Editor’s note: The August issue of The Lane Report features our semi-annual list of the Top Women in Business. At lanereport.com, we’re shining the spotlight on one of the honorees each day. Day 8: Sarah Murphy Ford, vice president of Hartz Contracting.
Our occasional feature, Top Women in Business, highlights some of the women in and around Kentucky who are making an impact in business, the professions, politics and economic development. The feature recognizes women in key roles whose work ethic and body of work are making important contributions to commerce—and life—in Kentucky.
Top Women in Business has grown to become one of The Lane Report’s most popular features. Over the years, we’ve profiled more than 100 women who shatter stereotypes, encourage other businesswomen and help their Kentucky companies reach new heights. The women featured in this issue are no exception. From airport CEO to hospital executive, and successful online retailer to construction company VP, these women are forging their own paths, proving that hard work, perseverance and creativity pays off.
Sarah Murphy Ford
Sarah Murphy Ford grew up in the construction business, spending time working for her father’s business, Scott, Murphy & Daniel in Bowling Green. After graduating from the University of Kentucky, she returned home to work in the family business, trying out every role from laborer to director of business development before becoming vice president of Hartz Contracting, a Scott, Murphy, Daniel affiliate. She is one of a growing number of female construction executives in Kentucky.
Title/company: Vice president of Hartz Contracting, a division of Scott, Murphy & Daniel. How long at company/position: I have been with the company fulltime for 16 years and vice president for eight years.
Previous jobs/ positions: My entire career has been with the Murphy Construction Group (Scott & Murphy; Scott, Murphy & Daniel; Hartz Contracting). It’s our family business, so I started by picking up trash on the jobsites with my father when I was 4 or 5 years old. I have held many roles in our company, including accounting specialist, payroll manager, director of human resources and director of business development.
Education/training: Bachelor’s in business administration, finance and marketing from the University of Kentucky, 2005; MBA from Western Kentucky University, 2010.
Top accomplishment: Hands down, my greatest accomplishment is raising our three children with my husband, Neel (though that job is never done). Professionally, it is leading our company’s transition from paper to digital technology. Although we started this project to become more efficient and produce cost savings, the most rewarding part was training the men and women that swore they would never be able to transition. It was challenging and required a lot of energy to motivate, encourage and solve problems, but once it clicked, we were able to celebrate these new skills. It completely changed the dynamics of our company, and now they have their own creative ideas on how to continuously improve our processes. With that kind of collaboration and engagement, the sky is the limit for us.
The person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My parents. My siblings and I learned early on the importance of faith, hard work and dedication, both in our personal and professional lives. Even though they continually pushed us to be better versions of ourselves (and still do), we knew their love and support would always be behind us no matter what. That love and support created a solid foundation for me to step out of my comfort zone and never be afraid to fail. They also engrained in us the need to use our time, talents and treasures to give back to those around us.
One of my biggest challenges and how I overcame it: Although I am blessed to work with family, it comes with challenges, as well. There is a higher standard that is placed on your performance and you must be ready to take the brunt of difficult situations. I had to learn to flip the way I viewed these scenarios. Instead of taking it personally, I now take pride in those higher standards and I welcome the difficult situations, knowing that I am making a positive impact on our company and continuing to grow what my dad worked so hard to build.
My advice to younger women in business: Show up and shine your light! You are what the world needs right now. It needs your insight, your creativity, your empathy, your vision, your impact. Build your self-confidence, so that no one else gets to define you and always know your self-worth. Find a mentor and absorb as much knowledge and wisdom for the future as you can. Surround yourself with people that build you up and push you to be the best version of yourself.
Something I learned during the pandemic: I learned to slow down and be present in every moment, to never take for granted a hug, a smile or a handshake. Also, I joined a book club and I cannot stop reading or listening to books on tape now. I was missing out on a wealth of knowledge by not making it a habit to read daily.
Something I love doing: Being with my family, traveling, exercising, Bible studies. I am picking soccer and basketball back up now that my kids are playing. I forgot how much I love to play sports.
When I was a child, I wanted to be: A math teacher. All I wanted for Christmas was math workbooks and teacher’s guides and chalk for my chalkboard.
I’m inspired/driven by: The success of others. When you can motivate, encourage and lead someone to accomplish something they never dreamed possible, you are given an invaluable reward in return. I don’t take for granted the opportunities God has given me to lead and those he has entrusted me with to make a difference.
Favorite book I’ve read recently: “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek.
A song from my teenage years that I still rock out to when nobody else is around: “Baby Got Back” by Sir-Mix-A-Lot. It makes me laugh every time too, because when this song came out my mom swore she was going to make a rap song about U.S. history or physics, because if I could memorize every word that quickly then at least I could do it with words that would make me smarter.
Lorie Hailey is special publications editor for The Lane Report. Reach her at [email protected].