Best Contractor Is All About Giving Back

January 29, 2007
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Greg McAfee, owner of McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning, discusses why his business is the “Best Contractor to Work for.” Photo by John R. Hall.

KETTERING, Ohio - When a person gives to charity, that’s a very special and rewarding thing. When a group of employees gives to charity, that’s even more special. But when a company sponsors a charitable cause and 100 percent of its 21 employees contribute, that’s remarkable. And that’s why McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning is such a great place to work.

The Dayton, Ohio-area HVAC contractor was chosen as the winner of the “Best Contractor to Work for” contest for the North Central region not only because it is a great place to work, but also because it is a very giving place to work.

“I have always been into charitable giving,” said owner Greg McAfee. “It’s hard for me to say no to someone who needs help.”

McAfee sponsors the McAfee Foundation for Children and Youth, which partners with the local Children’s Medical Center to help kids with breathing difficulties, i.e., asthma. One hundred percent of McAfee employees participate in the foundation. They do it because they see an owner who cares about people - which includes his own employees.

“While we have all grown quite accustomed to receiving, every employee of McAfee is encouraged to give back to our community as well as giving through payroll contributions,” said office manager Patty Heilman.

So, just what do employees “receive” from McAfee? Quite a bit.

IF YOU GIVE, YOU GET

McAfee appreciates the work each employee does, striving to make the company better from inside and outside. As one employee said, “Our company is the best company to work for because every employee takes pride in knowing that we are recognized in the community, as well as by Greg McAfee, as leaders in the HVAC community.

“There is a sense of team spirit that can be felt as soon as you walk through our front door. We all work together to provide the very best service available.”

Accolades like that are based in a solid foundation. The company has a number of programs in place to encourage employees to grow and excel.

For example, every month the company has two meetings: leadership and company. During these meetings, employees are encouraged to unleash their creativity, and are given the opportunity to provide insights and share innovative ideas with each other.

“I don’t keep people in the dark,” said McAfee. “I believe in communication. People should be informed with what is going on in the company and in the industry.”

McAfee is a strong advocate of an open-door policy, too. He encourages his employees to act promptly on any suggestions - or complaints. “People need to complain, they need to get it out,” he said. “Once they know that you listen, the frequency of complaints go away.”

The company philosophy about training is that “Every working day is a training day.” McAfee recognizes that HVAC technology has changed significantly over the past decade, which calls for continuous training to stay ahead of the game. The company sends its employees to outside training as well as conducts in-house training.

“When we are not training within the industry, we are training on a personal level,” said air duct cleaning manager Jim Marsh. “All of us are encouraged to train our minds and improve our way of thinking.”

To train the mind, McAfee employees have read such popular books as “Who Moved My Cheese?,” “Good to Great,” and “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

In return for their commitment to self-improvement, McAfee provides a secure environment for his employees. He guarantees 30 hours of work each week regardless of whether the work is there or not. If an employee doesn’t work all of those 30 hours, he or she can pay back the amount later when times are busier, kind of a credit. If there is a lack of work in one department, employees are cross-trained in another discipline to help out in a department where there is more work available.

“Cross-training provides us with additional work during the slower seasons,” said customer service manager Angie Downey. “We choose to take advantage of our slower times rather than have it take advantage of us.”

When times get hectic, McAfee also has ways to prevent employee burnout. Employees get time off during the busy season to refresh and regroup. They are given mini-vacations to spend time with their families. And there are some little things that make a big difference, too.

“Special arrangements are made for us to have longer lunches with our spouses, as well as working around other appointments we may need to attend,” said service manager Chris Bryant. “Receiving friendly cards expressing appreciation and incentives are a tradition at McAfee.”

To offer a break from the usual grind, the company sponsors a company picnic in the spring and a Christmas party, where a new destination is chosen each holiday season. Often a few games of bowling or laser tag are included in the fun. “It is functions such as these that help us learn about the people we work with and their families,” said administrative assistant Amy Dodd. “We all care for one another and look forward to sharing in these times.”

Sheet metal worker Brad Frank at work in the sheet metal shop (NuFab Sheet Metal, LLC) at McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning. Courtesy of McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning.

IT GOES BACK TO THE BOSS

All of the policies in place reflect the work ethic of Greg McAfee. The former U.S. Marine began the business in his garage with one truck and less than $500 in the bank. He didn’t have a lot of capital and there were times when the phone wouldn’t ring for a couple of weeks. He really questioned his decision to leave a higher-paying job for one where he was barely able to make ends meet.

“Fortunately, I had some common business sense, which helped me make it,” he said. “I started in my garage, and by the time I left it, I was earning almost a million a year.”

Now McAfee proudly shows off his business in a building he constructed in 1998. The impressive offices and showroom are a great place to work - and attract new business. “The majority of people who walk through our door I sell,” he said. “People see that we are not just a typical HVAC company. We try to give a professional image and pass that along to our employees.”

That philosophy has worked well. Leading by example has served McAfee very well. “Greg sets the stage for high performance and at the same time encourages us to continuously raise our own bar,” said installation manager Kevin Turner. “Everyone here is encouraged to raise our own personal and professional standards.”

Heilman summed up her feelings for Greg McAfee. “The one word I would use to describe him is integrity,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about anything working for Greg.”

And McAfee’s customers are quick to add their praises, too. Several showed up at a party to honor the company after they won The NEWS’ award. Claude and Mary Malone are two customers who have been impressed with McAfee.

“He is a man of integrity and compassion,” they said.

“He shares his time and wealth with others. He is a good business manager who has applied some old-fashioned logic to a technologically advanced business that is sometimes cold and uncaring for the public it serves. Perhaps others should study Greg’s achievements and successes. In so doing, they would realize how easy it is to do things the right way.”

And this best contractor certainly takes care of his employees the right way. McAfee calls doing things right - the “McAfee way.” We call it being a winner.

JUST THE FACTS:

Contractor: McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning

Owner: Greg McAfee

Location: Kettering, Ohio

Years in business: 16

Bulk of market: 98 percent residential service and replacement

Total sales for 2006: $2.5 million

Total employees: 21

Total service technicians and installers: 8

Average hours employees spend in training: 130-160 annually

Benefits beyond medical/dental insurance: Disability, family life insurance, tickets to sporting events, seven paid holidays, paid time off, 401(k), tuition reimbursement, company paid CEU and North American Technician Excellence (NATE) classes.

Industry association & contractor group members: Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), Excellence Alliance (EAI), Service Roundtable

The NEWS selected this contractor because: Greg McAfee has combined a genuine compassion for his community, through his charitable work, with the desire to make his people the best they can be, both professionally and personally.

Publication date: 01/29/2007

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