Matt Murphy: What the Navy taught me about leadership

Matt Murphy, of Griswold Home Care. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

Matthew Murphy, now 50 and the chief executive officer of Griswold Home Care, a 200-franchise home-health-aide business, was 22 when he arrived on a vessel as a young Navy officer in the middle of a Pacific deployment.

What did being in the military teach him about running a business that helps take care of senior citizens in their homes? That’s a question I posed during our Executive Q&A interview published in Sunday’s Inquirer.

“As it relates to my military experience, it was only four years, but I do feel like I learned so much in that. Probably the best thing I learned that translates really well to a franchise system happened when I first arrived at the ship as a young officer.

“I was 22 years old, and the ship was already deployed.  So I met them in the middle of a Pacific deployment, and they were in the Philippines. I showed up on board, and I met my master chief, who reported to me.  So, he was a senior enlisted man who was in my chain of command, but reported up to me.  He called me, `Sir.’ He called me, `Mr. Murphy.’  He’s been in the Navy 28 years.  I’d been on the earth 22.  So I quickly learned that just because I had the officer’s bars on, I could learn way more from him than he was going to learn from me.

“I think about that experience a lot now, because I mentioned before, this is my first job in franchising. I talked about Cathy Howard, our franchisee in Connecticut who has owned her business for 30-plus years.  I’m not going to come in and tell her how to run a home-care business, but I can come in and I can learn everything I can from her.  So, I think the trait or skill that’s been the most transferrable is the ability to listen, to sort seek out the experts, to seek out the people that have that 28 years of experience, and know when to shut my mouth, and to learn from those folks.  And to defer to those folks on certain areas.

“I sit in the big chair, and I’ve got to make hard decisions. I’ve got to settle litigation and make decisions on compliance.  But how to run the business, they know best.”

What have you learned about why people buy franchises?

I’d never run a franchise business before.  It was my first job in franchising as a CEO.  So, I learned so much about that model. These folks, they’re independent business owners.  They get into it because they want that autonomy, and they’re courageous to buy into a system.  But they also bought into a system, and they want to have confidence in the system.  They want to know what’s going on.  I think the Number One thing that they wanted was transparency.  Even if it’s ugly, tell us what’s ugly, and tell us what you’re doing to fix it.

How about the people who actually provide the care?

We have this fantastic caregiver whose name is Allegra Chaney who has been with us since the beginning, for 35 years.  I sit and listen to her talk about the tricks of the trade.  Every job has them. Like, the guy who’s making your sandwich at Subway, the way he organizes the meat.  There’s a reason for why he’s doing that.  Understanding what that is.

What I’ve learned from Allegra is how she can quickly size up the human element in the room and how she can establish relationships quickly. She’s got to assert herself in a way where she’s got to be at one-time deferential, because it’s a service capacity, but, at the same time, establish some respect for herself.  So when she says, `Hey, it’s time to take your medicine,’ that person is going to listen to her.  So, I’m listening to Allegra about just how she operates when she moves into the home.  We’re actually collecting everything from her to train new caregivers on just those sorts of soft skills about how you manage that relationship in a home.