taught him the importance of quickly responding to changing market conditions, something Murphy says the Covid-19 pandemic reinforced. When Covid-19 shut down Ft. Lauderdale passenger aircraft maintenance work, FEAM was able to shift that staff elsewhere.
“Being nimble allowed us to do that,” Murphy says. “My goal was to not lay off or furlough staff, so we brought those individuals to our Miami station.” FEAM has made similar personnel adjustments across its operation, which now includes around 1,100 employees in 27 municipalities.
Another way FEAM is pushing through the pandemic is listening to employees, a core FEAM value that Murphy again attributes to both his parents and his education.
“My parents laid the foundation for what great teamwork is,” he says, “and one of the things ADMBA taught me is to listen to the individuals around you.”
Murphy’s reliance on his employees was rewarded during the PPE shortages in the early stages of the pandemic. As essential workers, they were going “over and beyond for customers,” delivering PPE for others when they had none themselves.
“There was a huge shortage of hand sanitizer,” he says. “We have such creative team members, we ended up developing our own. Our quality and safety team is coming up with innovative ways we can keep everyone protected.”
Murphy and his team also recognized that, as much as Covid-19 has stretched them, it likewise has financially strained their customers. They responded with flexible alternatives.
“We offer maintenance options that allow customers to scale their operations to the size they need to be,” he says. “That agility draws from my lean and six sigma, and all that I learned in the ADMBA program.”
Although 2020 was tough, Murphy and his team gleaned learnings from it that he plans to apply this year.
“We believe the passenger market will begin to rebound in 2021, and we are making sure we have the capacity for that,” Murphy says. “It’s an opportunity to show how adaptive and nimble we are and how we provide value to our customers.”
In ways he couldn’t have anticipated, Murphy’s ADMBA Organizational Action Project (OAP) also paid dividends for FEAM. His OAP analyzed FEAM’s growth opportunities, through which he envisioned increasing the company’s business by building a maintenance facility at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
“After we turned that fantasy of a report into reality, Amazon built an entire ecommerce headquarters across the taxi way,” he says with a chuckle. “I couldn’t have had a better OAP. I will be forever grateful for that.”
Seven years removed from Haslam’s ADMBA program, Murphy still credits it as augmenting his capabilities for steering FEAM into 2021 and beyond.
“I am so appreciative of the UT family and the ADMBA program and what it has done for me,” he says. “It gave me the tools to be successful and allowed me to shape the narrative of my family business.”
Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist, firstname.lastname@example.org