“101 - Richard Flournoy”
Featuring Richard Flournoy
Intro: Welcome to Profiles In Prosperity. The leading podcast for residential service contractors, sponsored by Service Roundtable and hosted by David Heimer.
David Heimer: Hi, this is David Heimer. Welcome to Profiles In Prosperity. Today I get to speak with Rich Flournoy. Rich is the founder, owner, and manager of A-Total Plumbing in Georgia. If you’ve ever had a chance to meet Rich and his lovely wife Felicia, you’ll be struck by how kind and modest they are despite building a large and very successful residential service plumbing business. In fact, I’d say that they’re overly modest. They’re always giving credit to everybody else, but in fact, they’re smart, hardworking people who implemented and grew their business and built something that was wildly successful. So Rich, welcome to Profiles In Prosperity.
Richard Flournoy: Hi David, how are you today?
David Heimer: I’m well, thank you. So Rich, tell me about the early days of your business. How did you get into our industry?
Richard Flournoy: So my grandfather was a plumber, my dad was a plumber, almost every male in my family’s a plumber. So it just came natural that I became a plumber.
David Heimer: Part of the formation of your company is the story about you meeting your beautiful wife, Felicia. So talk to us a little bit about that.
Richard Flournoy: If you back up way back to the beginning, I had worked for my dad doing plumbing for many years and then I was like, “Well, maybe this plumbing is not for me.” So I went and I got a job at Amazon and Felicia worked at Amazon with me. And we both worked the night shift so we spent a lot of time together. And one day I was like, “This is a lot of work and I could make a lot more money doing plumbing.” So I went and applied for a plumbing job. They told me, “Well Richard, your driving record is not good enough to come work here.” And I said, “Well, what if I got my girlfriend to drive me? Would that work?” And they were like, “Well, absolutely.” So I brought Felicia up there. Felicia drove me around for about a year until my driving record got better and that’s how she ended up in the plumbing industry. Fast forward a couple years, I started my company when I was 24 years old. And in the beginning, it was just me and Felicia was doing real estate. But the plumbing company really started taking off so Felicia pulled out of real estate and ended up coming and working in the office at A-Total.
David Heimer: There’s a story about the first van that you had. Tell us about that. I think I saw a picture of it at one point in time.
Richard Flournoy: So in May of 2001, I went to my grandfather and I said, “I’m going to open a plumbing company. I would like to buy this van. How much would you sell it to me for?” And at the time, I don’t remember the exact amount, but it was more than I could afford. And I said, “Well, Pa, why don’t you give me the van?” And he said, “Absolutely not.” He said, “I’ll rent it to you for $50 a week.” So I rented that van from my grandfather for $50 a week. It was a 1987 Dodge Van. It was Smurf Blue. Yeah, it wasn’t a great color for plumbing so I went home and I painted it with gray house paint with a roller.
David Heimer: Somehow, I think I saw a picture of that somewhere. I need another copy of that at some point in time or you should frame it and have it in your office.
Richard Flournoy: Yes sir.
David Heimer: So fast forward for me to your company now.
Richard Flournoy: From 2001 to 2018, we did mostly home warranty work. Somebody bought a home warranty policy, the home warranty company would send us the claim and we’d go out and we’d fix it working for them. And I believe it was 2017, we were losing a lot of money. And when I say losing a lot of money, we were about to go out of business. So I started searching around for help and I came across an ad for Service Nation Alliance. So I called and I got a presentation with a lady named Chisholm
David Heimer: Chisholm, yeah, Chisholm Brunner.
Richard Flournoy: She did a presentation for us and she gave us a price of what it cost to join. And Felicia looked at me, I looked at her and we were both thinking we can’t afford this, but we took every penny that we had and we scraped it together and we joined. I believe this was in October. Later that year, we went to boot camp in December and we hired a consultant, Chris Hunter. And Chris Hunter looked at everything that we were doing and he said, “Richard, you’re going to have to ask the home warranty company for more money or quit doing home warranty work or you’re going to go out of business.” So Chris asked me to ask them for an additional $200 a call and I was afraid to do that so I asked them for $5 more per call and they told me no.
David Heimer: If you don’t mind telling me, how much were you getting per call from them, to begin with?
Richard Flournoy: $117 per call.
David Heimer: And Chris said that you needed to get to $300?
Richard Flournoy: Roughly. Yes sir. In order to be profitable, that’s what we would need to get. And I was afraid to ask for that so I asked for $5 and the $5, they said, “Absolutely not. We were thinking about actually giving you $2 less because we were making you more efficient.” And so at that point, I told them, “Well, I’m going to put in a notice.” I said, “It’s going to probably take me six months and it’s probably going to take you six months to find somebody. So six months from now I’m going to stop working for you.” They didn’t like it. I was very afraid but we started going to our AB meetings. Chris helped us with a marketing plan and within six months we were doing about 80% non-warranty work. And the following year we were completely done with home warranty work. And we went from 100% home warranty to 100% retail. And we didn’t lose any technicians. We had about 11 technicians back then and never missed a beat.
David Heimer: And grew the business and it got profitable too, right?
Richard Flournoy: I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but when we joined Service Station Alliance, I believe we did $1.3 million in 2018. In 2019 we did about 1.6 million. And then fast forward to 2022, we did 7.3 million.
David Heimer: Man, that is fantastic growth. That’s incredible. So it was a gutsy thing, wasn’t it? It had to be scary moving from home warranty to full residential retail service, right?
Richard Flournoy: It was very scary but doing the AB groups with Service Nation, there was other people who had been through similar things and I was able to lean on them and get the confidence that I needed to make this work.
David Heimer: That was part of it. You moved from home warranty, but you’ve done other things. So what are some of the impactful things that you’ve done to improve and grow your business?
Richard Flournoy: We went to an event called Service World Expo that Service Nation puts on every year. And we were just overwhelmed with the networking opportunities, the vendors. One of the first vendors we picked up was Profit Rhino. And when we went from using a paper price book to Profit Rhino, that probably catapulted us to the next level. I believe when we started using Profit Rhino, we went to 3.6 million the very next year. We picked up ServiceTitan through Service Nation. Lots and lots of things.
David Heimer: And then you recently had a really big event. You sold your company. What can you tell us about that?
Richard Flournoy: In May of 2022, we decided with the consolidation that’s going on in our industry, that in order to strengthen our brand, we needed support. So we decided to partner with a company called Unique Indoor Comfort. So Felicia and I sold the business to Unique Indoor Comfort in May of 2022 and I have remained on as the president. And one of the better things that I’ve done in my career and really just to make A-Total grow for my employees. And we would not have had that opportunity if it wasn’t through Service Nation.
David Heimer: Well, that’s very kind of you. You wouldn’t have had this opportunity if you and Felicia hadn’t worked hard and implemented and took chances and done all of the hard stuff that you guys did. So congratulations to you guys. So you’re now the president; you’re working for another company. Are you a partial owner in A-Total still?
Richard Flournoy: So I am a partial owner in Unique Indoor Comfort and Unique Indoor Comfort owns A-Total.
David Heimer: Got it. Okay. And you’re on with them, you’re running your company, you’ve got a lot more money backing you at this point. What else has changed for you guys?
Richard Flournoy: We have the support, but we’re still implementing the things that we learned in our AB groups. We’re still implementing the stuff we learned. I think we’re contributing a lot to Unique Indoor Comfort as much as they’re contributing to us but we have a lot more support that we didn’t have before.
David Heimer: Yeah. Well, congratulations to you guys. This is such a great story. I wanted to ask you about your son. Your son was born with some really significant disabilities, and I’d like you to tell us about how that impacted your business and your view about business.
Richard Flournoy: So in 2001, we started the business and if you fast forward to late 2002, we found out we were pregnant with Jackson. Early on in the pregnancy, we knew that Jackson was going to have a lot of medical issues. Prior to that, A-Total was just me and a helper. I knew that with the medical issues that Jackson was going to have that we were going to have to grow the company really, really quick. So I immediately went to work to get us up to four trucks so that we could support Jackson because Jackson requires 24-hour medical care. Jackson still is a part of the business. He still comes to work with me most days when I come to work. He is the driving force. Why A-Total has done so well.
David Heimer: That’s really interesting. If you hadn’t had Jackson, what you’re telling me is you probably wouldn’t have pushed yourself to grow the business as much as you did. Is that a fair assessment?
Richard Flournoy: A hundred percent. Yes, sir.
David Heimer: Well, congratulations to you guys. I can’t think of any two people that deserve it more than you guys. You’re wonderful human beings and you work hard. You’ve built just a great business and I think you’ve got a great future in front of you as well. I expect when we check back in a few years with you, that we’ll see that A-Total is even bigger and better than it’s ever been. So I’m excited about what’s coming up for you guys.
Richard Flournoy: And David, I would just say had we not found Service Nation, there wouldn’t be any A-Total today. That’s a hundred percent fact. And we have a lot of gratitude for you.
David Heimer: Well, thank you. That’s very kind of you. Well, thank you for doing this with us. It’s so great to hear your story. I know that other people will benefit from it as well.
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