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Jim Murphy: Flying High in the Corporate Cockpit

Trained to connect strategy with execution, this F-15 fighter pilot developed a powerful concept for growing businesses.

The Start of Greatness

He exuded an aura of confidence, standing center stage to deliver his inspirational and illuminating message, in a dark green military pilot flight suit. It was adorned with the badges of an experienced airman. The audience expected to hear about war, jets, and harrowing combat tales. They sit and listen as his commanding, yet approachable voice filled the room.

“It’s a great time to execute and take market share!” Murphy says.

Wait, what? Market share? To their surprise, this airman is not only a master of advanced aviation, he’s also of a brilliant business mind. Corporations stand in line to gain an understanding of Murphy and Afterburner’s winning methodology, Flawless Execution℠.

Upping the Execution Game

When everything is life or death, there’s no room for mistakes. Jim Murphy sat in the cockpit of an F-15, as he had done thousands of times before, but this time, he made a connection that would change his life forever. Murphy reflected on the last few months and how the United States Air Force had taken him from a farm boy in Kentucky to one of the world’s most elite fighter pilots by using a simple, plan, brief, execute, debrief process. Murphy realized that these principles and tactics used in military operations can not only be implemented in the business world, they are perfect for it. This was the beginning of the Flawless Execution methodology that Afterburner has been teaching clients for over two decades now.

“How often does a wrench get thrown into the execution of your plans? Most likely, you can think of several examples. Unfortunately, obstacles will always find their way in, but it’s how you deal with them that matter,” says Murphy in a LinkedIn article, Now It’s Time to Execute.

The Fighter in the Pilot

Murphy was born in 1964 in the state of Kentucky where he grew up and attended the University of Kentucky on a baseball scholarship. After graduating from UK and realizing his baseball career would not continue to the major league, he worked in the sales industry, with great success. A few years later Murphy met a fighter pilot and was inspired by his story. The inspiration and chance to join another elite team lead Murphy to join the United States Air Force as a fighter pilot several months later. He logged over 1,200 hours in the F-15 as an instructor pilot. With over 3,200 hours of flight time in a variety of crafts, he flew missions to Central America, Asia, Central Europe, and the Middle East after serving as the 116th Fighter Wing’s Chief of Training for the Georgia Air National Guard.  Subsequently, 42 combat-trained fighter pilots are ready to deploy worldwide within 72 hours due to Murphy’s instruction.

When Murphy flies, he is monitoring over 350 switches and dials, going two times the speed of sound, right side up, and upside down. Simultaneously, the pilot is feeling nine times the force of gravity while differentiating the difference between friends and foes in the midst of a low oxygen environment and a cloud of bullets. Planning and practice are just the beginning of a meticulous and comprehensive equation that he must solve in his mind. He doesn’t simply pilot a plane, he pilots a set of variables ranging from wind, to gravity, to mathematical physics. Murphy does all this while keeping his sight on the mission objective.

“Look at your profits and losses,” he says. “Understand why they occurred and iterate those lessons learned into another planning cycle as quickly as you can.”

The Power of Simplicity

After his service, Murphy returned to his original field as Director of Sales for a modest paint company. There, his “Flawless Execution” concept, adapted from his service in the USAF, proved to be applicable. He used his “plan, brief, execute, debrief,” method, to increase the company’s sales from $5 million to $52 million.  If it worked there, imagine the thousands of organizations who might benefit from this as well.

In 1996, Murphy founded a management consulting and training firm called Afterburner, Inc. It has more than 80 current or former military personnel on its payroll. Murphy is the author of the seven books: Business Is Combat; Flawless Execution, The Debrief Imperative, The Flawless Execution Field Manual, Down Range, Courage to Execute, and On Time, On Target. Of his theories and strategies, perhaps his most highly regarded is his Flawless Execution℠  framework which is key to harnessing the power of simplicity.

Simplicity always defeats complexity in a world of constant change. That’s another way Afterburner’s essential Flawless Execution concept helps its beneficiaries combat the complexities that hinder growth and sales through team strategies. The entire program provides the tools and ideas for leaders in order to advance and improve outcomes and performance. Teamwork, learning, and responsibility meet the military mindset to create a pristine set of protocols.

“Businesses talk a lot about planning, and they plan toward things like top-line revenue,” Murphy says. “But they don’t necessarily plan out the many actions that it actually takes to drive those numbers.”

Flying High

Murphy’s company, Afterburner, has been on the List of America’s Fastest Growing Companies four times, made the Forbes magazine’s Small Giants List and has been listed on the Inc. 500/5,000. Approximately 85% of the U.S. Fortune 50 and many Global 1,000 corporations have worked with Afterburner and Murphy in over 24 countries. The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Financial Times, Newsweek, and Meetings and Conventions Magazine have featured Afterburner’s successes in addition to some of the country’s most ubiquitous media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, and Bloomberg News.

More than 1.7 million professionals have benefited from Murphy’s creation, two decades after its inception. He has spoken at the top business schools in the world that include Harvard, Wharton, Cornell, Emory, Duke and Fudan University in Shanghai, China. Everyone learns to keep looking ahead and meeting their goals, reaching their destination, and never losing sight of the big picture.

“If you ever lose sight, you lose the fight…” says Murphy. “Remember, don’t let unrealistic expectations cause mission failure!”

Gain focus and clarity to combat complexity using the simplicity principles of Flawless Execution, learn more at https://www.afterburner.com/.