September 14, 2016
Murray Chamney is everywhere. He is involved in all initiatives, is active in the business community, constantly develops new ideas and, above all, implements them. Not having taken a vacation away from home, in more than 20 years helps explain how he accomplishes all this.
The president of Intralec Electrical Products, whose term as president of EFC’s National Advisory Council ended in June, said in his final message that the further ahead you look, the easier it is to attain your goals. Murray seems to have applied this maxim to both his professional and personal life, so that a conversation with him may begin with business but quickly move on to horses, disruptive technologies, and the future of our industry. In particular, the challenges facing manufacturers’ representatives. He will speak more about this with us in the coming months.
If life is often a set of circumstances that lead us in one direction rather than another, Murray was beyond doubt headed for the electric industry. His grandfather worked for Ontario Hydro his entire life; his father, an electrical engineer, was Vice President and General Manager of ITE's Electrical Business before he and Dave Doherty left the corporate world to start their own rep agency.
Originally living in Ontario, Murray’s family moved first to Calgary, then Winnipeg and finally Montreal, where Murray attended one of the first French immersion schools. “I had to cross half the island to get to school.”
Murray wanted to be a chemical engineer. “I love chemistry, physics, but my father did everything he could to convince me to study business. He told me I could learn technical things outside university.”
At the end of his studies at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, Murray began his career at Intralec, where he remains today. “My father was finally right,” he said with a smile.
Under a succession plan put in place by Murray’s father and his partner the two sons of Intralec’s founders would gradually take over, Murray looking after operations and Ted Doherty focusing on sales. The sons were patient and respected their fathers’ methods, but quickly modernized practices when they assumed sole direction of the company.
“They didn’t listen to us, they were part of the ‘Mad Men’ era. We first acquired computers in 1984. We changed the way we contacted contractors and end-users, and we redirected our focus toward the commercial market. We were successful and went from 12 to 27 employees without expanding our territory. We did a few things right and made a few good guesses!”
When you look back, is there anything you would have done differently?
“I might have embraced warehousing, we always had break even, but we also could have been a logistics company. This is one opportunity we missed. Secondly, I believe that we could have responded more quickly to end-users as we realized that we need to be more in control of the end customers, to see where the industry is going.”
And what will the future look like for you?
My business partner left in November 2015, as his wife had retired. “We already had our own succession plan in place. When we were 50, we picked out our successors, and we are almost 10 years into our succession plan.
When Ted left people missed him, but the business continued to function well. “I hope it will be the same for me. My plan is to leave the agency business in a few years, but I won’t retire. I am most comfortable when I am building something.”
Murray has built a lot since he joined his father's business, and not only at the agency level. For Murray, participating in the business community is a responsibility, not an obligation. He has been a big supporter of CEMRA and both he and his business partner both served as chairs.
“In 1999 we were approached by EFC and asked if we would like to be affiliate members. I was the first serving Chairman under the EFC umbrella and bought the EFC concept.”
During his term as the Chair of the National Advisory Council, he implemented the Young Professionals Network (YPN), an EFC Statistical Committee and a Canadian Manufacturers Committee.
With his wife, Sally, who he started to date at age 17, Murray has a farm operated in partnership with their 28-year-old daughter. This is where he spends his weekends and holidays. “I have a personal life that keeps me happy and occupied.” Perhaps the source of his incredible energy?
Murray will be a guest contributor in October and November for our CEMRA section. He will then yield the floor to John Baron, Principal, Elec-Tech Sales Ltd. in December.