Born in San Francisco, Leslie Murphy moved with her family to Novato in 1966. She cherished her time as a child growing up in a new development in the San Marin area of Novato. Leslie’s childhood was on a court with mostly boys which led to dirt clod fights, roller ball, and fort building. Also on her block were three people selected as Novato Citizens of the Year (Ed Lathrop, Vicki and Bill McDill), who imparted important wisdom on how to be a positive force in the community. After Title IX’s enactment, Leslie decided to join the sixth grade boys’ basketball team and was the only girl in the league, but she was harassed by the boys on the team. When things became too tough to continue, her dad insisted she stay the course, which set up a no-quit mentality that would be with her throughout her life. The same year after being encouraged by a favorite teacher, Leslie tried again and again as the only girl running to be elected as the monthly class president. She eventually succeeded at the end of the year and landed her first leadership position. Leslie worked every summer starting at 12 years old with babysitting and odd jobs. At 16, Leslie earned her independence and self-confidence through a summer job, where she drove 50 miles to work in a Brisbane warehouse.
Leslie was the first member of her family to attend college. She went to Sacramento State and thrived in the Business Management Department. In school, she developed a passion for business and continuous learning. Mothers Against Drunk Drivers started the same year in Sacramento, and a professor in her drama class encouraged his students to not drink alcohol, a notion she took to heart and continues to adhere to today. Leslie has continued her education since college through seminars, conferences, continued business courses, and CEO groups.
Family has always been a huge part of Leslie’s life. Her dad was her mentor and a valuable source of confidence. Her mom gave and taught her love. Her siblings gave her plenty of support as well as a competitiveness that would impact her life in many ways, but especially in business.
In 1992, Leslie married her best friend Mike Murphy (who happened to be an electrician). He has been her biggest supporter by a longshot. When he was needed at home, he was a stay-at-home dad. When he was needed back at WBE, he returned as COO. Throughout their time together, he has provided Leslie with the ability to grow in her career and as an individual.
In 1993, Leslie’s mom, Claudia Bradley, died after a battle with cancer. At the time, Leslie was recently married and pregnant. While she was filled with grief, in time, Leslie came to view this as a pivotal moment in her life and took several very important lessons from her mom and herself. First, her mother faced her cancer and death with courage, grace and faith, which gave Leslie an internal confidence. Second, was that she was able to get through it, and that she was able to build strength from knowing that she had endured the most difficult time of her life. And finally, her mother loved Leslie so much, that in her 30 years with her, she still feels loved to this day. This made her want to accomplish this with her own kids and made her realize how important it is for a child to be loved the same way.
Her biggest blessings came in 1993 and 1995 when her sons Sean & Kyle were born into the family. They changed Leslie’s priorities and made the next two decades challenging to find a work/life balance (working in the classrooms each week to being team mom, these were important to her to be a part of). It also gave Leslie an understanding of fellow co-workers doing the same, which resulted in several changes to the WBE workplaces.
Leslie began her work at the family business, the electrical contractor W. Bradley Electric (WBE), in high school on the ground level, putting her tools on and assisting her brother. She would work in many more aspects of the company, including truck driving, apprenticing, learning estimates, project management, and eventually advanced to general manager. Throughout this time, there were no women mentors, because there were no women in her construction world. The construction industry is a male-dominated industry, with even the current makeup of WBE being 95% men. Leslie’s primary mentor was her dad, who continued to instill values, work ethics, and business smarts.
In 1999, Leslie became CEO of WBE after her father retired. Ten years later, WBE became a women-owned business when Leslie gained sole ownership of the company. During her tenure as CEO, she pushed for WBE to become one of the largest commercial electrical contractors in the San Francisco Bay Area, placing specific emphasis on philanthropy, community, and employees.
Leslie made giving back one of the core tenets of WBE. Over the past six years, WBE has donated over $2 million dollars to local nonprofits, including North Marin Community Services, North Bay Children’s Center, Bridge Afterschool, COTS, and Beyond Differences. WBE also has a Random Acts of Kindness Committee and a Giving Committee, which oversees donations and organizes volunteer work. Additionally, at the end of the year, WBE gives their customers a gift in order to raise awareness for different charities. These gifts typically include items related to the cause and donations from WBE. WBE has been recognized as one of the top 70 philanthropic companies in the Bay Area for several years along with receiving the Heart of Marin Award.
Leslie feels she has been blessed to work with such a strong executive team and talented co- workers to lead WBE to not only becoming the top Electrical Contractor in the North Bay and the fourth largest woman-owned business in the Bay Area, but also has shaped the company to be loved and voted by employees as one of the Best Places to Work for the past fifteen years. With over 300 employees and an annual sales volume of over $125 million in 2022, Leslie and WBE continue to position themselves as a leader in the industry. She has been honored as a top 100 Women of Influence and multiple Women in Business awards. Leslie is a member of the North Bay Leadership Council, United Contractors, and served on boards for Bank of Marin, Heffernan Insurance and several non-profits.
As of January 1, 2023, Leslie and her partner decided to make a lasting change to WBE to reward employees now and in the future. WBE went from private ownership to becoming an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Under this new ownership plan, the employees who Leslie focused on throughout her career will now get to benefit from 100% ownership in the company itself. As a part of this same move, Leslie is moving roles from CEO to Chairman of the Board, giving her some oversight in this new transition, while allowing her to spend more time pursuing philanthropic goals and finding other pursuits in her second chapter. During this chapter, she would also like to bring more women into the field of construction, a place where she was greatly rewarded.