Distributor credits its people for developing the right solutions for customers, looks to add new talent to strengthen customer partnerships.
Any company that’s been around a century and a quarter has calculated its equation for success.
Supply the right products to the right customers at the right time for the right price. Add the right temperament, and results multiply.
Family-owned M. Conley Co., 1312 4th St. SE in Canton, is good at math. The company has perfected its equation over more than 100 years, and that’s added up to success.
CEO Robert (Bob) Stewart III, part of the fourth generation, says the company was founded in the late 1800s and was incorporated in 1910.
Founder Michael Conley had a knack for finding and selling things people wanted. The company started as a general store, with everything from toys to fur coats to jewelry to appliances.
M. Conley honed its business model to become a full-service, wholesale distributor of paper, industrial packaging, janitorial and food packaging supplies and equipment.
Conley had five children — Arthur, James, Mary, Norman and Richard. Mary’s daughter, Jean Winafeld-Stewart, is Robert III’s mother. Third and fourth generation family members — Mary and Richard’s descendants — are still involved in the business.
With more than 100 employees and 500,000 square feet of warehouse space, M. Conley has three Canton facilities and one in Lincolnton, N.C. The company covers Ohio and several southern states.
M. Conley is a regional distributor with the buying power to compete against other regional and national competitors.
The company is part of distribution conglomerate Network, started in New England in the ’70s with six distributors. Network now has 80 distributors in North America with a combined $10 billion in sales.
“A customer with locations in multiple states can purchase product across this network,” Stewart said. “They get one invoice, the same pricing and local service. It works out well.”
M. Conley distributes janitorial, industrial, foodservice and safety products ranging from towels to soaps to deli containers to napkins to tapes and adhesives to eye and ear protection to packaging equipment and materials.
In addition to the right products, finding good people to represent the company and customers is important.
“Our people are vital to our success in retaining customers and establishing new relationships,” Stewart said. “We have low turnover in sales and customer service. We’ve created a family atmosphere. We have people with the right skillsets and passion.”
Stewart said M. Conley has sales representatives who have been with the company more than 40 years.
“These people are real assets and have tremendous market knowledge,” he said. “But, we’re constantly looking for new young talent to develop so we can strengthen our team.”
Reliability and expertise is valuable to customers. Stewart said M. Conley partners with customers to become the resource they deserve.
“You can buy a roll of tape or a case of cleaner anywhere, from anyone,” Stewart said. “But if you’re looking for a resource that can lead you to the best product for your application, make sure it meets all the specifications and stay in touch after the sale, we’re your best bet.”
M. Conley also has a service center. The company installs dispensers and equipment and provides repairs.
“Our customers have thousands of options,” Stewart said. “It’s impossible for them to understand every aspect of what they need. We point them in the best direction.”
This has helped the company continue to grow year after year.
“We have additional capacity to grow,” Stewart said. “If we grow, it simply means we need to get another truck, another driver and additional support. We love that. It’s a good thing.”
M. Conley has exceeded the expectations of customers in Stark County, and beyond.
Community is important to the company.
“We support as many local organizations and functions as we can,” Stewart said. “We’ve supported the YMCA, St. John’s Church, the Canton Blues Fest, the Heart Association, helped out with the Pro Football Hall of Fame festivities, local high schools, and more. Stark County is our home. We have a responsibility to help where we can.”
Like every company, M. Conley will face challenges and opportunities in the coming years.
But, the company will still rely on its Stark County ingenuity to calculate a new equation for another 125 years of success.