Before they founded A-Total Plumbing in Atlanta, Richard and Felicia Flournoy were co-workers at Amazon. When they started dating, their business and personal lives quickly became enmeshed.
“We were working third shift, and Richard wanted to work at a plumbing company,” Felicia says. “But he had a bad driving record—speeding tickets—so he asked if his girlfriend could drive/be a helper. And that’s how I got into plumbing.”
Fast forward: They got married. Felicia went back to work in the restaurant industry. Richard started his own plumbing company. Business was good, but not blockbuster.
In 2003, Felicia became pregnant with their first son, Jackson. The doctors told them he would be born with some very serious medical problems.
When Richard heard that news, he decided, “I got to grow A-Total Plumbing really, really quick.”
Needing to mix the needs of a business and a young family with special medical needs was a strong motivation that led to success. As of January 2022, the company has 22 technicians and a total of 32 employees.
The Flournoys’ ability to work together to care for their son is mirrored in the give-and-take of their business management strategy.
“Our son is vent-and-oxygen dependent,” Felicia says. “Richard and I had to learn to work together and know what each other is thinking without saying it for this medical situation with our child. And I feel like that flows into the business, too. We hash things out. We move on.”
The Flournoys realize they are beating the odds. They’ve seen the statistics that marriages fail 70% of the time when there’s a special-needs child and 50% of the time between business co-owners.
They admit the biggest challenge they had to overcome in the business was fear.
“We had gotten very dependent on being a home warranty company,” Felicia says. “We were afraid to step out, start advertising and try to grow the business in a different way.”
They worked through that fear.
“We had 17 families depending on us, so it was pretty stressful,” Richard says. But we thought of the team first for every decision we made. We know that if we took care of them, we’ll be taken care of automatically.”
“Chris was an eye-opener for us,” Felicia says. “He’s a very gentle, loving guy…and he ripped the Band-Aid off for us. He taught us to not live in fear. Just jump right in. Do what you’re going to do. Because if you live on that edge of fear, you won’t ever take that step to do it.”
Richard and Felicia Flournoy recently joined ServiceTitan’s Jackie Aubel as part of Season 5 of the “Toolbox for the Trades” podcast, which included the Flourneys’ thoughts on:
Role distribution between married co-owners.
Switching from a home warranty company to a retail business model.
The role of a “Dream Manager” and why you should hire one.
Focusing on service agreements as a game plan.
Staying humble while hustling hard.