Doing it the hard way: McAfee grows during recession

By Thomas Gnau
Staff Writer – Dayton Daily News

KETTERING – Early in 2009, Greg McAfee, president of McAfee Heating and Air-Conditioning, told his employees to prepare to “hunker down.”

The business would not hire additional employees. It would not buy new work vans. And the advertising budget was going to get cut.

That was the plan. But an entrepreneurial course at Aileron turned McAfee’s head around. At the Bethel Twp.-based school for business leaders, he was advised to forge ahead, even in a scary economy.

So McAfee hired eight more employees and grew his ads budget by 30 percent.

Result: McAfee’s revenue rose 18 percent last year, during the fiercest recession since the 1930′s. His number of first-time customers grew 40 percent. And the first quarter of 2010 was excellent, with revenue rising 54 percent.

“Not only did we come togethor as a team, we also chose not to participate in the recession,” McAfee said.

While his results for 2009 might seem unusual, McAfee said his revenue has grown each year since he started the business in November 1990 with a Ford Ranger and $274.

Marty Grunder, chief executive of Grunder Landscaping Co. – and another fan of Aileron and its founder Clay Mathile – likes McAfee, saying he honors the most important business code, that of taking care of customers.

“I admire him,” Grunder said. “He’s got guts and he takes chances.”

McAfee, a Mansfield native and former Marine, did it the hard way, coming to Dayton to work at what was Dayton Tire at 19. He got married, bought a house and started a business in the same year, 1990.

He would make cold calls and drive his truck around to drum up business. He recalled times when the phone wouldn’t ring for two weeks.

Still, McAfee closed that first year with $100,000 in revenue, taking only an “occasional” draw to pay himself. Eventually, an accountant advised McAfee to pay himself more regularly.

Throughout his early years, he tried to have his company “act bigger” than it was. For every three field technicians, he hires a customer service office employee. He also insists on a regular, monthly employee training and workers with North American Technician Excellence certification.

And he has a board of advisers, something he feels is unusual for a small, private firm.

“You’re never going to have it togethor until you get help,” McAfee said.

McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning

Founded: 1990

Based: 4770 Hempstead Station, Kettering

Employees: 28 full-time, two part-time

Revenue: 2009: Close to $4 million. 2008: A little more than $3 million.

Projections: Will hire 6-8 additional employees this year. Expects to have close to 50 employees in three years.