Making the “Choice” to Attack Life With Passion

Ed Keller, WHS Class of ’86, Turned Hard Work Into a Successful Life


Ed Keller graduated from Weedsport in 1986. He was involved in a very successful hearing aid company called EarQ. He recently retired and sold the business, and now drives buses for the Skaneateles School District. EarQ was doing about $30 million in annual revenue when Keller sold the business. 

In high school, Keller said, “I was very immature, insecure, wasn’t a very good student and I never really felt like I fit in…My teachers in school judged me and said ‘oh another Keller kid, ’cause my brother was a troublemaker…This is my first day of school and you’ve already determined that I’m gonna be a failure and I’m gonna be someone you don’t want in your class, how can I be successful?” 

Keller did not end up going to college, “Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t brought up in a home that gave a lot of structure and direction for college…It wasn’t even a consideration to go to college, it wasn’t even discussed.”

“I wonder how much more of an impact I could have had if I had someone who believed in me in that phase of my life, and I think it’s really important as adults that we try to do that and not just pre-judge” 

 In high school, Keller went to Boces for sales and marketing, where he met his wife Michele. They later got married and now have four kids: Zak, Makenzie, Cynthia, and Max.

In high school Ed didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, he said, “I was born to be in sales so I knew it was going to be a sales path but I had no idea where it was going to take me or what I was going to get into.’. After high school Ed had “determination, blind determination but I was determined to find success. I immediately went out and got a job selling advertising. I was probably terrible at it but it was foundational, some experience you had to have.

“I was in my sales job doing advertising and I came home one day and said, ‘dad what can you see me doing?’ He said he could see me selling hearing aids.” Ed replied, “What are you talking about?” His dad said, “The baby boomers are aging, you’re good with older people and the price point seems at a good spot where you can make a decent living. I told him he was nuts and walked away, but then I saw an ad for a hearing aid company and I interviewed for it and it just clicked.” 

“When I started in the industry only 15% of people who had hearing loss wore hearing aids, to me that was an 85% failure rate, which means we were doing something wrong…who’s fault was it? The best way to look at it was saying, “It’s our fault, it’s my fault, Ed Keller’s fault that 85% of the people who have hearing loss aren’t doing anything about it.”

“I started my own local offices, then I saw the problem that local businesses were facing and the global economy, so we started a network where we provide business services. We did everything from marketing plans, building websites, equipment purposes, process management, staff development, and practice acquisition…all the sudden this kid from Weedsport is helping facilitate seven-figure transactions on businesses…we built our own brand and we had a staff of about 40 people at the time. I sold it and it was a very rewarding and incredible experience.” 

“When you think about what it’s like to have hearing loss, you’re disconnected from things that you take for granted every day…sense of communication is so important…I got to see some incredible experiences of people in all phases of their lives ultimately but primarily the elderly, I got to see them reconnect to life,” Ed said. “It was a very satisfying experience to help them gain their self-confidence back to any degree was just incredibly rewarding and satisfying throughout my career…it never got old.” 

“The greatest blessing is the younger people I’ve watched grow into leaders in their own fields and it’s just pretty cool.”

When one of Ed’s sons went to college they didn’t know what to give him as a gift for graduating high school. They wanted something more than a car or money. “I don’t want that to be defining, so I said I wanted to give him a message.” Ed went to his whiteboard in his basement and started brainstorming. “I created this word salad all over the board…it was just characteristics and I broke it down to four at the time which has evolved a little bit, it was courage, humility, objectivity, and integrity.” He later had these engraved on a titanium keychain and he gave it to his son and told him, “It’s the best thing I can give you to go out into life.”

“The interesting thing is I always said life is about choices and if you look at that, it becomes the first 4 letters of the word choice.” Ed is still trying to come up with the rest of the words to finish the word choice. 

“About 25 years ago I said if I could ever sell my company and retire young, what would I do? Well I like cars so I wanna drive something cool, it’s gotta be really important, and I don’t wanna have to worry about the pay so not much more important than driving a school bus.” Ed now drives a school bus for Skaneateles School District. Ed loves this job and said his favorite part about it is the kids and seeing them grow up. Ed wears crazy shirts every day, he said, “The kids call me crazy shirt guy.” 

Ed is full of good advice. When asked what advice he has for Weedsport students he said, “That list could be very long…set life goals early on…work hard…Weedsport is a special community that produced many successes, I just think it’s whether you believe or not you have the ability to continue that legacy. I had every reason not to succeed…the opportunity is there if you believe in it and if you define your values.” 

“I was fearless and I strongly recommend that you similarly go after life…the majority of people will tell you, you can’t do things, but the majority of people don’t get the fruit of life as much as someone who knows who they are, has their values defined and goes after life with passion and just a desire to make the most of themselves and their time…life is hard but it’s supposed to be, and if you truly embrace that and believe in yourself the rewards become incredible…you might say I grew up in a town I can’t do this, I can’t do that, it’s all bs, you can do anything that you really wanna do if you have your values in life and you work hard at it.”