The father and son duo of Mike Donley, president (left) and Jim Donley, founder/chairman (right), has been working together about 20 years, for which both are thankful. (Feature photos by Nick Oza.)

PHOENIX - Committed. Caring. Trustworthy. Family. These are the words that Donley Service Center employees use to describe the service and maintenance company. Marked by its commitment to family, this father-and-son business began 34 years ago.

Like many others who work in HVACR, James Donley, founder and chairman of Donley Service Center, and president Mike Donley, have both spent much of their careers focusing on building employee and customer relationships that are based on trust and respect. Taking that trust and respect to the next level of uncompromising integrity, however, sets James and Mike apart as The NEWS’2010 Best Contractor to Work For contest winners in the Western region.


Donley is a family-based business. This father-and-son duo has been working together about 20 years, for which both are thankful.

“Originally my wife and I never expected for this to be a family business, but as the company grew, the opportunity presented itself,” said James. “The pleasure of seeing it go to the next generation is wonderful.”

James is still in love with his business and the HVACR industry, but he is also in love with fly fishing. He spends as much time as possible traveling with his wife and fly fishing around the world. The rest of the time he spends at Donley Service Center, interacting with employees, advising the executive management team, and inspiring the next generation of a/c service techs.

“It is my job to be a good partner to my son and our team managers, and to preserve the culture that we built over the 34 years of our existence,” said James. “I hope some of my passion for the business rubs off on our team members as well.”

“I get to work with my dad every day,” said Mike. “At first we struggled in our relationship because it can be tough working for your dad; but the last 10 years have been an absolute blessing. And the fact that I get to see him every day, spend so much time with him, and learn from and lean on him, has been fantastic.”

As proud members of the HVAC industry and their local community, technicians like Mike Trimble, work hard to keep Donley’s service trucks clean and bright.


The company’s family album tells a story of teamwork and integrity. Each chapter in its history outlines a commitment to the ideas of strong family values and impeccable customer interactions. Being part of the family business, however, doesn’t require a last name of Donley.

New family members are hired on a regular basis; together this team of HVACR professionals faces the ups and downs of a service and maintenance business. Not just anyone is fit to be in the Donley family, though; to ensure that the right members are chosen, the company uses a multi-step hiring process. “The keys to hiring good people are to make hiring important, make it a management-based process, and communicate well,” said James.

Sometimes Donley Service uses a recruiter or a temp agency. According to Mike, this allows them to prescreen a large number of employees without spending all the time it would take to do that in-house. If a candidate makes it past the prescreening, they are interviewed by three different members of company management, one of which is almost always a woman.

All technicians go through customer service and skills training on a regular basis.

“It is important to get a number of opinions about how a new hire will fit into the family, and how they may be perceived by customers,” said Mike. “We also test them, conduct background checks, and insist on drug screens.”

Once hired, there are many benefits available to employees. Christine Sparks, executive assistant at Donley Service, is a single mom who worked at the company for 12 years, left for a period of time, then returned.

“I came back because Donley is a well-established, stable company,” said Sparks. “As a single mom, having full medical, dental, vision, and 401(k) benefits is a must, and Donley supplies that. They really believe in hiring and keeping good people, and I think that reflects in the type of service we give our customers.”

Jim Donley, founder/chairman of Donley Service Center, spends much of his time interacting with employees, advising the executive management team, and inspiring the next generation of a/c service techs.

Another benefit is more difficult to measure in dollars and cents - caring. The new hire’s first hour in the building is spent in orientation with Jim or Mike. During this time, they instruct the new family member about the culture of the business, the vision, the strategy, the founding principles, how customers should be handled, and how they are expected to interact with everyone in the company.

“We give them our home phone numbers, e-mail addresses, all our contact information, and tell them, ‘Hey, if you ever have a problem after hours, on the weekend, a personal issue you need help with, you can always come to me when your managers can’t help you or if they aren’t helping you,’” said Mike. “The secret to success in our company, and really in any organization or team, is that it is all built around the right people. We spend an awful lot of time finding the right people.”

The family atmosphere at Donley Service Center extends beyond the father-son office to all of the employees.


Everyday life at Donley Service Center focuses on making the business run as smoothly, efficiently, and professionally as possible. All technicians go through customer service and skills training on a regular basis. Donley pays for all of the training and brings in suppliers and distributors to have specific equipment training for the different new technologies as they are introduced to the market. The company also sends them for North American Technician Excellence (NATE) training and certification.

The company also provides a career path to those who are interested. “We have different levels and classifications of technicians,” said Carl Bartoli, director of operations. “To achieve those different classifications, employees must have different marketing, customer service skills, technical skills, and certifications. Internally, all these things advance technicians as far as their certifications will take them.”

Some employees are content with their current positions, but for those looking to advance, like Bartoli, there is room to grow both monetarily and in position. For instance, he began his career at Donley as a technician, advanced to field supervisor, then as general manager he opened up the first branch for the company. Now as director of operations, Bartoli sits down with employees for coaching sessions on a consistent basis.

“We’re very proud about the technical and customer service we deliver,” he said. “We say we are in the 90 percent satisfaction realm, but our question is, how do we get that last 10 percent?”

The owners, managers, and employees of Donley Service Center take their customer service responsibilities very seriously.


The owners and managers know that they have a responsibility to their employees and customers. They also know that they have a responsibility to their community.

In order to uphold the reputation of HVACR tradespeople, Donley keeps its trucks clean, its uniforms neat, and its employees active in different charities. The company regularly gives its time and money to Crisis Nursery and Boys and Girls Clubs efforts.

“We have a great reputation in the community as part of the industry, and we think we have a responsibility as well with our financial means to be a leader in our community in regards to helping a little league team or a major charity,” said James.

“We are a family business; our name is on the sign; and it’s just good business to be involved in the community.”

Everyday life at Donley Service Center focuses on making the business run as smoothly, efficiently, and professionally as possible.


Whether inviting trade school students to a barbeque lunch, handing out incentives at a monthly kick-off meeting, or gathering at the president’s house for a holiday party, Donley Service Center takes care of its family of customers and employees.

“Both my father James and myself take a ton of pride in the fact that we are helping 50 families. We are responsible for 50 families’ lifestyles, well being, financial futures, and careers,” said Mike.

“When anyone has success in those areas, we take a lot of pride in it and it makes it worth all the times when you are sweating payroll, or trying to figure out a difficult problem, a difficult customer, or a difficult employee situation,” he said. “We do the right thing, and we care.”

Just the Facts: Best Contractor To Work For

CONTRACTOR:Donley Service Center

OWNER:Jim D. Donley




BULK OF MARKET:Residential

TOTAL SALES FOR 2010:$9.5 million




BENEFITS BEYOND MEDICAL/DENTAL INSURANCE:Employee referral bonus, six paid holidays, paid vacation (one week after one year, two weeks after three years), paid training, retirement package, performance bonuses, new vehicles that can be taken home, uniforms, cell phones, tool allowance (large tools provided company).

INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION & CONTRACTOR GROUP MEMBERS:AirTime 500, Plumbing Success Group International, Mastermind Group, Strategic Coach

THE NEWS SELECTED THIS CONTRACTOR BECAUSE:The commitment of Jim and Mike Donley to doing the right thing and caring for employees as family made Donley Service CenterThe NEWS’choice.

Publication date:01/31/2011