Name: Troy Meachum
Title: CEO and President
Company: ACR Supply Co.
Number of Locations: 8
Number of Employees: 94
Year Founded: 1977
Major Product Lines: Emerson/Copeland, Heatcraft/Larkin, Sure Comfort, Koch Filter, LG, Johnson Controls FX, Honeywell
Tell us a little bit about the history of ACR Supply Co. and your role in the company.
Meachum: My dad created ACR Supply on March 18, 1977, which was my 16th birthday. His first office was in an old lumber warehouse, and his desk consisted of an old door sitting on several cases of Prestone antifreeze with one light hanging from the ceiling. I joined the company in 1980, and we opened our first branch location in Chapel Hill in 1984. After leading the Chapel Hill branch for several years, I rejoined ACR’s Durham location in 1993 as general manager.
How would you define your early years in the business?
Meachum: Honestly, I feel like I wasted the first five years of my career. I was a young guy who knew everything and spent my time chasing women, drinking, etc. That all changed in 1988 when I became a Christian. That was a big deal for me. It helped me understand that people are our greatest professional and personal asset and taught me that I’m accountable for how I treat people, care for them, and provide for them. That really began to change and transform the culture at ACR supply.
After becoming general manager, was there one moment you point to that changed the rest of your professional life?
Meachum: Yes. In 1997, my father; our vice president, Lee Blakely; and I met to discuss the company’s future, which had largely been overlooked at that point. We had never really thought about our long-term future because none of us had business degrees. We were just three rednecks in North Carolina looking to make a living in the wholesaler business. At that meeting, we developed our first mission statement, which centered on maintaining a healthy work environment. We then started working diligently to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off. This cultural change brought a real systemic change. We had to make some very difficult decisions. We started identifying people who were not contributing to the environment we were trying to build and put a growth plan in place to help them change. I believe in the old adage, change people or change people. We really want to help our people grow and change, but if they cannot change, we will. As we acted on this promise, we saw rapid change happen almost overnight. There are two things you have to do to work at ACR Supply: You have to contribute to the health of the environment, and you have to contribute to the company’s profitability. If you’re unable to do that, then this isn’t the company for you.
You’re currently finishing your yearlong tenure as HARDI president. Can you sum up that experience in two sentences or less?
Meachum: It has been an amazing joy to spend time with the HARDI staff and so many members this year. I’ve learned so much on a professional and personal level and gained a lot of fantastic relationships. There are a lot of rock stars out there with some incredible legacies. The quality of individuals in the HVACR distribution world are second to none. We have something very special in this industry. As president, I was able to spend a lot of time with a lot of people. It’s been amazing to be able to do that. I know that wasn’t two sentences, but it was close [laughs].
What was the most rewarding part of this journey?
Meachum: I gained a great deal of confidence in our HARDI staff. They’re gifted, talented, and absolutely off the charts. I took a couple of trips to Ohio, and we did some professional development. We read and discussed two books, “Three Signs of a Miserable Job” and “Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” by Patrick Lencioni. It was awesome. The HARDI staff is bringing so much value to our members, and the proof is in the pudding. Our numbers for the annual conference are going to be bigger this year in Austin than they were in Vegas. People don’t come and spend that kind of money for nothing. The HARDI Annual Conference has become an industry standard — a must-attend event.
When did you first get involved in HARDI?
Meachum: I’ve pretty much been involved with the organization my entire life. I was a director for the Southeast for ARW [Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Wholesalers] back in the 1990s. We remained engaged when ARW and NHRAW [Northamerican Heating, Refrigeration & Air-conditioning Wholesalers] merged, and we’ve been involved since.
Your company is very philanthropic. One of the ways you’re helping others is through the ACR Cares initiative. What does this entail?
Meachum: I’m really passionate about this. This is truly where my heart is. Years ago, I began to have this conviction that we needed to make sure we were serving our communities well and glorifying God in all we did. We work hard to make sure we are well connected in our communities. In the past few weeks alone, we served dinner at a Ronald McDonald house in Greenville, North Carolina; and we worked with Rock Solid, where we built a swing set and playground area for a young cancer patient. We had a team of 20 people there working on that project. We had another team serve with an organization called Under the Bridge in Greensboro, North Carolina, serving about 200 homeless there. We’re also building an orphanage in Burkina Faso, Africa. Construction will be completed there within the next 12 months.
ACR’s mission statement reads: “Build relationships. Impact lives. Glorify God.” Can you share a little more on this, and does your desire to help others serve as an extension of your faith?
Meachum: Yes, my faith — my relationship with the Lord is what drives me to do everything I do.
How’s the dynamic between yourself and others who work for ACR Supply who aren’t Christians?
Meachum: We just love on them. Some people may say, “The culture is too religious for me, but I enjoy the way they treat me.” I’m open about my faith, but I’m not judgmental. We have a Muslim team member who works for us, and he gave me the greatest complement recently when he gave me some handmade keychains from his family’s shop in Egypt as a token of appreciation. He shared with me that he had never been treated this well by anyone, and it is a joy for him to be a part of the ACR family. We’re never heavy-handed and never allow people to feel left out — we’re not that kind of people.
What has been ACR’s biggest challenge over the last five to 10 years?
Meachum: Cash flow. Believe it or not, most small companies go bankrupt when they’re in growth mode. You’re making investments and gambling on the future of the business. We’ve invested a lot of time, money, and effort in people and processes and setting our company up for future growth. Many distributors don’t have a huge cash reserve. A lot of our money is tied up in the inventory within our warehouses. Funding growth is the biggest challenge.
Most in the trades insist their biggest challenge is finding qualified workers. How are you doing in this department?
Meachum: For the most part, we don’t struggle in this area. I don’t want to come across as being boastful, but I believe we’ve made great progress in finding and retaining the right people. If you build a healthy work culture and treat people well, you’re able to find rock stars, and we’ve put a lot of effort into doing just that. We recently created a new HR position within our organization. We recruited and interviewed a number of applicants. The day the individual we selected was supposed to start with us, another company called her. She met with them, and they offered her $25,000 more a year. She turned it down to come work for us because of the culture and the quality of life we offer here at ACR. Dave Ramsey says that thoroughbreds run with thoroughbreds and donkeys run with donkeys. The more thoroughbreds you get in your organization, the more people who operate like them will follow. Donkeys simply can’t keep pace with thoroughbreds.
Are you hiring millennials or older workers with more experience?
Meachum: Approximately 51 percent of our employees are under the age of 40, and 40 percent of our staff are millennials. If you’re creating a work culture where people get up every day and want to come to work, you’ll attract millennials. We spend a lot of time on the recruiting side, where we try to find high-character, young rock stars who are humble, hungry, smart, and willing to learn how we do things. We’ve found this to be a very successful model for us.
You make it sound so easy. Any tips for the rest of the industry?
Meachum: As an industry, we have to change our image. We have to create an image where people are drawn to our line of work. Our people tell their friends about ACR and our industry, and many of our new hires are referrals. We reward our teams, too, with a $1,000 finder’s fee. If the new team member is still with the company after six months, we give the person who referred them $500. After the second six months, they get the other $500. I’d recommend a program such as this to others, as it’s worked very well for us.
Does ACR offer an online storefront?
Meachum: Yes. We first started our e-commerce project about four years ago. Today, we conduct about 5-6 percent of our business online. As we add people to the e-commerce solution, that number will go up. We spent a lot of time on that, and it’s paying off, as there are times when we receive 40-50 orders a day. Using our online storefront, we’re not trying to sell a thermostat to a guy in North Dakota. That’s not what we do. This is just another way for our current customers to do business with us. It saves us a phone call, counter time, and sales time.
You describe yourself as “Chief Cheerleader” on your LinkedIn profile. I’m having a difficult time picturing you with pom-poms doing back handsprings.
Meachum: Not a cheerleader on the sideline sense with pom-poms and back handsprings. That would be dangerous, and I’d probably end up in the hospital. That said, I don’t like titles. I believe titles create division. I do understand they’re vital and necessary, especially when you’re dealing with external clients, but too many people get caught up in their titles. If you have to tell people you are the leader, you’re not the leader. My job is to cheer our employees on, encourage them, hold them accountable, and do everything I can to invest in them and help them grow personally, professionally, financially, and spiritually. In that sense, I’m the biggest cheerleader in the company.
What’s the greatest piece of business advice you’ve ever received or given?
Meachum: My dad said people do business with people they like. I’ve always loved that. It’s always stuck in my brain and is something I adhere to today.
What does the future hold for ACR Supply and Troy Meachum?
Meachum: It’s our goal to leave a legacy so that on the day our team members retire, they can look back and say their lives were better off because they were a part of the ACR family. We strive to make a difference in people’s lives. For me, I will probably appoint a general manager or president in the next several years as I continue to distance myself form the day-to-day work. We have a three-year professional development program called “Future Leaders.” I do a lot of work with that, and I’ll continue on that path of mentoring and developing our future leaders. Additionally, my wife and I will probably do some short-term mission work.
Publication date: 12/21/18