Jimmy had at this point shut down Murphy Services, which Murphy credits to a combination of money woes and a failure to get involved in industry associations.

While watching the family business fold would have been enough to deter most from running their own operation, Murphy, ever the entrepreneurial spirit, still wanted to be his own boss. Not only that, he knew he wanted to go into commercial cleaning.

“I said, ‘You know the only thing I know is the cleaning business,’” says Murphy.

Broke with no experience running a company, Murphy needed help. He asked his mom, Faye, if she would go into business with him, but she had no interest after experiencing the industry through Murphy Services.

Without money and a partner, Murphy turned to his closest friend, Collins, who, of course, agreed.

“I kind of thought it was crazy, but I wasn’t in a career at the time (1988), working 40 hours a week at McDonald’s,” says Collins. “I didn’t want to deny David his dream, so I went with it.”

The beginning of Supreme Maintenance Organization was the definition of humble. With little more to scrape together than pocket lint, Murphy and Collins invested $100 each into the business. Their only cleaning tool was a vacuum they borrowed from Collins’ mother.  

Faye allowed the young men to operate their business out of her house. Looking back, the men wonder what visitors thought of this makeshift “office,” especially the people who interviewed to work at Supreme Maintenance Organization.

“I can’t imagine running a Craig’s List job listing today saying, ‘Meet me over here in this neighborhood, knock on the door, and c’mon in,’” says Collins.

Somewhere in between working out of Murphy’s mother’s home and reflecting on decades of business were moments where the men had their patience and faith in the company tested. These moments were most prevalent during their “manure years,” a term they used to describe the period where they were working long, brutal hours without the prospect of improvement. Thoughts of “is this even worth it?” were common.

For example, the duo faced a major test when a Kmart distribution center hired new management, which in turn decided to dump Supreme Maintenance Organization as a service provider. The move wiped out 50 percent of the company’s business and Murphy and Collins were forced to lay many people off. Like other tough situations, this test strengthened the friendship and partnership of the pair.

It was commitment and the unflappable bond, the faith in the fact that if one had his back turned, the other would stand watch, that kept the two men going ahead when they had been run tired.

“Those difficult days often tested our resolve to stay in the business,” says Murphy. “It was not that unusual for one of us the be at the breaking point and ready to toss in the towel and the other one would talk us out of quitting.”

The pair persevered and eventually won a bid for a lucrative in-state cleaning job.

Yes, the “manure days” were tough to go through, but the experience helped the men to be more successful.

“The manure days were also a learning process,” says Collins. “Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge gained from previous experience to confidently predict the future and then use that likely outcome to help you make a decision.  When you are in your 20s, I’m sorry, you are not yet wise. We made many mistakes, said and did things that were just plain wrong, but it is not a failure if you can gain wisdom.”

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