Conlin: 'We still believe in bricks and mortar'

By Harvey Chipkin

While a company with $115 million in sales might not be at the top of the 2014 Power List, new listee Conlin Travel (54) demonstrates that smaller companies, in Power List terms, can be as diversified, innovative and aggressive as the giants at the top. 

Consider that Conlin, new to the list this year, operates:

  • Great Lakes Cruise Co., a division that markets and sells cruises on the Great Lakes.
  • Conlin Athletic Tours, which offers college football and Final Four programs.
  • Conlin Enrichment Tours, international group tours for university alumni groups.
  • Conlin-Hallissey Travel School, a travel school.
  • Crossing Boundaries, a meetings and incentive company.
  • Conlin Consulting, a technology integration company providing network design, installation, maintenance and support for businesses.

Innovative, yes, but, said founder Christopher Conlin, "We still believe in bricks and mortar, and all of our offices are storefront." Founded in 1959, Conlin remains privately held and claims to be the largest independently owned travel management company in Michigan.

Looking ahead, Conlin said the company is "doing an entire technology overview to see what's out there, what is overlapping, what the pricing is, where our industry is today and what we need to be able to provide to corporate clients."

As for remaining independent, Conlin said, "I get a lot of calls from potential acquirers, but I'm 53 years old and not ready to retire. We like being the size we are so we can still be nimble and fast. We are, however, open to acquiring small agencies, which we have done in the past.

Conlin concluded, "In all my years professionally since 1983, I have never felt as bullish in the position of ourselves and other TMCs."

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