Rich O’Neill | Overcoming Adversities, Working in a Family Business, and Building a Real Estate Company

Rich O’Neill 9:56

Yeah. So again, formative time for me was in the way lacrosse recruiting worked junior year was like the summer going into your junior year was one of the biggest recruiting seasons. And at least at the time, they’ve changed it since then. But once you got into junior year, you can make your verbal commitments to different schools. And so that summer going in, I was pretty much all I wanted was Penn State. I wanted to go to Penn State. That was we had played lacrosse tournaments up there before and it was relatively close to home. It was a lot of things that I wanted. And so I had the opportunity to make that commitment there. They made me an offer. And it worked out going to junior year. So that happens when you’re going to a division one school, that happens across the board. And so they more or less have their recruiting class locked in by give or take Christmas of your junior year. So midway through, so I’m going through junior year, and it’s all great. And at the end of that season, the end of my junior season, that coach was like up. So they relatively quickly hired a new coach, I was in touch with the athletic director, all these things as it was going and they brought in a new coach relatively quickly. And that coach came to the existing class and said, Hey, there’s nothing to worry about here. We’re good. I’m going to come to see you at some point this season, I had never met him, and I never talked to him. And I’m going to come to see you sometime this summer recruiting season and make sure you’re still fit. So great. I played my ass off all summer and was like trying to make sure he was going to be there as many times as possible. All right. And I think he ended up being able to see me for about five minutes. That’s that summer. And that was not a good feeling. Right? Like, he’s, he’s not really trying all that hard to come to see us. And sure enough, at the end of that season, like the very end, where, you know, it was almost a, it was almost too late. He came to us and said the entire class who I’d kind of gotten to know, he went to the entire class and said, Yeah, we’re going a different direction to go, hello, hello class we’re bringing in. So that was like, that was really brutal, right? Everything I ever wanted, I’d spent the whole last year thinking that was the deal. And telling everyone. Yeah, the rug got ripped out. So my dad was huge in that. And the biggest lesson I learned out of that was, you know, shits gonna happen, right, like terrible things are gonna happen to you. The biggest thing that you can do to come out of that is to have options. Get as many options as you can, and then make a decision, right? If you don’t go and search for those options, then you’re really stuck. But if you can go find something else find opportunities, whatever it is, then you can make something good out of it.

John Corcoran 12:57

And did you have so you end up going to St. Joe’s, which is much closer to home, which actually had a big impact? Because of your now wife? You remained in touch with her? Right? But did you have that as an option? Or did you really scramble to make that an option?

Rich O’Neill 13:14

It kind of made it an option. Yeah. So it was the 11th hour I had I had talked to that coach at one point very early in the process several years ago, but it kind of got rolled out pretty quickly. And so I think it was give or take August 1 when I got the news. Within two weeks, I went to see St Joe’s Sacred Heart heart. Hartford Fairfield, and a couple of others. I think I went to five different schools within two weeks of that just to go get my options. Yeah. And ended up at St. Joe’s. And then another funny story that coach was like, go to the end of my senior year. And I’m sitting on the beach with a bunch of my friends after graduation and I get that email, which was fun, but that ended up working out fine because paperwork or sign there was nothing, nothing was gonna happen there. But that was just like, you know, someone doesn’t want me here. That ended up working out.

John Corcoran 14:15

So as a result of that. I don’t know if you’re dating your wife at the time or not. But she ends up staying you remained and more in close touch. Obviously, that relationship works out. But also got you closer to your father-in-law.

Rich O’Neill 14:29

Yeah. Yeah. So when we started dating shortly after that. Yeah, I did my freshman year at St. Joe’s. I ended up actually, she went to the College of Charleston. I followed her down there and transferred my sophomore year to go be with her. And when I started dating my wife, I really got to know my father-in-law more because he is he’s very protective of his daughters. He’s got two daughters and other boyfriends that they had had. It was like a legend that he was going to grill you. And he is very good at, like, digging in and finding the little thing that is going to expose you as a terrible person. Right. So it was hilarious to hear him tell the stories of past boyfriends. And now I’m the boyfriend. And it was a little bit different because he had known me, but I think he wanted to be close to making sure that nothing had nothing to change since I was 1011 12.

John Corcoran 15:35

Right, right. And you know you end up after college going to work for him right after college right? Now, what was that experience? Like?

Rich O’Neill 15:43

Yeah, that was really cool. So his third startup is a product for the golf, lawn care, and agriculture industries. And it’s, it’s basically a fertilizer, we don’t need to get into the details there. But really cool, innovative product. And so I went to work for him. I did an internship one summer because we needed the internship credit, and he was happy to get more or less free labor, he paid me something but wasn’t much. And then a sales position opened up and I was supposed to go to my senior year of college and ended up taking that job instead. So being in a company like that, where it was, I think, at the time, there were probably 15 people in the company. And they were raising equity rounds and doing all this really cool innovative stuff and trying to figure out things that hadn’t been done before. It was really, really eye-opening for me that like, Hey, this is cool. This is what I like to be around.

John Corcoran 16:47

And a sales job and in a sales job tends to eat what you kill you either survive, or you don’t. So you’re in a sales role for your father-in-law. Yep. And so did you get any grace? Or is it you know, pretty much well, you sink or swim?

Rich O’Neill 17:04

So I was I was structured very similarly to the other sales guys, in which there was a small base salary, but it was pretty well eating what you kill. And, frankly, I didn’t do very well at it. So it only lasted for a little while. Maybe the grace was that I wasn’t doing awesome. And he kept me around for a little bit longer than maybe he should have.

John Corcoran 17:29

Did you have to have a hard conversation with him or with a sales manager?

Rich O’Neill 17:34

No. So it actually ended up working out really well. Because right around that time where I was, I was kind of feeling like I was being dragged at that point. And it was, it was not awesome. You know, I love my time obligates

John Corcoran 17:49

so many different things. Right? You’ve got a long-standing relationship with your father-in-law since before he was your father-in-law. Right? You’ve got you to know, your now wife. You got the company relationships.

Rich O’Neill 18:00

Yeah. So it was a, it was complicated for me internally, this never really, there never really comes up as a conversation among us. But it was kind of apparent that I wasn’t doing awesome at sales. And, after analyzing it later, I could talk to people all day long. And that was great. I was good at that part. I was not good at the systems that need to go into being an effective salesperson. So some of the things that make me a good entrepreneur made me probably not so great at sales in itself. So anyway, we can come back to that, but

John Corcoran 18:42

Just challenging because as an engineer, you also need to do sales most of the time. absolutely Yeah, absolutely. And when you’re getting started,

Rich O’Neill 18:49

yeah. And it is, it is hard for me to stick to a system. Because that’s just Yeah, I want to innovate systems, I want to fix systems, I want to work on those systems. Being in the system was not a great fit for me.

John Corcoran 19:06

A lot of entrepreneurs want to design this system and then move on, give it to someone else to exactly through on. Yeah,

Rich O’Neill 19:11

exactly. So that was me. And when I had to work in the system in my own business. It’s hard. It has been hard. And just to

John Corcoran 19:20

wrap up, just to wrap up kind of the college discussion. Sure. On your LinkedIn, it looks like you circled back and ended up going to Penn State later.

Rich O’Neill 19:27

I did. Yeah. So full circle. I have a degree from Pennsylvania or the University of what does it entail? I never went to the campus, right? Oh, got it. I went and finished it online. Oh, well, I have an I have degree from the Pennsylvania State University, which is all that matters. That’s so awesome. Yeah. So full circle there. But I did I did my last year. So So okay, so yeah, so how did

John Corcoran 19:53

Fleming properties and Fleming Property Management come about then?

Rich O’Neill 19:59

Yeah. So when I was at school in Charleston, I took a couple of real estate classes. And it was just elective classes. But I got hooked. I was, I was actually going to the courthouse in, Charleston County to watch the foreclosure auctions, because I was just fascinated by it. And really, if you think about it, it was a great fit for me, because the other, the other class that I really liked in college was finance. So I have a construction background, and I love finance. And I loved the mechanics of real estate. I thought that was really cool. So real estate was a perfect marriage of finance and construction, because what I do is add value to real estate through construction, and the mechanics to get there through the finances. So creative financing, understanding how banks work, what’s a good deal, what’s not a good deal, things like that. So. So that’s, that’s how I got into real estate. And so my wife and I are on our honeymoon. And this was while I was still working for Barrett, this will tie in that the end of that conversation. So, I mean, we’re on our honeymoon, it’s one of the last days and I’m saying I gotta go back to work. And I’m not all that excited about it, right? So my wife being the amazing person that she is says, Once you quit, once you go do the real estate thing that you’ve been wanting to do forever. I said You know what, you’re right. Why shouldn’t I do that? So I got back from my honeymoon, went into my boss, my boss Barrett’s office, and said, Hey, Bert, I want to go do this thing. And he couldn’t have been more supportive. It was, it was outstanding. So put in my two weeks that day, and started buying dilapidated houses and fixing them up. Wow.

John Corcoran 21:48

And, Tom, tell me about kinda like those early days of buying dilapidated houses. What was the first one like?

Rich O’Neill 21:56

So the first one. This isn’t a real estate show. So I won’t get into the mechanics there. But it was kind of a half-done rehab, and I went in I bought the property, my dad’s actually a partner in that one. And, you know, he helped me buy the first one. And I went in and did everything to get that thing ready to rent. Yep, I was doing drywall, I was painting, I was doing electrical, you know, everything that didn’t require its own license that I didn’t have. So I went in and did that whole thing all by myself. Then the second one that ended up working, we refinanced it, put a tenant in it all great things. The second one, hired a few contractors to come in and kind of supplement myself when I was doing the third one, I hired a general contractor, and I was kind of working around them. The fourth one was the general contractor, and I was just managing the contractor. Mm hmm. And so

John Corcoran 22:55

it’s kind of like one thing led to another kind of and then I will point did you see the opportunity to create a property management company because the property management company, that’s maybe not the best way of describing it, but you represent, you know, people who want to buy properties and fix them up, you kind of have a solution to help them with remodeling it without them having to get their hands dirty. Right.

Rich O’Neill 23:19

Yeah. So it’s project management. Property management is a whole different thing than I have done on my own properties. And I don’t want to do it for anyone else. Right? It is. That’s a very different business. But prod. So the project management, I got to a point where I was doing, at one point, I had five deals that we were renovating all at once.

John Corcoran 23:40

That’s a lot of different details, the Manage contractors, all of that stuff.

Rich O’Neill 23:45

Yeah. And I also at the time had 15 rental units, I had three deals that were under contract, I was refinancing, seven of those 15. And I had all of these things going on. And I was myself, right. There was no one else there to pick up any of the pieces. You had no, no other staff helping you with that. No other staff. No, no. So I was running all of that stuff. And the thing that dropped for me was those five projects that we had running. And I thought I could do that because I had a general contractor that had done the last seven properties that I just bought. And they all went pretty well. And there were not any major issues. So I said to them, okay, do these five deals, and do them exactly the same way you did the last seven, right? Just in outdone, whatever, you know what I want, go do it. Because I had all this other stuff to take care of. And so even

John Corcoran 24:43

That seems like a challenge because every property is different. Every property is different issues.

Rich O’Neill 24:48

Yeah. And for the most part, you know, you’re right. So there were some challenges and I’m oversimplifying, of course, but for the most part, it’s hey, I want gray walls I want white trim, I want this cabinet this countertop this floor, like you know, all that just do. So I thought I could do that, because I had kind of done that before not realizing how much I actually manage that contractor through those other projects. So I, you know, kind of let them go. And I was focused on my other things, getting all these big projects done with the financing the all the other stuff. And I came back after about three weeks to check in on the projects, and literally, nothing had been done, really in three weeks. She’s and so I call the contractor, I say, What are you doing? And Excuse Excuse, whatever, whatever, whatever. So that was a point where I really had to stop and say, How do I fix this? How do I change this, and another mentor that I’m not sure we’ll have time to talk about but one of my other mentors, that taught me a lot about the real estate business said to me that there are four parts of your business that you’re going to have to continually strengthen. And one of them is always going to be the weakest, right? So it’s construction, property management, financing, and deal flow. So at this point, the construction was my big hang-up. And the other things were working, okay. But you know, when you have to go focus here, something else falls and whatever, whatever. So, at that point, I had to stop and say, What are my options in the construction business? Can I hire someone full-time to manage projects? No, I’ve got five projects going on right now, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to continue that volume. And I can’t support a full-time person to do that. So that option out, can I continue doing construction by myself and managing general contractors? No, I’ve got all these other things. So I was really stuck. And that’s, among other things, kind of when it dawned on me that this should be just a service that someone else does, not a full-time not something like that, it needs to be projected by the project. So a couple of years later, I got through that time and made it all work. But a couple of years later, the opportunity kind of presented itself to start that company. And so now what we do is we manage construction projects for guys like me that either are out of state, or they’re they don’t understand construction enough, or they’re just flat out too busy to manage their own projects. And we come in from the higher level of the project manager. And we’re, we’re almost like an owner’s representative in commercial construction. So that that business kind of exists and construct in commercial, I haven’t seen it anywhere else in residential. So we represent the owner and make sure that schedules are being hit and budgets are being hit. The contractors are showing up on time materials are showing up. Inspections are getting done. The projects are being done correctly, The cabinets are being installed correctly, and all of those little details, and we put it into a project management portal, so that the client can be anywhere in the world and check in and see my schedule. We’re still on schedule. We’re still on a budget, here’s what’s happening on site. We’ve got pictures, reports, and everything else. And everything’s looking good. So that’s really what we do.

John Corcoran 28:30

Yeah. Now I want to take a step backward. And I think we talked about this, but your father’s business, actually, when the 2008 downturn hit, the recession had a big impact. And your father ends up having to close that company. What are your reflections on that? What is your memory of that time period?

Rich O’Neill 28:50

Yeah. So again, a lot of formative times. For me. That was a big one. So I said earlier that I was the kid that always ask questions, and always wanted to know what was going on. So my dad, let me in on the business. He told, like, told me what was going on, and maybe a little bit more than he, he should have for a kid of my age. But, you know, I, I knew as things were kind of starting to hit the fan for a lot of people, not just my dad, I kind of knew some of the problems that were going on. And, you know, I couldn’t share that with my sisters. I couldn’t share that with my brothers, because I knew that they didn’t know and they didn’t understand and that they would be scared by that. Because it was a little bit of a scary time for not only my dad, and my family, but for a lot of people. So it not only taught me about again, some of the mechanics and after that, I went to one of the real estate classes I took in banking and most of that class focused on the mechanics of why the grid recession happened. And that was like, fascinating to me. I love learning about that, because it was so important, for my upbringing. So you know, that’s all. It made a big impact on me because not only did it spark that, like understanding of, hey, this is there’s more to it than, you know, just going to work and getting things done. But there are also risks to running your own business. So I think if that hadn’t happened to me, it hadn’t happened to my dad, then I would probably have a very different risk tolerance right now. Yeah. Because, you know, nothing, nothing bad ever happened to me. Yeah. Now, the other thing that it did was, it gave me a lot of resilience when bad stuff does happen to me. So, now I have bad stuff happens to me every day. And it’s just, it’s just another thing, then, you know, I get through it. And I figured out a way to get around it. Yeah,

John Corcoran 31:03

yeah. We’re running short on time. I want to ask, you know, since you and I connected through the entrepreneurs, organization, community, EO, yeah. You through Barrett, who was a longtime member of EO gotta expose that community. He took you to different events, when you were we when you were younger, talk a little bit about that, being around that community, and kind of what it did for you. And as you were growing up, and as you were kind of learning about entrepreneurship.

Rich O’Neill 31:33

Yeah. So when really, when I started working for him that I had been to a couple of things with him throughout the years and, you know, understood what this was. And he talked about it all the time. He talked about his forum, if you’re, if you’re familiar with he talked about, I know you are John, but the listeners here. We have small group forums, he talked about his forum all the time. And I started going to some events with him when I was working for him because he thought it would be important for me to understand some of the things that they were learning at the events that I probably wasn’t getting anywhere else from college or something like that. And I learned I learned a lot of really interesting things. And some of the more impactful speakers’ events that I went to were inspirational that were just to kind of open your eyes to say, there is so much out there that you have the opportunity to go and seize. And so I grew up in that and joined the accelerator program a couple of years ago, my project management business came out of the accelerator because that was where I kind of learned some of the things that I needed to understand to start that. And now I’m a member, and I’m the learning chair in Philadelphia, for this year.

John Corcoran 32:54

That’s great. That’s great. Wrapping things up. I love to ask people about what mentors what friends, and what peers and contemporaries help them along the way. Obviously, you’ve mentioned a couple of them already, your father, your father-in-law, any other ones that you would want to mention that you would want to shout out and just kind of thank them for their support.

Rich O’Neill 33:14

Yeah, absolutely. The last one is Jim Sheils, he’s a friend that I met through my dad and Barrett. He did a very, very similar business to what I was trying to start. And he was gracious enough to take a couple of days, and teach me the ins and outs of how he ran that business. And, you know, he had several 100 units at his peak. And that was like, I wanted to be that guy. So And ever since then, he’s now a really close friend of mine, that whenever I needed help on something I needed to, like a technical issue, or I needed to be put in touch with someone or like, hey, how do I manage this situation? He was always a listening ear. And he’s very even-keeled. He’s a very relaxed guy. And he always like, I’d be super stressed about something because it’s like a big deal for me. And he would come in with his experience and his just level head and say through this is not a big deal. Like, here are a, b, and c ways to handle it. And you’re gonna make a good decision. And so that was really helpful. 

John Corcoran 34:21

Is this, Jim, thank you the same one from Board Meetings International? It is. Yeah, yeah. So, my business partner, Jeremy’s interviewed him. Yeah, I know. I’ve never interviewed him. But yeah, yeah, great guy who does really? I don’t know if he still does them. But he was doing retreats for entrepreneurs and their kids. He does focus on the kind of helping cement that relationship between parents and children.

Rich O’Neill 34:45

Yeah, absolutely. That was where I met him. First my dad and I went to one of his retreats. So yeah, yeah, it was really great.

John Corcoran 34:54

Well, Rich, this has been great. Where can people go to learn more about you and connect with you?

Rich O’Neill 35:00

So I’m on LinkedIn, I’ll make sure you have the link for like, my thing there. I’m on LinkedIn, and Facebook. Our website is There’s a lot of info on our company there. I’ll make sure you have a link to my, my contact page on there. And my email, I’ll give you that as well. If anyone wants to reach out. Yeah, great.

John Corcoran 35:23

We will put it on the show notes page, for sure. Yeah. Thanks, Rich. Thanks so much. Thanks a lot, John.

Outro 35:28

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