Lee Connor and Butch Connor are the President and Vice President, respectively, of John S. Connor, Inc. Headquartered in Baltimore, JSC manages transportation and logistics throughout the world, coordinating supply chain services such as sea and air freight, project cargo, trucking, warehousing, vessel agency, and cargo security domestically and internationally—for private companies as well as government, military, and not-for-profit clients. Founded in 1917 by Lee and Butch’s grandfather, after whom the company is named, JSC has remained a very successful family business for 100 years.
Lee and Butch Connor spoke with citybizlist publisher Edwin Warfield for this interview.
EDWIN WARFIELD: When did you first enter the business? What did the business look like back then, and how has it changed today?
LEE CONNOR: In 1991, Paul Connor made the decision to retire. In some ways it was a very magnanimous decision because he had been through the turmoils of having to see what happens when a leader of a company goes out with his boots off, feet first. It’s a chaotic situation to assume the leadership role, and he sort of teed me up.
I came into the business after graduating law school in 1981. Paul retired—he was about 65 or 66 years old—but part it of was so there could be a smooth transition in the leadership of the company. It was also around that time that we looked out at the environment and became what’s known as an NVOCC. That is a Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier. It gave us an opportunity to have a little more flexibility and options for our customers to ship their goods, and allowed us the opportunities to produce revenue and take care of our customers in a better way.
Also, at that time because of that move, we saw the need to have bigger and stronger and better and more broad relationships with our agents overseas. We were now in a situation where we wanted to offer services from door-to-door—if not almost anywhere in the world, at least with our major trading partners. It was at that time that we got ourselves involved with some worldwide networks of companies that did the same thing we did, but they were experts in their own regions, in their own countries, who knew their own countries’ regulations and port practices. If we wanted to offer a door-to-door service for our customers, we needed good reliable agents all around the world.
So, we had developed some agency relationships at that point just from being in business for so long, on a bilateral basis; but we also joined agency networks, where we had a more tight-knit organization, which allowed us to build better and stronger relationships, including agency relationships where we met with them on an annual basis at least. It fostered a lot better communication. We got to know each other a lot better and became friends, which is one of the nice parts of our industry.
BUTCH CONNOR: So, with all of that: the transportation, working with our international partners on a regular basis, and building those partnerships so that we can continue to enhance and improve our services internationally—that also includes our relationships with our current vendors, of course, as well as our clients—and working to enhance our abilities to provide the services required to maintain and be able to have the flexibility and adaptability to those needs and requirements.
For our IT area, we have determined—and our industry has developed—so that in the logistics area we are no longer just moving freight from Point A to Point B, but we are also providing information and visibility to that information so that our clients and needed partners have information at their fingertips.
We have recently expanded and have integrated a new computer system that has brought us on a new platform to help provide those needed services, maintain compliance, and give clients the visibility that they require.