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Book Review: The 'Magic' of Business Success

Feb. 7, 2022
Successful HVAC businesses don't just 'appear' like magic. The greatest industry entrepreneurs follow essential business practices day in and day out.

The halls of residential heating, ventilation and air conditioning business history are decorated with monuments to a vast number of successful companies, and the remnants of a greater number of failures.

We’ve all heard of a contractor who one day got “fed up” with working for someone else, and the next day struck out on his own. Every city has them, but that’s the least viable approach, if true success is your goal. Because the thought and planning that goes into starting and operating a truly successful and growth-oriented HVAC business is simply too complex for someone who takes the haphazard, “be my own boss” approach.

Paul Kelly's 'magic' is simply following established business principles time after time.

Building a successful HVAC business takes time, effort, money and planning. And each of those elements has subsets of their own, such as goal setting, meetings, recruiting, lead generation, training, and many, many more.

Paul Kelly knows the score. His industry career began as a CPA at Roto-Rooter. His entry into business ownership was through an acquisition, but it was with a business on shaky ground, a sell-off from the days of the Blue Dot consolidation period. But by applying the principles described in his new book, what started as a small HVAC and plumbing company doing $7 million in gross revenue in 2004 became a projected $190 million business in 17 years.

Kelly has since sold the business, Parker & Sons, and now, with his book, he shares perhaps the most interesting and inspiring tales of business success you’ll ever read. A fan of magic and magicians, Kelly describes each element in the success of the business as a magic trick, something that seems mysterious and complicated, but is actually very simple (but not easy) when the right steps are followed and repeated time after time.

The book is called, “Tricks of the Trade to Success – The Magic of Creating Your TA-DAAAH! In Business and In Life” (2021, King of the Castle Publishing; foreword by Mark Matteson; available through Amazon.)

The “TA-DAAAH! moments Kelly describes are the results of following
established business principles: holding meetings, hiring and retaining great employees, improving marketing, gaining market share, taking every phone call, cost containment. These and many more common sense business practices can be combined in one successful company like a great magic trick to the casual observer. But when you “pull back the curtain,” as Kelly concludes each chapter, the simple truths to every “trick” are revealed. A sampling:

“Meeting often enough with the right people can help you solve any problem, challenge, or obstacle.” “A good plan, assigning responsibility, and holding people accountable, especially yourself, are three key ingredients to success in any endeavor.”

“Small, incremental, sometimes unnoticeable changes and improvements can cause significant progress and transformations.”

“Having goals, writing them down, and keeping them in front of you at the wheel, will help steer you to success.”

Kelly’s method is to describe the challenge he faced during the intense times following the purchase of Parker & Sons, with more detail than I’ve never seen in any previous small HVAC business histories. He speaks the language of business and particularly the HVAC business you all know, and the scenarios you can all relate to, like running a service call, interacting with customers, dealing with setbacks, and establishing a value system and mission statement.

Kelly interjects many personal tales into the book, which serve to explain some of his successful business principles, stories of love, loss and happiness. And as a bonus, he shares his  PK Rotational Diet, and a number trick that will make you ask, “How DID he do that?”

About the Author

Terry McIver | Content Director - CB

A career publishing professional, Terence 'Terry' McIver has served three diverse industry publications in varying degrees of responsibility since 1987, and worked in marketing communications for a major U.S. corporation.He joined the staff of Contracting Business magazine in April 2005.

As director of content for Contracting Business, he produces daily content and feature articles for CB's 38,000 print subscribers and many more Internet visitors. He has written hundreds, if not two or three, pieces of news, features and contractor profile articles for CB's audience of quality HVACR contractors. He can also be found covering HVACR industry events or visiting with manufacturers and contractors. He also has significant experience in trade show planning.