Best Managed Companies 2021

Muraflex

This office-design company helped make spaces safer during the pandemic

In late 2009, with his first child on the way, Fernando Petreccia had every intention of taking a break from work. He had spent the previous decade in the commercial-interiors industry — until the recession hit and people were no longer so keen on paying $40,000 for an office suite. Petreccia’s company closed. He thought maybe he’d paint the baby’s room. Then a call arrived from his former banker: a small, struggling five-year-old glass-partition startup called Muraflex needed someone to take over. Was Petreccia interested? “I learned very quickly that I’m not the guy to stay home,” he says.

At that time, offices tended to be dark and sombre — lots of painted drywall and padded cubicles. But as spaces shrunk in the wake of the market crash, Muraflex offered an appealing fix: glass walls that could make those environments feel bigger. “We came up with innovative ideas — like frameless sliding doors and curved walls — that really introduced the element of design,” says Petreccia, president and CEO, who runs the Montreal-based company with his brother, Marcello, the executive vice-president. Early clients like AIG and Condé Nast came to Muraflex for customized work spaces. Starbucks and Google followed suit.

Muraflex engineers its own products, such as glass and aluminum, right down to the hardware it uses. “We really control every aspect of the business,” Petreccia says. “If a client wants something shorter, taller, wider, slimmer — that’s no problem.” It also meant that when the pandemic hit, Muraflex didn’t see its supply chain disrupted.

But the pandemic did bring with it an urgent need for protective screens, so the company quickly created a small subdivision called MuraCare, which builds safe and functional partitions for hospital and workplace settings. Using Plexiglas and aluminum it already had on hand, the MuraCare team designed a number of products — protective partitions to sit on retail countertops but also “domes for hospital beds when doctors and nurses have to intubate a patient,” says Petreccia. As Muraflex began distributing these products throughout Canada and the U.S., the company found itself in a position to actually hire during the pandemic, expanding its workforce by about 10 per cent. Now employing more than 200 people, Muraflex expects to surpass $100 million in revenue in 2021.

Petreccia knows that office spaces are due for another evolution once the pandemic ends and workers return, and he’s confident that Muraflex will come up with creative solutions. “We don’t want to be catching the tail end of the wave,” he says. “We want to stand on top of the wave instead.”