Garry Conley is a natural leader and with a good heart. His work with the Laurel County School District has been so beneficial, word is spreading and demand is high.
Garry Conley usually wastes no time distributing goodness. He sponsors quarterly blood drives, shares knowledge and expertise within the Rotary Club of London, and is a stalwart mentor for young leaders, too. His efforts directed into the local school district’s Work Ethic Seal Program has been in recent news and is rightfully praised and he is able to see possibilities for young people beyond his hometown, too. That is how he runs his marketing services franchise, by finding and creating access to new prosperity pathways for all who come to trust him at Minuteman Press in London, KY.
Though he describes his “mid-life crisis” as “quitting my job, cashing in my 401K and buying a business”, his good-nature is such that the decision was one that continues to reward people who trust him at Minuteman Press in London, Kentucky. In 2003, he knew nothing about printing, but since high school he knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur and he graduated from Nashville Auto Diesel College with that aim. What he did not know was that the decades working for a major player in the diesel industry were priming his business intelligence. He was destined for something that would allow him to make a good living while putting his generosity of spirit to good work within his community.
He was never one to shy away from what intimidates many, so when Minuteman Press International Regional Vice President, Gary Nowak, took him on several tours of active centers, he was intrigued with what was at the time a struggling franchise in London, KY. He took the bounty from his retirement and bought a Minuteman Press center and made himself its new sheriff, a sorely needed switch. “I have lived 15 miles from here for 30 years, so as our field representative went out to different places with me, I kept running into jewels of familiar people. One of the first really large contracts we had was a friend I originally met in a Dale Carnegie course in 1986. I met him again after I took ownership here and he was an executive for a company that became about 20% of our sales for many years.”
He was beloved from the beginning and to this day still provides everyone with ample reason, yet a lot of that goes beyond charity of spirit and into work ethics. “When I was exploring franchise opportunities (and I looked at many industries), the Minuteman Press franchise owners I visited all said the same thing about doing well. You really have to ‘Work your butt off’, but they also said, ‘The corporation doesn’t get in your way and as you go for it, they support you’. The corporate office at my previous job wanted to tell us exactly how to run our local shop and I got tired of that, so I bought a print shop instead and now my clients are my only bosses. The change was not that significant. I still run a production operation and customer service is still job #1.”
With all his ingenuity and tireless effort, his investment sank into the soil of the venture and within 2 years, as he says, “We upgraded to the next level of quality with brand new equipment and then we needed more room to continue our growth. We moved 100 yards up the street and almost doubled our sales. The new building was one we designed from the ground up to suit us.” Things were moving up, but then as is a guaranteed occurrence, what goes up, does come down and this time, it was the economy via recession. “I didn’t know the recession would tank the economy. There were about 16 months of down turning business to the point that I would call customers only to get messages that the phones had been shut off. Businesses were closing and we were almost a million-dollar store at the time.”
He did what Garry Conley is known to do, maintained his faith and his drive to find answers to seemingly impossible problems. “I had my life’s savings invested and didn’t intend to start over at age 52. I worked so I could have a retirement and my wife, Amy, has been with me 24-7-365 since about 6 months after we opened. Our son, Matthew, left his job to join us when I became ill and stayed on when I recovered because he realized he was working on his own inheritance.” They persevered and as Garry says with satisfaction but reluctance to settle, “We are back to being close to the million-dollar club, but not there yet.”
Minuteman Press was been named “Best Commercial Printer” since 2005 by the local newspaper, The Sentinel Echo in London and Garry got to print the sign in his own honor, along with those of fellow “Best of” recipients. “One of the best parts of the honor is printing my own sign to display in the front as well as everyone else’s,” he confirms.
Since 2015, Garry has assisted the London School District and the Chamber of Commerce in organizing community volunteers to provide the JA Career Success course to entire grade levels of students.
The course provides instruction in the employability skills that students need to transition successfully into the workplace. The community volunteer instructors provide personal anecdotes to enhance the lessons and Garry is among those giving their time to the local youth. According to 35-year veteran educator, Monica Smith, “The information is vital to students whether they transition immediately to the workforce or finish additional education. Monica has been the Director of Secondary Education for the Laurel County School System for the past 12 years. She explains the JA Careers Success Course further: “This course is a component of a larger Work Ethic Seal Program that certifies that graduates have demonstrated skills that will make them a better employee. Garry has helped recruit community volunteers, and he has taught extra courses to make sure all students get this information. So far, over 1400 students have completed the course, with another 575 set to complete the course this year.”
His respect for Monica is clearly stated, “She is a fabulous person to work with and a strong link between the district and the Chamber of Commerce. She understands all sides of the equation and now we are pursuing this opportunity for students in other parts of the state. Hopefully, more Chambers will see the value we are bringing to Laurel County because this works. We are making a difference.”
He has served as a guest speaker to individual classes as well as on career panels providing up-to-date information to sophomores who are interested in communication, business or graphic design. Monica continues, “He has never turned down a request to speak to students. Best of all, he doesn’t limit his comments to the standard recitation of salary, training, and job duties. Garry takes each presentation as an opportunity to inspire students to become the best possible version of themselves. His passion and genuine concern have made him a favorite of both students and staff.
His involvement increased and was well received on practical and charitable levels. “Around 5-6 years ago, Garry became involved with Junior Achievement and presenting JA courses to students. He seized the opportunity to provide the JA Career Success course to students at our alternative school. He inspired students who felt the world had given up on them to graduate and seek further education or employment. Some of those same students still return to that school to encourage others to persevere. You see, Garry also taught them to pay it forward,” Monica adds.
“Garry Conley personifies the description of a servant leader. We are so grateful to have him in our community.” – Monica Smith, Director of Education
In the beginning, Garry bought a struggling Minuteman Press franchise to fulfill a lifelong intention to own a business and run it his own way. “I didn’t know a thing about printing back then. Minuteman Press International helps me. Areas like SEO and SEM and top of the line graphics department at corporate produces all I need to decorate my lobby. I don’t have to invent things because corporate invents them.”
His franchisor remains his ally so he can do what he does best, solve people’s problems with a mix of ingenuity and proven methods, all while infusing his community with generosity of spirit and knowledge. He does it without the need for personal glory and he is in no rush to retire. “I thought by 60 years old, I’d have this business ready to sell, but I didn’t know my son would come on board and he is giving his best working years to it. I love what I do but I also love to travel and to go hiking; so when I retire, I’ll remain a consultant for him (and he can write me a check).”
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