An Interview with Brian Murphy, President and CEO of Fire Equipment Inc.

1. What is your role at your company?

While my official title is President and CEO of Fire Equipment Inc. (FEI), the leading full-service fire protection provider in New England, I view my role as serving and supporting our team of talented individuals.

2. Tell us about your family.

I’m fortunate to have two families. My supportive family at home consists of my wife and three children (ages 6, 9, and 13 years old). My 6-year-old daughter is in training every day to eventually become legal counsel for FEI. I also have a fantastic work family at FEI consisting of over 160 team members that I enjoy working with each day.

3. What was your dream job growing up?

Growing up, I often talked about aspiring to become a commercial airline pilot. Although I still admire the profession of commercial airline pilots, the thought of often being away from my family led me in another direction.

4. What was your first job?

My first job was mowing the lawns for several neighbors. I would borrow my father’s little push lawnmower. I earned enough money to select anything from the menu when the ice cream truck came rolling through the neighborhood on a hot summer evening.

5. How did you get into the fire protection industry? Please describe your first job within the industry.

I am proud to say that I was born into this amazing industry. As a third-generation member at FEI, I have vivid memories as a young child going along with my father on service calls for CO2 and Halon discharges. In 1998, I officially joined FEI in the summer time between college break, working in our dry chemical room servicing fire extinguishers. In 2007, I joined full time in a support role.

6. Over the course of your career, what has been the biggest change you have seen in the industry?

I’ve seen two significant changes over the years in the fire protection industry. First, I believe the advancement in technology, which has become a requirement to manage the business effectively, has been a significant change over the years. Through the early 2000s, fire protection had always been considered a “Rolodex” type of business. Now, through improvements in technology, we have access to valuable information at our fingertips wherever we go. Our ability to respond to customers has become almost instantaneous.

The second most significant change I’ve seen is the consolidation within the industry. There was a time when the majority of the fire protection businesses were locally owned, and family operated. That is not the case anymore. Fire Equipment Inc. is still a locally owned third-generation family business and yet has grown to be a full-service fire protection provider with six locations throughout New England. We have the team and resources large enough to compete against the national companies — this speaks volumes about our people and our story.

7. What do you love most about your job?

I love the overall sense of being a part of something special. Even though Fire Equipment Inc. has been around since 1928, we look and feel like a startup company. We are constantly working together to improve processes and the overall employee and customer experience. It is this constant quest to improve that creates the most fulfillment for me.

8. What is your favorite movie?

Pretty much anything that Martin Scorsese is affiliated with. Being from the Boston area, The Departed is a great movie to watch.

9. What is the best piece of advice that you were ever given?

Surround yourself with great people and you will be amazed at how much easier your job becomes. As I mentioned earlier, I truly am fortunate to work with an amazing team here at FEI. Our organizational structure really allows ideas to manifest in every part of the company.

10. Who inspires you?

My father inspires me. I will never forget, during my first week, he sat me down and told me, “We have great people here at FEI. Always take care of them and understand that your decisions always have to be made with the best intentions for the FEI team.” That has always stuck with me.

11. Who gave you your first break?

As I said, I am third-generation in this business, so I was lucky enough to be born into it.

12. Would you rather take an ocean, mountain or lake vacation?

For me, the mountains are where I like to spend my free time. When we finally have a free moment, you will most likely find me with my family in the mountains of Vermont, skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. Or hiking, mountain biking, and golfing in the summer. That is, of course, if we are not offshore sport fishing. Fishing for tuna is another passion of mine and my family’s. If you have ever seen Wicked Tuna on the National Geographic channel, that is what we do for fun.

13. If you had one “Do Over,” how would you use it?

I constantly look forward. “Do overs” are not a real thing in my mind. I approach it as “do different” the next time. I believe we always need to be in the mode of continuous improvement.

14. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Is there such a thing? I think life is perfect with all of its imperfections, so embracing the joys and challenges of life is what it means to live life to its fullest.

15. What is your greatest fear?

That is easy — Tom Brady winning another Superbowl not wearing a Patriot’s uniform. Hard to argue that he is not the GOAT, though.

16. What is the trait you most dislike in yourself?

I think, at times, I need to find a better balance in life. When I get going on something, I give it 120%.

17. What is the trait you most dislike in others?

I’m not too fond of it when people try to bring other people down rather than elevate themselves. We should always reward hard work and not create rules that limit people. Create opportunities for people, and let them do the rest.

18. Which living person do you most admire?

Condoleezza Rice. I would love to play a round of golf with her at Augusta National one day. 

19. What is your greatest extravagance?

Golf. It is something that I took up in 2016 which is not easy if you have ever tried. I was being pulled into many business events and I did not own a set of clubs. I decided to spend some more time and try to refine my skills. 5 years later I play a lot of golf with my two boys ages 13 and 9.

20. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Synergy and Organic…time to get more creative and move on from those.

21. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My wife. She keeps us all focused and headed down the right path.

22. Which talent would you most like to have?

Referring back to questions 19, I would someday like to hit a golf ball straight.

23. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Navigating 2020 with our team and coming out a stronger company than when the pandemic began. We actually did an acquisition during the pandemic which was unheard of.

24. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I only want to live one life on this planet and make the most of it.

25. Where would you most like to live?

I have traveled all over the USA and I still love living in New England. The change in seasons, the culture, and the sense of community make it a great place to live. Of course, if you asked me this question mid-January, I may have answered it differently.

26. What is your most treasured possession?

My family and the constant experiences we continue to create together.

27. What do you most value in your friends?

Warren Buffett. His quote about “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get” stands to be very true in the fire protection industry. 

28. Who is your favorite writer?

Harlan Coben

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I feel very strongly that we are all unique in our own way. I am me.

30. Who are your heroes in real life?

All of the moms out there. Nobody holds things together better than Mom.

31. What are your favorite names?

Patriots, Bruins, Red Sox, and Celtics…I mean come on, did you expect anything else.

32. What is your motto?

Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.

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