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Small Business Spotlight

Michelle Royce of Executive Air in Destin: A Breath of Fresh Air & Cool Under Pressure

Michelle Royce, owner of Executive Air in Destin, was born in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Her mother pushed for a move to the United States when Michelle’s father received a job offer as an engineer for the National Cash Register Company. Her mother wanted the American Dream.

Only three years old when she moved to the U.S., Michelle was raised totally American. She did not learn Filipino. Always feeling like the different one, she often thought her family was the only Asian family in the Midwest. There were gatherings of other Asian families, but you had to make it a point to gather.

Being different, Michelle always strived to be accepted and was usually the funny kid in class. At nine years old she and her family went on vacation to Clearwater, Florida. Her mother saw palm trees at the Georgia/Florida border and declared they were going to move to Florida.

They moved to Orlando in 1981 where Michelle grew up. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in business and subsequently had all kinds of different jobs; mostly entrepreneurial. At one point, she was the executive director of a non-profit organization called The Mustard Seed of Central Florida. She began their recycling program and today the organization relies on the proceeds of the recycling instead of donations. The mission of The Mustard Seed was to provide families with free furniture. Michelle created the thrift store and hired socially disadvantaged people. The mattress recycling program was the only one in Florida.

When Michelle got married and was planning to move to Okaloosa County, she found a job listing on LinkedIn for a business intermediary. She didn’t know what that was, but thought it sounded interesting. She interviewed and got the job.

There was a huge learning curve but the company was willing to train her. Michelle credits her wide variety of jobs as being attractive to the company. A business intermediary values a business, markets it and sells it for those people wanting to sell their companies.

Michelle has been a business intermediary for eight years. The company has a team approach and all intermediaries present businesses to the team in an internal due diligence meeting. One day, one of Michelle’s colleagues presented an HVAC company. Michelle  thought it might be a good fit with her husband’s plumbing company and they sold their townhome in order to raise  the capital to purchase the HVAC company. Michelle took HVAC classes at Okaloosa Technical College and earned her certification. She wanted to know her new business.

Michelle started running the company in 2019 and has expanded the business to include commercial and refrigeration such as restaurant coolers. All technicians in the field are men but she received no pushback because she was a woman running the company. She manages a team of 13 and keeps them motivated.

Michelle was pleasantly surprised to find how proud the technicians were of what they do and how they continue to build their knowledge to become better and more efficient. Humble confidence is one of the company’s core values as is providing an excellent customer experience. Good technicians attract other good technicians. Michelle wants her team to have a good work/life balance so Executive Air is not a 24/7 company.

When asked what she would tell other entrepreneurs and business owners, Michelle says you must appreciate and see the value in your team. The other piece of advice she offers is: be available. It may sound corny, but her door is always open. Her team either calls her boss lady or mom. Michelle looks at opportunities as gifts. Figure out how to make it work and don’t analyze five ways why it won’t work.