Kenneth Buggay and son Judah
Kenneth Buggay, 47, and son Judah, 14, answer an air conditioning maintenance call. Buggay, owner of Kenneth Buggay Mechanical Co. in Woodstock, Ga., entered the business under the tutelage of his father, Steve Buggay, and is now guiding his son down a similar path.

After graduating from the University of Georgia in 1987 with an accounting degree, Kenneth Buggay envisioned a career consisting of a corner-window office, freshly mowed tee boxes, and finely pressed suits. But, less than a week after receiving his degree, he found himself on his back, wrench in hand, twisting his torso upward in an effort to position a furnace into place. While the acclaim of an accounting degree sounded great in his early 20s, Buggay’s desire to get his hands dirty led him away from the office and into the service truck as an HVAC contractor.

Family Ties

Buggay, 47, is the owner of Kenneth Buggay Mechanical Co. As a young kid, Buggay could often be found riding shotgun throughout the Atlanta region with his father, Steve Buggay, owner of Steco Heating & Cooling.

“My dad grew up old-school and can do anything. He actually taught himself how to service HVAC units,” said Kenneth Buggay. “I learned by watching him and sort of taught myself how things work by taking units apart and putting them back together.”

Following high school, Buggay left for the University of Georgia to study accounting. After attaining his degree, he began seeking a lucrative career position. After a few weeks worth of searching through the classified ads and job postings, Buggay decided that maybe the number-crunching business wasn’t for him.

“I looked for an accounting job, but those jobs weren’t paying what I expected them to pay, and I wasn’t sure if that was really what I wanted to do anyhow,” he said. “So, I went back to work with dad. I took a liking to the HVAC industry because it offers such a variety of trades and everything changes so frequently. It keeps me interested and on my toes.”

After college, Buggay found himself more often in the Steco driver’s seat than the passenger seat he once frequently occupied.

“Steco was [my father’s] business, but he preferred I ran most of it. It was best for both of us for me to run most things.”

Award-Winning Service

After a decade of assisting his father, Buggay stepped out of his father’s shadow in 1996 to start his own company, Kenneth Buggay Mechanical Co. in Woodstock, Ga.

Buggay’s fleet now consists of six employees, two trucks, and a warehouse filled with replacement parts. The crew answers more than 1,000 calls a year, including 600 maintenance calls, concentrating mostly on residential furnace and air conditioner repairs.

Buggay prefers to be the first point of contact with all new customers, and his hand is almost always the first one extended during initial customer interaction.

“I like to provide continuous face recognition with a customer, and do my absolute best not to send one of our guys out cold turkey,” he said. “Homeowners react better when they see a familiar face.”

Prior to starting his own business, Buggay and his father had worked with American Home Shield (AHS), which provides home protection plans to nearly 1.4 million customers across 49 states. The company relies on a network of more than 10,000 contractors to diagnose and repair breakdowns for its customers’ covered systems and appliances.

Buggay elected to continue that relationship following the start of his own company.

“I met with a fellow contractor who recommended AHS, and we were already familiar with their offerings through our partnership with them at Steco, which started in 1990,” said Buggay. “I’ve always been happy with the work they send my way, and I know their customers have been pleased with the service we’ve provided over the years.”

AHS recently honored Buggay as its quality bonus program top-performing HVAC contractor of 2011. Each year, AHS rates and rewards contractors based upon 15 metrics, including customer feedback. Buggay and his company received a $25,000 bonus through the incentive program.

“Customers in the Woodstock area told us they would recommend Kenneth Buggay Mechanical Co. to their families and friends, which is an incredible testimony to the quality service the company provides,” said Dave Crawford, president, American Home Shield. “This bonus is our way of recognizing and rewarding the exceptional effort that they provide our customers day in and day out.”

Buggay said he was tracking the contest’s progress, and knew his company was ranked in the top 10, but was surprised to hear that they ranked No. 1 nationwide.

“We were really shocked to receive this honor. I told them to recount the votes,” he said. “This award is a testament to our every day focus to provide professional and honest work. To be recognized as the best in the nation, based on responses from customers we serve, lets us know we are providing quality service and an overall positive experience.”

Branching Out the Family Tree

Buggay, the father of six children — four boys and two girls — places a high priority on family. In fact, Buggay’s hereditary skills may have already blessed him with a successor. “I was working with my father-in-law’s company, Peacock Construction, doing some construction work, and we started taking my son Judah with us on job sites when he was about 3 years old,” he said. “I remember times when we’d have to take a quick break so I could change a diaper.

“And, it’s funny, because now, Judah takes to HVAC work like most kids would take to riding a bike. About two years ago, Judah answered a neighbor’s call regarding a faulty air conditioning unit, and, in just a few minutes, he had fixed the unit’s condenser capacitor. He was 12 years old at the time.”

Kenneth’s father, Steve, at 72 years young, is still active in the HVAC industry and can still be found answering service calls with Kenneth and his brother, Steve Jr., who operates Steve Buggay Heating & Air LLC in Danielsville, Ga.

Looking back on a career that started with an accounting degree, and has transitioned into the nitty-gritty HVAC industry, Buggay said his hands have been dirty for more than 25 years and he couldn’t be any happier.

“After my college years, I recognized that if you are intelligent and willing to get dirty, you can make a lot of money in this business. I think those who are willing to get dirty have the opportunity to make a lot more than those who insist on keeping their hands clean,” he said. “I told my wife, as long as I can stay healthy, I know we’ll make a living.

“Right now, I am focused on my physical and spiritual health, and raising my children,” he said. “Everyone says your children grow up before you know it. I’m doing everything I can to avoid that because family is, and always will be, most important.”

Publication date: 7/30/2012