Keeping It Cool
Maintenance Unlimited Heating & Cooling brings comfort throughout Atlanta
Sean McKinney had a simple, steadfast idea—if his company was going to be the best HVAC organization in Georgia, being easy to reach and listening to the needs of the customers would always be its focus. For the two decades since he opened the doors of Maintenance Unlimited Heating & Cooling, that idea has been the backbone of his success and the root of the company’s growth.
After receiving his associate degree in heating, ventilation and air conditioning from Universal Technical Institute in Houston, Sean packed his bags and moved to Atlanta, where he soon found work at J.R. Hobbs Co. That’s also where he met Darrell Word, who would become first his friend and eventually his life-long business partner.
In 2001, after four years at J.R. Hobbs Co., Sean decided it was time to go out on his own. Making the change from employee to business owner wasn’t easy, but Sean saw it through.
“That first six months was definitely scary,” Sean says. “It meant developing business acumen, juggling administrative responsibilities and understanding how to communicate effectively. Going from technician to owner was a huge undertaking.”
One Day at a Time
What started as just Sean and a truck grew steadily. Soon, Darrell joined as a partner in the business. One truck became two, then three, then grew to a fleet of seven. The company workforce expanded to include two installers, three technicians and office personnel.
“I’d say our biggest challenge in the early years was financing,” Sean says. “We overcame obstacles by sticking to our goals of being easy to reach and listening to the customers. We built the business by creating happy customers one job at a time. We were determined to persevere and it has been rewarding.”
In the early days of the company, almost all the work was residential. Single-family and multifamily developments still make up about 70% of the firm’s jobs. Recently, the company has been pursuing—and winning—commercial and government contracts. About 60% of its business is in repair and maintenance of existing heating and cooling units, with the remainder in installation.
“What sets us apart is our daily determination to do better and be better,” Sean says. “Also, we want to make sure our customers understand the contract terms completely so they can make good, informed decisions. One of the ways we do that is by providing upfront pricing. And because we stand behind our work, we offer two-year installation warranties on all residential installations.”
In 2019, Maintenance Unlimited Heating & Cooling had gross revenues of $1.3 million. “This year the expectation is about the same,” Sean says. “Due to the natural cause and effect of the pandemic, the first quarter of 2020 was slow. Thankfully, due to Atlanta’s predictable weather, we will have successful third and fourth quarters.”
The company also maintains attractive credentials. It is listed as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise with the Georgia Department of Transportation and is certified as a minority-owned business by both the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council. Maintenance Unlimited Heating & Cooling has a strong presence and maintains very high ratings and reviews on all social mediums. As a result, Sean is considered an authority on HVAC and has appeared on local media outlets many times as a heating and cooling expert.
“We built the business by creating happy customers one job at a time. We were determined to persevere and it has been rewarding.” Sean McKinney, Owner, Maintenance Unlimited Heating & Cooling
Making a Mark
While residential jobs have made up the majority of Maintenance Unlimited Heating & Cooling’s contracts, the company has also tackled its share of high-profile projects. Recently, the team took on its largest project to date, a nine-month contract for a new senior living development in Atlanta, known as The Legacy at Vine City.
The Legacy at Vine City is a four-story affordable housing senior community done in partnership with Higher Ground Empowerment Center and Fairway Management, Inc. The heating and cooling infrastructure in its entirety was completed by Maintenance Unlimited Heating & Cooling. The company provided on-the-job training and apprenticeship opportunities through community outreach to several residents in the Vine City area who wanted to learn the mechanical trade. Maintenance Unlimited Heating & Cooling also helped others in the industry by sourcing out pieces of the project to fellow HVAC companies.
Another prominent project for Maintenance Unlimited Heating & Cooling was The Byron on Peachtree in downtown Atlanta. This involved an extensive renovation of a long-standing building into new luxury apartments, and was probably the most challenging job Sean, Darrell and their team have ever undertaken.
“The Byron was one of those situations where you constantly have to make adjustments on the fly,” Sean says. “In an old building like that, there are always surprises. We were at it for almost a year, but we met the project on budget and on time.”
Currently, Maintenance Unlimited Heating & Cooling is working on solidifying several large upcoming contracts, with an eye toward taking on more multifamily and mixed-use development projects. The company is not leaving behind its residential business, but is focusing on more commercial and light commercial projects, as well as providing robust preventative maintenance for commercial clients.
“Our goal in the next three to four years is to grow our gross revenue to $5 million or more annually,” Sean says. “That’s primarily fueled through installation and maintenance contracts.”
Larger commercial projects like The Legacy at Vine City and The Byron on Peachtree are key to Sean’s goal of expanding the business, and he is quick to credit The Blue Book Network as a valuable partner in the firm’s growth.
“We have a great relationship with The Blue Book Network team,” Sean says. “They’ve helped expand our reach in the commercial area, which is where we want to grow. We’re looking to use that partnership as we reach out and move forward. The Blue Book gives us great exposure.”
Originally from the small city of Sylacauga, Alabama, Sean, the youngest of four children, credits his father as his role model. He taught Sean the importance of hard work and a strong moral character, the value of entrepreneurship and how to hone his mechanical aptitude. Sean’s self-described humble beginnings instilled in him a deep sensitivity for the needs of his clients and the virtue of good, honest service.
It has also led him to reach out to the community he serves in other ways. Sean and his team at Maintenance Unlimited Heating & Cooling are active in the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and the company also offers on-the-job apprenticeship opportunities for youth who are interested in a career in the heating and cooling business.
“We got involved in [Big Brothers Big Sisters] because we wanted to reach out and do some mentorship in the community,” Sean says. “Youth get caught up in the system and have many obstacles to overcome. We want to give them hope and help them set goals, to show them there are opportunities available that will help them to grow and achieve greatness.”
“We’re proud of our apprenticeship program,” Sean continues. “A lot of companies don’t even allow apprenticeships—they want three to five years of experience before they’ll let anyone in the door. This program gives hands-on training for four to six weeks. It gets their feet wet to see if it’s something they want as a career.
We’ve had two apprentices go on to become employees at our company. Of course, we have requirements. They have to graduate high school and have a clean background check and driving record. They have to have mechanical aptitude, which we can determine when they’re out in the field. And they have to be willing to work hard and put in long hours. If their attitude is positive, they can have a prosperous career ahead of them.”