Founder and CEO of Affiliated Acceptance Corporation (AAC), Alan Downey, glanced in the rear-view mirror to share the company’s journey over the past 25+ years in business recently….
Alan’s adventure began in the late 1980s. While working for a Kansas City company called Twenco, affectionately referred to as “The Old Company,” Alan and friends endured major company and management changes. These changes and his subsequent layoff from Twenco served as the impetus for some life changing decisions and actions.
Armed with a single PC and printer – a parting gift from Twenco – Alan grabbed former coworker Bert Monson and set sail on a new expedition. During their tenure at Twenco, Alan and Bert had gained valuable experience in loans and payment processing for several industries, including Martial Arts. Together, they brought this experience and knowledge and formulated a goal to provide better financial services than what was currently available in the health and fitness industry.
One of the team’s first tasks was to name the company. To properly communicate a sense of togetherness the word “affiliated” was their top choice. “Acceptance” was added and Affiliated Acceptance Corporation was born.
Stabled in Kansas City’s Downtown Underground in a carved out cave in Midtown, they established themselves as a company willing to go the extra mile to deliver stellar financial services and partnerships. At $5 per square foot, the space was affordable and enabled them to add Mary Sharp, a resourceful administrator and bookkeeper to their team.
With Mary supporting their efforts, Alan and Bert focused on building their name and reputation with health clubs, martial arts schools and tanning salons, offering payment processing. Using his parting gift computer, before Internet and email, Alan processed and tracked payments by hand and printed reports on a tractor feed green bar paper printer. But the hand and leg work was worth it.
A quickly growing organization, Affiliated Acceptance added a crew of customer service and client service staff over the next few years. In the mid-90s, as computers developed more capabilities, Dick Potts joined the team to create a new software system. Then came a few new software developers, more sales people and a full-time bookkeeper to give Mary some relief.
With the evolution of innovation and technology and a solid knowledge of how the practical application of payment processing works for their industries, Affiliated designed original software systems to meet their customers’ needs.
The first offering for club software came through a partnership with EZ Pay. In the late 90s, the introduction of FrontDesk™ positioned Affiliated as a leader of innovation. Clubs were asking for an easier way to access customer information. Without a second thought, the company stepped up to save the day.
After eleven years in the caves, it was time find a bigger, more accommodating home. Alan and some of the investors reflected on enjoyable times at Osage Beach, Missouri, only a few hours from Kansas City. Alan proposed the idea to move the headquarters there, so they bought land in the neighboring town of Sunrise Beach and broke ground in 2000. Twelve employees went along for the ride.
For nine years, Affiliated delivered great products and services from “the Lake” but in 2009 they realized the neighboring communities couldn’t fully support the technology growth, so Affiliated returned to its old Kansas City stomping grounds to expand. The additional office opened the door for more programmers and supplementary call center staff, as well as an extended disaster recovery system.
Today, maintaining payment processing for health clubs, martial art schools and tanning salons continues to be a core offering in addition to delivering needed customer and facility management software.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s been 25 years since it started, but I guess that’s what the calendar says,” Alan humorously shares. “I’m proud that I have employed a lot of people and am still doing it. It’s been fun. 25 years of not knowing what ‘s going to happen the next day, but dealing with it and looking forward to the future.”
When asked for the advice he would give to a budding businessperson, he responds, “You gotta have a plan, you gotta have a goal and gotta make good decisions to get there. That, and have good people around you.” Alan is happy to have helped thousands of businesses and grateful for the staff and team that have supported him to achieve that goal.
Alan doesn’t like to be in the limelight. He modestly states, “I don’t feel I am the important guy. Everybody contributes.”