Movers & shakers: Paul Welna, Murphy Cos.

  • January 27, 2013 - 11:03 AM


Title: Chief operating officer

Age: 63

Paul Welna, newly promoted chief operating officer at Murphy Cos., is focusing on sustaining growth and shaping the future of the family-owned, full-service logistics company based in Minneapolis.

Welna will oversee operations, client relations and transportation groups at the company, which has been in business since 1904 and is one of the Upper Midwest's largest asset-based logistics firms.

"We've been in a growth mode consistently for the past 25 years," said Welna, noting the company's 2012 expansion into North Kansas City, Mo., and acquisition of a 350,000-square-foot warehouse in Eagan, giving it a total of nearly 3 million square feet of warehouse space in 10 locations. "Some years have been larger than others, but even through the down economy, we continued to grow."

Welna most recently served as senior vice president of operations, customer service and transportation at Murphy Cos. He got his start at the company in 1976 as a customer service representative, moving into operations two years later. He was named vice president of operations in 1980.

According to Welna, his start at Murphy Cos. came by accident. He was working as a transportation manager at Grain Belt Breweries in 1975 when the brewery announced it would close at year's end. He had been at the brewery for 11 years, since he had gotten an associate degree from North Hennepin Community College.

Murphy Cos. was hiring and Welna, who was trying to help brewery employees find other work, scheduled an interview for a Grain Belt colleague. When that employee missed work on the day of the interview, Welna went instead to keep the appointment. Welna, who also was losing his brewery job and had a newborn child, ended up getting hired by Murphy Cos.

QWhat have you liked about working at Murphy Cos.?

AThey build and develop managers and supervisors within the system by encouraging people to make decisions and go forward without worrying about whether you were right or wrong. I'm a firm believer in empowering people. Our ratio of managers to people is very small because our people are empowered and appreciated and it's worked.

QWhat's at the top of your to-do list?

AWe're looking at opportunities beyond distribution, more just-in-time manufacturing work through partnerships with customers. We're having luck now with some big Minnesota companies.

QWhat are your goals?

AMy goal is to bring in good people, train them and make the company strong for the future. It's fun to watch people advance and grow and do well and say the company is going to be in good hands when I go fishing.


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