The Download: Karl Murphy, Co-Founder and President, Spiffy

Karl Murphy is the Co-Founder and President at Get Spiffy Inc., where he runs sales and operations nationally. Spiffy evolved out of an entrepreneurial project at Carolina Auto Spa, a local chain of traditional car washes of which he was the owner and president. Prior to Carolina Auto Spa, Karl sold enterprise software and technology products for large and small companies including Parametric Technology, Abbott Labs, Geomagic and Plurimus.

Karl is a graduate of Georgetown University and an US Army veteran from Desert Shield/Storm.

1. What is in your pockets?
I’m in the car right now, so nothing, but I generally have my wallet, my cell phone, and a set of ear buds.

2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
Spiffy is a technology-enabled mobile automotive services company. We build our own software, we build our own trucks, we have our own employees, and we provide on-demand or nearly on-demand services to consumers and fleets around the country. We serve consumers at home and at their office buildings at work, and we serve fleets wherever they operate with convenient, trusted, professional mobile car-care and maintenance services.

The most exciting thing is the energy that’s come around my team with the pandemic response. It’s been super exciting to see how energized our guys got in the face of a lot of change and a lot of chaos in the outside world. We consider among our core competencies to be chemical knowledge, cleaning and sanitization. And with the COVID-19 virus, we’ve obviously expanded the amount of decontamination and sanitization we are doing of cars, trucks and office buildings.

It’s exciting that we’re taking that knowledge that we’ve built over almost eight years and said, “Well, from cleaning up a rental car, how do we apply it to your office space? Or how do we apply it to your warehouse?” And then give that same level of confidence to the management team and then to the employees that the place is clean.

We bought new equipment. We used to have handheld devices that were appropriate for cleaning cars and trucks. Now we have these big foggers that roll on caster wheels and instead of having a one-quart reservoir for fluid, it has an 80-gallon reservoir. Same concept as a fogger, but it’s like a small refrigerator we push around these office spaces to be more efficient. It’s exciting, as the economy in many ways grinds to a halt, for us to be spinning up new opportunities and solving problems for our customers.

3. What is your favorite coffee spot?
I spend the most time at the Page Road Starbucks because it’s closest to our office. My favorite coffee shop is this place in Carrboro called Caffe Driade. It’s about a hundred-square-foot place with an espresso machine and sits on the edge of this green space in Chapel Hill. It’s a really nice place to go chill out.

4. What keeps you up at night?
I worry about the pandemic unknowns. We run a high-growth company, so I always worry about fundraising. We have a big chunk of our business that’s profitable, and then we have a chunk of our business that’s growing and requiring investment and so I worry about the ability to continue to raise cash. It’s always hard to raise capital in the Triangle in good times. And so, when you have all the uncertainty of a global pandemic, it’s going to become more difficult.

5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
I love The Rooftop at the Durham Hotel for a sunset happy hour, and then to get a pizza at Pizzeria Toro  in downtown Durham. I live in Chapel Hill and so I feel like I’ve eaten at every restaurant in Chapel Hill a hundred times so I like to go to Durham, which is sort of exotic to me.

6. What is next for you or your organization?
We are pivoting hard through the pandemic impact on the economy and our business. We had a really successful high growth business on March 1, and we had a lot of levers to pull on March 15 when the economy slowed down dramatically. We’re pulling those levers and pouring fuel into tanks of new opportunities. Light, medium and heavy-duty truck mobile maintenance services.

We opened up our marketplace, which has been something we’ve been experimenting with. We’re selling a lot of other people’s services through our app. And that’s been on our roadmap, but it had been something like, we’re going to do it later. So the marketplace is something that’s exciting for the company. The medium and heavy-duty truck stuff’s exciting.

Scot (Wingo, Spiffy’s CEO) and I are managing our pennies and our quarters very tightly and we’re investing in the things that our customers need today in navigating the treacherous and uncertain waters of the next couple of months. I’m long-term optimistic; I’m short-term unknown. The thing that we worry about is, when does it change and then how fast does it move on the other side so that we can position ourselves to really take advantage of that.

I think all the trends that are accelerating today as a result of the global pandemic are things that are net-positive for Spiffy. No-touch services, at-home services, more mobile, more trucks, more delivery, etc. All those things fuel our business long-term and from a strategy standpoint. We’re strategically in the right place. We just have to get through the public health crisis, and the government’s dealing with that. It’s an exciting time. We’ve got to make sure we manage the opportunity, with the cash available and get there.

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About Brooks Malone 45 Articles
Brooks Malone is a NC CPA and Partner with Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP, and leads the Technology practice group. Brooks is also listed contributor to the National Fast Trac Tech Curriculum that was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. Brooks was named one of the 40 Under 40 in May 2005 by the TBJ, received the Outstanding service to Entrepreneurs Award in 2008 by CED, and named to the Leadership Raleigh Hall of Fame in October 2011. Brooks is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is active at American Underground and HQ Raleigh.