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Rent-A-Husband keeps businessman busy

January 02, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

Bob O'Connor got a lot of ribbing from his friends when he started his Rent-A-Husband business about a month ago.

He's also gotten kidded by callers responding to his whimsical newspaper ads, aimed at wives tired of nagging their husbands to do odd jobs around the house.

But those ads have brought him quite a bit of work as well, he said.

"It's unbelievable how well it took off," said O'Connor, 49, of Hagerstown. "It's just something I dreamed up so I could keep myself busy. The way it's expanding, I'm getting ready to hire some people."

The Rent-A-Husband venture was meant to fill in the slack time O'Connor expected in his main business, R.E.O. Enterprises Inc., over the winter, he said.

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O'Connor said he started R.E.O. Enterprises - which does home inspections, some real estate work and commercial building - about seven months ago after leaving a management position at Grove Worldwide.

The Rent-A-Husband sideline was sparked by an article O'Connor read a few years ago about a Maine contractor who came up with a similar idea to keep his workers busy over the winter, he said.

Offering to do any odd job, no matter how small, fills a niche in the home improvement industry, said O'Connor, who said he holds a real estate license and has been building homes in the area as a partner in a friend's company for years.

"Contractors are notorious for just wanting the bigger jobs, bigger profits," he said. "If you can get enough volume, you can make the same profit. And that's what I'm trying to do."

For cost-effectiveness, O'Connor scouts out each job to determine a price and to find out what will be needed to complete it.

"When you hit the job, you've got to be prepared to do it, because it's so small you lose money if you're not ready for it," said O'Connor, who tries to alternate his Rent-A-Husband days with regular work days.

Some jobs are charged by the hour, others by the job, whichever will be less expensive for the customer, he said. Hourly rates vary depending on what's being done.

O'Connor said his weekend ads have generated a variety of job offers.

So far, there haven't been any weird requests, O'Connor said. And the company's name hasn't limited responses.

"I've even gotten calls from men saying, `I don't need a husband, but I do need some help,'" he said.

The smallest job - hanging curtain rods in a bedroom and den - took about an hour - said O'Connor. He said he'd do something as simple as change a light bulb if someone requested it.

One man who was about to put his house on the market asked O'Connor to do a number of small jobs, such as straightening doors and touching up paint, he said.

Other jobs have including painting, repairing ceilings and roofs, he said.

Getting skilled workers to build a crew of rentable "husbands" shouldn't be a problem this time of year, since contractors often are forced to cut workers' hours to part time once winter weather sets in, O'Connor said.

"As soon as the weather gets bad, they're looking for things they can do inside," he said. "A lot of these jobs are inside."

  • Rent-A-Husband's phone number is 733-4033.
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