• Kelly O’Brien

    How Ohio's Kelly O'Brien Keeps His Wings in the Air...
    No Matter Where He is on Earth.
    Kelly O’Brien certainly is a man that’s experienced the lows and highs of life. From being forced to close a business due to employee bad business practices to soaring thousands of feet above the earth. Kelly started his company, K & G Auto Sales in Toledo, Ohio about 35 years ago. The business has moved and even changed names a couple of times over the years but overall Kelly’s forte is a little different from many auto dealers, “We are in the business of the disposal of leased vehicles. That’s what really makes us different. We do this as opposed to having cars sit on a lot somewhere waiting for consumers to come in and buy one.” Kelly explained, “We deal with one owner leased turn-ins and dispose of them.”

  • Kelly went into more detail as he described what exactly his operation does. “I deal with a ton of actual dealers. Sometimes I’ll sell one car at a time and other times I might sell half a dozen to just one customer. This is what I enjoy and it really is our niche so to speak.”

    Kelly took an interest many years ago; in fact he got into the business as a kid. He was inspired by his love of cars and planes which started in his teenage years. “Instead of going to a regular high school I went to three years of AMT school (aviation maintenance technician).” Kelly recalls, “I had two main loves in life flying and driving. At that time I just wanted to know more about aircraft. The fact is, I enjoyed aircraft even more than I did cars.

    “Heck I was flying almost as early as I was driving.” Kelly stated, “I soloed at 16 and got my pilots license at 17. Flying was my first true love. I just enjoyed the exhilaration that flying brings you. There is a freedom and obviously an excitement when you’re thousands of feet in the sky controlling a machine.”

    So if Kelly had to pick one true love at that time in his life it most likely would not have been the auto business. “My first love was really flying.” Kelly says with complete satisfaction, “I was in the National Guard and I wanted to fly for them but, unfortunately, I was not able to finish college in time so I lost my seat with them. I was about 17 years old at the time. It was absolutely devastating. It was like losing the love of my life, my golden opportunity flew out the window.” They fly the F16’s based where O’Brien lived in Toledo at the time. He remembers his heartbreaking experience. “It was absolutely crushing for me back then and you really feel like this is it, my life’s dreams are over.” But they weren’t over, in fact they were really just beginning for this humble man.

    At a very young age O’Brien got into the car business. “I was 21 years old when I started in the auto business. That’s when I opened my first dealership, I just got out of college. I had been going to Bowling Green.” Kelly recalled. “Obviously I started slowly but grew my knowledge and experience over the years. It has been a great journey and I wouldn’t want to trade it or the experiences that I’ve taken from it. I love the business but make no mistake about it, I still love flying.”

    Kelly has really never been able to get flying out of his system. Once he was bitten by that bug, the itch continued and he continued to look for ways to scratch it. “I still fly privately, in fact I’ve owned 3 airplanes in my lifetime, a Taylor Craft (an old pre-war bird), a Super Viking and a Turbo Viking.” Kelly mentioned with some excitement in his voice. Both the Super Viking and the Turbo Viking are single-engine, four-seat, high performance aircraft, manufactured in the United States in the 1960’s and 1970’s by Bellanca Viking.

  • So his passion for flying certainly isn’t over but Kelly claims that he is starting to slow down a bit in various areas of his life. “I’ve done a lot of things. I still do a lot of things.” O’Brien says, “However, today I’m trying to slow down just a bit. I’ve been in the auto business a long time and I can tell you there’s a lot less meat on the bone in the car business today than there used to be, so I don’t mind slowing down a bit, actually I’m ready. I still have a commercial snow removal business which I’ve had for several years. It does extremely well and I like that so I’ll likely continue to build on that.”

    So what else does Kelly have planned for his future? “Today I want to spend more time enjoying my family and life in general. I’m tired. I’m not sure of exactly what I want to do but I want to know what it’s like to smell the roses a little.” He stated as he seemed to ponder. “I still want to dabble with cars. As I mentioned I will keep my commercial snowplowing business and also a transport business that I have. O’Brien does transportation for Chrysler to help facilitate the huge volume of cars coming in to Toledo (basically one owner lease turn-ins). He continued, "I really want to do a lot more on the personal side. I want to travel, I want to fly more and I think I want to stay home and fish more.” He said laughingly, “I’ll take any of or all of that.”

  • When asked about philosophy, especially when it comes to business, Kelly doesn’t hesitate. "I feel like most people confuse activity with accomplishment. They’re not the same thing,” he said emphatically. You can be real busy but not accomplish anything and if people realize that, I think it will help them in many ways.” Then he continued a little different path philosophically, “I love life. I absolutely love life. I love working but I’m always interested in helping my fellow man. I know what it’s like to go through tough times. I know what it’s like to be put to your knees. I still remember one of the dealerships that I had, I was forced to close due to some activities by a couple of bad employees. That was a very tough time. That’s when I decided to stick with the leased vehicles. That was a wakeup call for me. So today it really makes me want to help people that much more.”

    Kelly certainly does his fair share of that. He always lends a hand at the local soup kitchen. He is actively involved in his church which seems to be another passion for Kelly. “It’s kind of a calling for me,” Kelly says, "I think it’s awesome to be able to help a fellow man when their in need of a helping hand. I have great faith in God, I have a great family and I’m humbled. That makes me a happy person.”

    O’Brien even belongs to a men’s group that seems to have become a very important part of his life. “Having people ‘looking in’ and being able to openly discuss things, or openly offer criticism is a great thing.” Kelly offered as advice. “If you find the right group of people, they don’t sugar coat things, they just tell you the way they see. Sometimes, that can be quite humbling, it’s good to hear another person’s point of view. It’s been priceless for me.

    For Kelly O’Brien, his journey continues; living his life with passion, helping others and flying, solo or with company. For Kelly it's all just another adventure.