Channeling success through employees, customer service
and keeping up with technology
Story by Donna Reges Hall
Tom Conley, Vice President of Bulk TV & Internet and his business partner, company President, Dave O’Connell go back. Way back. The two attended kindergarten together in upstate New York. When Conley moved down to South Carolina in 1993, O’Connell, who was already in the DirectTV business, followed a few years later. Conley says he talked his longtime friend into branching out to create their own company, and in 2004 Bulk TV & Internet was born and today is a thriving national provider of television and internet services to commercial clients.
The decades-long friendship between Conley and O’Connell makes their work environment a lively place. “We have a very unique relationship,” explains Conley. “Our employees just take a step back and watch us go at each other. It’s funny. People get a kick out of it usually.”
Bulk TV & Internet provides DirectTV television programming and high speed internet access services to hospitality, health care and multi-dwelling unit properties. Some of their more high profile clients include Sunrise Senior Living, Marriott Hotels, Hilton Hotels and Intercontinental Hotels.
Conley says his company is able to deliver products and services to anywhere in the United States, but strictly within a commercial capacity.
“We don’t even have a residential license,” he explains. “Of course, my friends family, and neighbors all want Dish Network, Direct TV, or want to know what kind of deal I can get them, and I can’t even get one for myself for my house. Which is fine with me, I can at least draw the line and say we don’t do any. We only have the licenses to do the commercial type of properties or hotels. So, our typical customers are hotels, hospitality industry, assistive living and the hospital industry. We’ve done several universities, several apartment complexes, condominiums, time shares, camp grounds, RV parks, resorts, marinas, and some other fairly unique applications.”
This is Bulk TV & Internet’s second time on the Inc. 5000 list, and they expect their rate of growth to continue. “I believe we’re over 1,200 properties and over 120,000 plus individual units is what we service today. But the amount of business there is in the United Sates is close to three million properties and thirty million possible units, give or take a few. So the potential for future growth is certainly there, and that’s what we’re always keeping an eye on.”
Like many leaders, Conley attributes the company’s success and growth to his employees. “First and foremost, it’s the dedicated team of employees that understand and see the opportunity in the vision like myself and my partner Dave do,” he says. “You know, that’s the only way we’re going to get to the growth potential or get to our goals, certainly we’re not going to be able to do it on our own, so I definitely give credit to surrounding myself with the correct people. And that’s an absolutely truthful statement.”
Conley’s employees seem to recognize and respond to this kind of appreciation. Bulk TV & Internet has twice won “Best Place to Work” from Triangle Business Journal. This is an accomplishment that Conley says is his favorite of the many accolades the company has earned over the years because it’s based purely on his employees’ feedback.
Bulk TV & Internet’s employees stick around and the same could be said for their customers. “We have a very nice foundation and our customers continue to stay our customers,” says Conley. “We have a retention rate that is 95 plus percent. Only two employees have left in the past four years that left on their own behalf. One of them got pregnant and moved to New Hampshire. Another one it was a family decision. And we’re good friends. We keep in contact with both of them. That always says a lot I think, when I’m interviewing or talking to new candidates about employment here.”
Conley jokes that it’s surprising how important television is to people. It’s a fact that serves his company well. “People can
be in the worst financial shape of their lives and the last bill they’re going to cut down is their cable bill or TV,” he explains. “It’s shockingly surprising to me. So we are selling a product that the demand is certainly there for. It’s good for us to be in that position, but it’s shocking how important Bravo, or Court TV, International Channel or channels I’ve never even watched are to people.. Or if they have a dispute with Direct TV and lose one of their 400 channels, we’ll be hearing about it.”
Like most small businesses, Conley says it took the company three or four years to start making money. Today, they are over the hump and with most of their initial loans paid back, they feel the sky is the limit.
In 2010 the company moved into their current local office, which Conley says was about four times the space they needed at the time. They moved in with twenty-two employees, and are up to fifty now, with plans to bring in another twenty-five before the end of the year. Additionally, they recently opened a small office in Coral Gables, Florida.
Conley says his field is one of inherent change and staying on top of that is always at the forefront of Bulk TV & Internet’s goals. “From 2004-2011 since we started the company, there’s been technology changes that we, of course, have to keep up with and stay in front of in our industry. The main and number one is certainly High Definition programming for television services throughout the country, so that’s where we’ve gained a lot of new business by being a front runner and being able to deliver that product and service effectively and efficiently.”
Conley explains that the days of analog are going by the wayside, in favor of flat-panel HDTVs. Also, since Bulk TV & Internet deals exclusively with commercial clients, there is a certain need to keep up competitively with the ever-growing possibilities in home entertainment.
“The hotel industry used to stay in front of the residential experience. It was a big deal twenty years ago to have HBO in your hotel and residential people didn’t even have access to it. Now it’s just the opposite. Now the residential experience when it comes to residential programming is far, far ahead of the commercial experience. It’s interesting.”
Conley makes it clear that Bulk TV & Internet is dedicated to adapting to the changing technology and needs of its customers.
“The technology has made it unfortunately a lot more difficult for our customers, but we’re working with them, we’re getting them up to speed and we’re going to deliver the product that they’re looking for.”