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ROY FINLEY

LEXINGTON SOUTH CAROLINA

FROM COMPUTER PROGRAMMING TO HVAC SUCCESS.

If you don’t think computer programming can set you apart from your HVAC competitors, then you don’t know Roy Finley’s story. With a heart that is even bigger than his brain, Roy is the humanitarian, innovator, and jack-of-all-tradesman at the helm of AAA Heat and Air. Get ready to be inspired.

Q: What led you to the trades?

My father was very mechanical and always worked in construction; so, it just runs in my blood. After finishing high school early, my dad pushed me to go to trade school. This was in the era when they started requiring permits for everything, so he wanted me to have the certification that I would need to get good jobs. At trade school, I learned HVAC, welding, carpentry, electrical, swimming pool maintenance, you name it. After all this… I thought I wanted to be a computer programmer, so I went to college to study that.

 

Q: Computer programming led you to HVAC?

Not exactly. It didn’t take long to realize sitting in front of a computer my whole life would only lead to bad health, so I never pursued a career in programming. With all the different types of skills that I developed in trade school, it made more sense to go into maintenance. I subcontracted for a while, then got hired by a wealthy family to maintain all their properties. I put together a small company to help me keep up with the work, and that’s when I started learning how to run a business. But it was something a mentor said that caused me to retire from property management and get into the HVAC industry. 

 

Q: What did he tell you? 

When we were inspecting the inside of a newly renovated home, my mentor said, “The only man making real money is the guy who installed this countertop, because he does one thing, and he does it well.” That one sentence changed my whole perspective. I got out of property management and started subcontracting for local HVAC businesses.  

 

Q: Why did you subcontract instead of opening your own business?

I knew the technical side of HVAC from all my years in property maintenance, but I didn’t know much about the suppliers, vendors, distributors, and the market itself. I needed an opportunity to gain that knowledge, so I did some research and found AAA Heat and Air. The owner at the time was struggling to plan his way to retirement, so I added my van to his fleet and helped the company grow substantially over a period of twelve months. At that point, I told him it was time for me to stop subcontracting and buy the company or leave. He said, “well you’re already running things around here, so you might as well buy it,” and that’s exactly what I did.    

 

 

Q: Did acquiring a company present any unique challenges? 

For sure. At the time that I acquired AAA Heat and Air, I had a very particular way that I wanted to go to market. I wanted an HVAC business unlike any competitor, and I wanted the difference to be an entirely customer-centered approach. But AAA was built upon one of the industry standard service apps, which I found to be too generic and too focused on the contractor side of things. I didn’t have the tools that I needed to run the business the way I wanted to, which was a huge obstacle to overcome. 

 

 

Q: How did you get over that hurdle?

I used my education in computer programming to build my own service app. It was long hours and felt like endless days of work, but I was determined to be the only guy in town with customer-centered service software. On top of that, my wife helped me acquire a finance company. Her background is in finance, and I wanted to offer financing at better rates than I could find, so we started offering our own.

 

 

Q: What are you most proud in terms of where AAA is today?

On the customer side, I’m most proud to have reached a point where I can afford to give away a free system every three months to someone in need in the community. I’ll never forget the first time I did that, installed a furnace for an elderly lady who couldn’t even afford the financing, and it didn’t stop there. We continue to do that for the community… I’m not sure if I’m prouder of anything else.

 

In terms of the operation, I’d say that I’m most proud of the fact that I still have some employees with me that I brought from the property management days, and in 30+ years, I haven’t missed a payroll. All of my employees are salaried, nobody works more than 40 hours, and everyone is guaranteed pay for 40 hours of work, even if they work less. I’m proud to offer that kind of stability and freedom.

Q: Do you have any regrets?

I sure do. Not long after I acquired AAA, I launched a marketing initiative to find, capture, and serve more of the geothermal market. I spent way too much time and money chasing a type of client that I eventually discovered didn’t even exist in my market. After all that, the truest reward hasn’t been any high-end sale, it has been walking into a house without air in ten years and seeing their life improve.

Q: What does Contractor Strong mean to you?

Contractor strong is the ability to give away furnaces to someone in need. It means providing a future for all three of my sons, who left their professions to work for me because of the type of opportunities and satisfaction that my business offers. It means paying all my employees for 40 hours, even if they work less time. It means no calls on Sunday and clocking out at 6pm on the dot every day, so more time can be spent with family and friends. It means improving the lives of everyone around me.

 

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