GRAIL sits down with Jim Murphy of JMA to discuss business, hobbies and business success. 

“I’ve always considered myself a contractor that loves to race.” - Jim Murphy


On our residential work 

Since 1968, we have been building luxury high-end homes in Sonoma and Napa exclusively. We build very expensive buildings but our fees are not expensive. We work with the top architects and have built many Howard Backen designed homes. We can build any style home: farmhouse, craftsman, contemporary, Mediterranean. We even built a French château with 5 miles of interior trim. We have many beautiful photos on our website:


On our commercial work

We have built some of the most notable commercial buildings in Napa and Sonoma County. In the winery realm, our clients include Williams Selyem, Kistler Vineyards, Clos du Bois, Flowers, Korbel and Paul Hobbs, among others. For commercial buildings, we recently finished the 120,000 square foot American AgCredit headquarters. We built Sonoma Academy and the Sonoma Country Day School, churches, restaurants, a golf clubhouse, specialty hospitals, and hangers at Sonoma County Airport including Vine Jet and the Jet Center. 


On his passion for drag racing

My love affair with racing started very early when I was growing up in San Francisco and hanging around with older guys who owned cars and hot rods. I was 12 when I saw the Speed Sport Special Roadster. I was totally smitten with the sheer fury and power of this vehicle not to mention its unique sound. I knew right then that drag racing was for me. Although it took several years, in 1972 I got serious. My career spans 45 years, which includes drag boats, top fuel funny cars, and front and rear engine top fuel dragsters. I have had more than 100 wins including 32 Nostalgia Top Fuel victories. I was the first driver to go over 250 MPH in a front engine dragster and I am a member of the 260 MPH Club. I won the Nostalgia Top Fuel Championship in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2003 and 2013 as well as 2002 Drag Racer of the Year. For the full story and some great photos, please visit our website:


On the similarities between drag racing and the construction business

The same sets of skills apply in drag racing as in the construction business. Everyone has their part to do and working together is essential. No one can put their own needs before the needs of the team. Everyone has to play their part to achieve perfection. In fact, as a joke one year the employees printed up T-shirts that said, "For Jim Murphy, perfection is barely good enough." My racing team has won many championships and to achieve that you have to work as a team.  We have systems in place that support us running smoothly. In a race, we have to disassemble the motor and put it back together within 90 minutes. It has to go like clockwork. If you're not prepared or know exactly where you're at, catastrophe can occur. 

The same is true in construction and it is what sets us apart from other companies. You must have systems in place and work as a team. With both car racing and construction, you must know where you’re going to prevent disaster and be prepared. We are meticulous about our recordkeeping and we have put in systems that support us in running smoothly. It is essential that we make schedules and meet our deadlines. Many of our projects require us to plan two or three years in advance. 


On his successes through the years 

Because of our organizational skills and systems, we can meticulously track the dollars that the client will spend on a luxury home or commercial project. We work in partnership with the client. We believe in full disclosure of all costs and profits. Frequently, just looking at architectural drawings it's very difficult to give an accurate price. We meet with the clients and their architect early on, figure out what they want to do and what's involved. Since we have excellent records at our fingertips, we are able to provide accurate pricing. We act as advocates for the clients.  Getting us involved in the beginning allows us to think of different ways that might save the client money – for that reason our results are very measurable. 


On how they take care of their clients 

We built a beautiful home for an investor from Silicon Valley in the Sonoma Valley. The job was almost finished and I noticed that the pool was not lining up with the outdoor fireplaces. I checked and realized that there were two different measurements on the drawings resulting in the pool being about 4 inches off. Even though the client was fine with it, we decided to pull out the pool and install a new one because it just wasn’t up to my standards.


Favorite quote

"Perfection Is Barely Good Enough."