"My work has always been about the people;" and in home building specifically, "you're getting into people's personal space, building their dream homes, repairing (sometimes) nightmares."
Will Gonell is a General Contractor and custom home builder. He’s the owner of Gonell Homes.
Will is a young man, but this is his third career.
The interview was taped during the COVID19 pandemic, and you can find it here.
Will smiled in our conversation and said, "life takes you on an interesting journey," and reflected on how meeting his wife brought him to Canada to start a life, after being a US Marine and a police officer for the New York City Police Department.
Raised in "lower income New York City" by a single mom, Will says he was influenced by his very regimented and strict grandfather. He described the military as a "home, or escape" for him as an older teen; it was easier there than being with his tough grandfather who taught him about work ethic. Being part of the military gave Will a sense of belonging, and he served around the world, including in Iraq.
After eight and a half years in the military, Will pivoted to the police force and worked in the same neighbourhood where he grew up. He found the transition easy and loved serving his old community.
When Will moved to Canada, he would become a home builder and entrepreneur. This third part of his career began when he did community work in the Jane / Finch community in north Toronto; the volunteer work exposed him to home building.
He was eager to learn everything he could about building, and asked for the opportunity to work on any project he could be part of. He explained that he "started off digging" and as a former member of the military, he had no problem working hard, taking orders, and following directions. While he worked on some undesirable tasks, he watched and learned and asked questions about everything on the building projects. He learned as much as he could as he worked.
His work ethic and his pride in his work caught the attention of the home developer, who invited Will to take on huge responsibilities on projects very early on. The developer saw his initiative and his pride in his work, and that Will was a quick learner.
When Will ran big projects, it gave him the "itch to start my own business" -- which later would be very humbling experience because he would have to start from scratch, meeting people and going back to doing smaller jobs to build his business.
Some tips from Will for students:
- "let go of your ego. There's a greater good that's bigger than you"
- "don't burn any bridges"
- entrepreneurial pursuits start with a decision, and add passion. Don't settle. Figure out your passion, and follow it through. The sky's the limit. - don't neglect your education.
Will explains that in all the work he's done, "it's always been about the people;" and in home building specifically, "you're getting into people's personal space, building their dream homes, repairing (sometimes) nightmares."
What would Will tell his younger self?
He said, "I live a life of no regrets. Every decision, good or bad is what's molded me into who I am today." And when things get tough..... "this too shall pass."
Will's Bio for Gonell Homes, Inc.
"Previously a United States Marine and an NYPD, I bring a unique blend of ethic, discipline, and precision to the industry. My passion is in the details and I have worked diligently to become a Canadian leader in innovation, sustainable construction, generational building and, most recently, adaptive housing – for those with disabilities.
Your home is your most important asset. My commitment is to bring you the best team, the best ideas and the most innovative solutions to achieve your dream without compromising on quality.”