Do you want to live the contractor's dream?

Aug. 25, 2013
By quitting all of the things that hurt him and sticking with the advice of people like Matt Michel and David Heimer at the Service Round Table and by following the dictates of flat rate guru Frank Blau, Ed became a successful contractor.

Do you want to live the contractor’s dream? Ed O’Connell is living the dream. Too many guys get to the end of their careers in this industry and all they have is the resale value of their tools and their truck. A few — too few — make a good living in this business and sell their companies for a good buck. Ed O’Connell is one of them.

That’s why you really want to subscribe to CONTRACTOR’s E-Newsletter because that is the exclusive venue where Ed O’Connell is going to share his thoughts, opinions, mistakes, wisdom, experience, knowledge and contractor savvy to help you become a better contractor. You’ll want to subscribe as soon as possible at because Ed’s first installment will post Wednesday, August 28, 2013.

So who is Ed O’Connell?

Ed O’Connell was a loser who became a winner by quitting — but he quit all of the things that were holding him back.

Ed founded O’Connell Plumbing in Fairfax, Calif., about 20 miles northwest of San Francisco, more than 30 years ago. He received a degree from the University of San Francisco in Liberal Arts in the 1960's, but he worked his way through college as a plumber and became licensed as a Master Plumber.

Over the past 30 years, he became a member of California Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors, an executive board member of his local PHCC chapter, a 30-year member of the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials, and a member of the Service Round Table.

He eventually became a consultant for the Service Round Table, which evolved into his becoming an award winning writer/advisor with the Service Round Table and “Contributor of the Year” 2008–2009.

He accomplished all of this by overcoming enormous odds. You name it and he’s been through it. He overcame little known form of Dyslexia, called Discalculia, thanks to help from the Veterans Administration.

Discalculia is a developmental disorder characterized by difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic or understanding how to manipulate numbers. Imagine running a business without a facility in math.

“Without this help [from the VA] I could not have founded, operated, nor successfully sold my plumbing business,” Ed says. “I owe much to my country and the VA.”

He is an ex-alcoholic who has been sober for more than 35 years, an accomplishment for which he also credits the VA.

He is also an ex-street person who lived homelessly for approximately a 10-year period during the 1970s. He was an erstwhile “criminal” during those days. If you have the good fortune to meet Ed, ask him to tell you the story about parallel parking the getaway car. It’s a hoot.

In 1981 he quit his three-pack-a-day cigarette habit and, in 2010, he lost 80 pounds and has maintained that weight loss to the present day.

By quitting all of the things that hurt him and sticking with the advice of people like Matt Michel and David Heimer at the Service Round Table and by following the dictates of flat rate guru Frank Blau, Ed became a successful contractor. A couple years ago Ed had a major mountain bike accident that kept him away from the business for several months. What happened? Nothing. Because he had followed expert advice and set up O’Connell Plumbing to work as a going concern, the business hummed along without him.

That successful career led up to his signing the sale papers for O’Connell Plumbing last March.

“My little announcement can now be made public: Last week, after much negotiation and maneuvering, we completed a great deal with a company in Northern California to buy our business,” Ed wrote to his friends in the Service Round Table. “[Wife] Rebecca and [general manager] Paul did all of the prep work, and, as usual, I did the important — some might even say, majestic — work of supporting and approving each and every step they took. Paul signed a nice employment contract with the new company and his future looks bright; also, because of the size of our new parent company, all our employees got better medical packages.”

So why did he sell? I’ll let him explain in his own words.

“1) I'm goin' to be 70 in May and have run outta' the necessary steam, testosterone, and the competitive edge necessary to run a small biz.

“2) I'm goin' to pursue a long-time dream of being an Individual and Business Health & Wellness Consultant. I've already had some amazing successes in this field as a trained clinical hypnotherapist, mentor to some local business folks, and as a nutritional coach. I'm one of the few very successful male Weight Watchers leaders in the U.S. and can build easily on these accomplishments.

“My motivation is best explained by a recent Matt Michel post: ‘Thinking about it, it’s wired into our DNA to try and improve. Man is the only species with the ability or need to improve. Every other animal responds to instinct. This is why it’s important that we set goals that we’ve thought through. They will then be the impetus for positive change.’

 “3) The most important of all the considerations behind this sale — more important than anything else — has to do with Rebecca's health. As some of you may know, my lady has multiple sclerosis, and the stress of running the office simply became too much. Now that we're financially well enough situated so she can have the time to concentrate on improving her health it will be much easier on her.”

While Ed was planning to retire, he wasn’t quite there yet, but the necessity and the opportunity presented themselves at the same time. He credits all of the folks at the Service Round Table with helping him create a company that he could sell “for a nice chunk-o’-change.”

“They're the reason we were ready, ahead of time, to make our exit when the opportunity arose,” Ed says. “It's due to them, the input from many members on the forums, and our participation in [Service Nation Alliance Plumbing] (SNAP) that enabled us to garner the business acumen necessary to exit our biz successfully. It sounds almost trite, but without this SRT community and the implementation of the SRT systems, O'Connell Plumbing would have been worthless.”

Ed and Rebecca also thanked SNAP Director Michael Bohinc for recommending the business advisor who guided them through the sale of the business. I’m pleased to point out that Mike Bohinc, a CPA and chief financial officer for his family’s plumbing company, is writing exclusively for

The sales of his business made Ed a bit introspective and created a sort of identity crisis.

“So, adios as an owner, and hello as a … a what?  Wow, it just dawned on me … after 30-some-odd years of having a business define much of who I am, who am I goin' to be now? Got some interesting soul-searching to do.”

I know what Ed can do — he can share his lifetime of experiences with other contractors like you.

Ed comes highly recommended for this task and, when I say highly recommended, I mean he has the imprimatur from The Dean.

“I’ve like your attitude, beginning with your first post on the SRT a long, long time ago!!,” the legendary Frank Blau wrote to O’Connell in an email.

“If my advice is worth anything, ‘go for it.’ Become another [Matt] Michel, [Gene] Burch, Blau, [Rodney] Koop, etc., disciple!,” Frank said. “The more of us there are preaching the gospel of the benefits of flat rate pricing, the sooner the better.  The archaic time & material method of pricing PHVAC service will become a thing of the past.

“Eddie, you have the qualifications to become one of the disciples — a great wordsmith, [you’ve] ‘walked the talk and have gone full circle. All those attributes have established credibility. Join us preachers soon!!” Blau concluded.

So there you have it. You can’t get a much better endorsement that that.

And that’s what Ed will be doing. He is a Business, Health & Wellness Coach, by appointment only whenever he’s not mountain biking or swimming or SCUBA diving. His office number is 415/453-2291, and his email address is [email protected]

So subscribe to CONTRACTOR’s E-Newsletter at Oh, sure, we’ll get around to posting Ed’s thoughts on eventually, but the subscribers to E-News will get the good stuff first. For the health of your business, you’ll want to read what Ed has to say.

About the Author

Robert Mader Blog | Editor in Chief

Bob Mader is the editor of CONTRACTOR magazine, Green Mechanical Contractor magazine, and Radiant Living magazine. He has been writing about plumbing, mechanical, green building and HVACR topics for more than 25 years.

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