Greg Carlisle

Murphy Elevator employees in 1934

The President of Murphy Elevator and the National Association of Elevator Contractors discusses the importance of customer service and offers advice on the industry’s future.

Greg Carlisle has served as president of The Murphy Elevator Co., Inc., a family owned and operated elevator repair and service company in Louisville, since 1992. Established in 1932, the company started manufacturing elevators in 1935. Today, it focuses on service, repair, modernization and new installation projects. And, it abides by certain tried-and-true principles of the Carlisle family – integrity, old-fashioned honesty and good service. “As our business enters its fourth generation, those values are still the backbone of our company,” Carlisle said.

Although the elevator industry has always been a big part of his family, Carlisle got his start in the business assembling file cabinets the summer after he graduated high school. He got even further into the business when he was a sophomore in college. “I started part-time as an estimator. . . . I wanted to move out of the house and closer to the University of Louisville. . . . The job enabled me to afford an apartment,” Carlisle said.

In 1977, his father, Norman Carlisle, president of Murphy Elevator at the time, offered him a chance to purchase 40% of the company’s stock from a descendant of one of the original founders. This transaction has since allowed Carlisle to manage the company. He explained, “I wanted to be in charge of my own future,” something that appealed to him early on.

Built on “old-fashioned honesty,” Murphy Elevator strongly believes in business integrity and strong customer service. According to Carlisle, “Murphy Elevator always strives to do what is right for the customer. The bottom line should never get in the way of their best interests.” He considers his father to be his mentor and runs the business based on much of his advice and the company’s founding principles.

Carlisle remembers the first major estimation project he worked on, where he failed to include all components for a project estimate, ultimately making the bid less expensive than it should have been. “After confessing to my father, he told me that if I had included the cylinder holes, we would not have been the low bidder,” Carlisle said. Still, his father accepted the confession, and the project commenced on schedule: “He was okay with the error, because we needed the work.”

Despite years of elevator-industry work, Carlisle claims music was his father’s true love. “He was an accomplished saxophone and clarinet player,” Carlisle said. “During his career at Murphy Elevator, he never gave up his music. He even played with different local bands and famous entertainers when they came to Louisville.” Norman Carlisle passed away in 2007, and Carlisle fondly recalls his father’s request: “Make sure the next business we are in is selling something that people don’t get stuck in at night.”

Carlisle believes the mentality he, his father and Murphy Elevator share allows the company to do what is right for the customer, which is something they can easily control as an independent firm.

“Throughout the years of technological innovation, economic change and management succession, integrity
endures.” – Carlisle

Other Industry Activity

In addition to his role at Murphy Elevator, Carlisle is an active member on several elevator-industry boards, including the Elevator Contractors of America and QEI Training Fund. In 2011, he was appointed president of the National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC). Carlisle believes participating on such boards and associations is vital to the industry and its members.

According to Teresa S. Witham, executive director of NAEC:

“[Carlisle] brings the strength and passion of the independent contractor to the board table. Having grown up in the business, he has a thorough understanding of NAEC’s challenges to encompass all age groups, as well as all staffing levels from field technicians to owners. Murphy Elevator is the type of company our services are best suited to assist. [Carlisle’s] time as NAEC’s president will be a huge asset to our leadership.”

Having been in the business for many years, Carlisle suggests that as an industry, building owners need to be more informed about available products specifically offered by independent elevator contractors, as customers receive nonproprietary equipment and personalized experiences. He adds, “Too often, short-term cost savings are chosen by the general contractors or architects at the time of construction at the sacrifice of long-term cost savings and reliability for the owner.”

Being part of fundamental associations such as NAEC, Carlisle has the opportunity to share his insights with other industry members and provide solutions for areas needing improvement.

For those considering a career in the industry, Carlisle offers the following advice:

“If you’re getting into the industry as an owner, [choose] a market that is not saturated with competition. If you are getting into the industry as a mechanic, take electrical classes separate from an apprenticeship program, and pay attention while in class and working. Stay on top of new technologies at home, so you are prepared for new technologies in the workplace.”

In terms of the economy as it pertains to the elevator industry, Carlisle believes the industry needs to eliminate the race to the bottom of pricing estimates. “In an effort to be cheap, there is a trend of elevator companies only performing maintenance when they are on site for service calls,” Carlisle said. “As an industry, we need to go back to performing preventative maintenance.”

Carlisle’s best piece of advice for surviving the recession and being successful in the elevator industry in general is to focus on the customer. “The cost of gaining new customers is so high. It is critical to maintain your customer base,” he said.

Carlisle currently resides in Louisville with his wife of 35 years, Maria. When time permits, Carlisle plans to volunteer his time for the Zoom Group, a local organization dedicated to helping individuals with mental disabilities find jobs. When he is not working or volunteering, he enjoys going to football and basketball games at the University of Louisville. Carlisle and his wife also enjoy vacationing near beaches and try to make an effort to spend “extra” time while traveling to cities to attend trade shows and association events.

Carlisle’s dedication and work ethic have brought him far, and he plans to continue expanding Murphy Elevator’s regional base. According to Carlisle’s son, Travis, vice president of Administration at Murphy, his father’s plans of building an enduring management system at Murphy are very probable, “My father has an uncanny ability to multitask, think logically and understand and calculate numbers.” In addition to maintaining the company’s founding principles within its operations, Carlisle wants to share his experience and ideas with his employees. “My goal is to organize the company and key personnel so proficiently that I do not have to be there.”

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Elevator World | February 2012 Cover