Remembering One of NetPlus Founders: Dan O’Brien

By Dan Judge

I recently lost a very good friend and NetPlus Alliance lost one of its founders.  Dan O’Brien died Sunday March 8th after a battle with cancer.  He was 81.  Dan was raised in Western New York and lived there his entire life before retiring in Florida. He is survived by his wife, Gerry and was a graduate of St. Bonaventure University and the University at Buffalo.

Dan’s business career took several interesting turns, but it was all sales oriented and usually quite creative.  Dan and I met at the Lockport Town & Country Club (LTCC) in the early 1980’s while I was still running Ward Bros. Mill Supply Company. This is also the same time I was involved as a founding member of ID One, the first buying group for industrial supplies distributors.  At that time Dan was repping a number of companies in the business and school products industry.  A revolutionary new product he was selling was the fax machine, and he and I negotiated an ID One program for the group to sell fax machines to our customers.  It was an instant success, the first technological innovation in our industry in years.

In 1993 I took over as the president of ID One and Dan joined my staff in 1995 as VP of our software subsidiary, CMS, selling software to manage national and integrated supply accounts. In 2000 when ID One was liquidated Dan and I embarked on a couple of short-lived ventures in the cooperative world.  While we were doing that, we learned a lot about buying groups.  So, in September 2002 with two former ID One employees (Shirley Weiland and Karl Tschaepe) Dan, Paul Haber, Karl Puzio and I launched a new buying group for industrial and contractor supplies distributors, NetPlus Alliance.

Not only was Dan instrumental in recruiting both suppliers and distributors but through his prior work with CMS he knew of a group that we might acquire.  He helped negotiate the merger into NetPlus of the Industrial Supply Division of the Equity Electrical buying group.  That 2003 acquisition added thirty distributors and many manufacturers to our fledgling group.  Dan retired from NetPlus in 2010.

But… Dan’s real passion was golf.  He loved the game, was good at it and was a student of the game and its architecture.  He was a life-long member of LTCC, which for 75 years had been a nine-hole golf course.  In the early 1980’s he single handedly lead a year-long project to build the “new” nine.  Without his effort our country club would no longer exist. Dan loved Ireland, and especially golf in Ireland.  He had traveled there 15 times.  I was with him on five of those trips.  The most memorable was in 2001 when we were there with our wives and 9/11 occurred, leaving us to be stuck for an extra six days. Dan’s love of golf in Ireland led us to creating a partnership called O’Brien’s Golf Tours. Our business focused on putting together tours of small groups to play golf in Ireland.  It was modestly successful, but it did enable us to stay in touch with our friends in Ireland that ran the inns and golf courses.

Dan led a full life and will be missed by his many friends in Western New York, Florida, Ireland and the industrial supply industry.

Rest in Peace, Dan