Doctors take an oath to care for their patients. Military recruits take an oath to defend the Constitution.
Larry Connor lives as if he has taken an oath to his principles and values. This deep commitment drives his decision-making even in difficult circumstances – especially in difficult circumstances.
As the son of a Marine who fought in the Pacific in World War II, and whose mother aided soldiers with her Red Cross service half a world away in Europe, Larry makes decisions based on a sense of responsibility and self-accountability.
Larry’s urgency around decision-making and communication comes from a deep-seated sense of responsibility for the people in his life – it always comes back to people. Always.
He commits to his decisions after consulting with people who are knowledgeable and believable, and then he aggressively pursues audacious goals.
Today, having established himself as a successful real estate and technology entrepreneur and avid adventurist, Larry hustles through his day with the vigor of someone who won’t or perhaps can’t slow down, but always makes time to help others.
It always comes back to people. Always.
The traditional school environment did not suit Larry. He lacked focus and couldn’t sit still in the classroom. His parents were told he should consider trade school. But Larry values education and has dedicated himself to life-long learning – it may just not look like the traditional classroom.
After graduating from Dayton’s Alter High School in 1968 with a 2.0 GPA, Larry attended Ohio University. It is here where Larry had a lightbulb moment and would go from being a C student to excelling academically and getting straight As.
From the first day he set foot on campus, Larry was determined and relentless in his pursuits. He would be elected Treasurer of the student government his freshman year and would go on to become the President of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. In his time at Ohio University, Larry was also one of 22 students out of 4,500 undergrads selected to the Ohio University J Club and would be named a Who’s Who of College Students twice.
Who would have guessed that a kid whose parents were told that he would not be a good fit for college would go on graduate summa cum laude from Ohio University and someday invest in a ground-breaking private school dedicated to disadvantaged children who all too often are written off before they even have the chance to prove themselves?
Education is still an integral part of everyday life for Larry. He has made a habit of seeking the most astute trainers in their fields when he wants to learn something new whether it’s flying a fighter jet or starting a private school to lift children out of generational poverty. Larry will conduct nationwide searches to find the best people in their respective fields and he will do the same for those with whom he works. Investing in people absolutely falls in line with Larry’s principles and values. It always comes back to people. Always.
Despite graduating from Ohio University in 1972 with two degrees – English and History – Larry always knew he was destined to start and run a business. Larry’s entrepreneurial endeavors began as early as high school when he started a house painting business with his good friend, Mike McQuiston. They went door to door and networked among family and friends to get customers. What started as a scrappy, two-man effort became a full-fledged staff of high school and college students who had built their reputation so well that they had more work than they could possibly do.
Freshly armed with a college education, audacious dreams, and a relentless mindset, Larry was eager to make his mark on the business world. But where to start? The answer to this question would come in the form of advice from a friendly neighbor – “if you really want to learn about business, go sell something.” So that’s exactly what he did, taking a job selling Volkswagens at a local dealership in Dayton.
His experience selling cars eventually led to him taking a position for EF MacDonald as a travel advisor for company incentive trips, a job that would find him living in Morocco and Mexico in addition to traveling to Europe 10-12 times a year.
After gaining experience in the automobile and travel industries, Larry reverted back to his original goal of starting his own business and opened Newcom’s Tavern in Dayton’s historic Oregon District in 1977. With no prior experience in restaurant or bar management, Larry was aware of the challenge that lay before him, but he was willing to make mistakes along the way – fail, fail again, and fail better. Two years later he would sell Newcom’s Tavern earning his investors a 119% return.
In the 1980s, Larry would venture into the technology sphere starting Orlando Computer Corp., where he would put his experience and guiding principles to good use. Starting from nothing, he quickly earned a Ph.D. in mistakes and failures. But with each mistake and failure would come a worthwhile lesson. Larry would take these lessons and soon grow the company to become the second-largest re-seller of IBM microcomputers in the state of Florida.
The Connor Group
In 1991, Larry saw an opportunity in the real estate industry and founded Connor, Murphy, and Buhrman. He only had one investor. He owned nothing. He was running on borrowed time. The only thing that was his was an idea. The idea that he could bring a completely different model and mindset to this industry based on values and principles that had guided him thus far. Failure was never an option.
Larry would eventually buy out his partners, creating The Connor Group in 2003. Today, The Connor Group is a thriving real estate investment firm specializing in luxury apartment communities with over $3.7 billion in assets across 16 different markets in the US.
Despite the tremendous growth, the fundamental beliefs haven’t changed. “First and foremost, we’re professional managers who buy good properties that are underperforming,” Larry states. “Then we significantly improve the bottom line by starting with the right people. That hasn’t changed. That is the strategy.”
The continued success of this strategy lies in the company’s Core Values:
- Do the Right Thing
- People Count
- Relentless Pursuit of Excellence
- Think Long-Term, Not Short-Term
- Live the Circle of Success
The strongest organizations have the strongest cultures and the values listed above provide the foundation for the unique culture at The Connor Group. A national award-winning culture rooted in discipline, training, innovation, and hard work that permeates beyond the office walls and into the daily lives of each and every associate.
- Glassdoor Top 50 Best Places to Work in the U.S., small and medium-sized companies, 2014
- Best Company Culture in the U.S. by Comparably, 2019
- Best Company for Women in the U.S. by Comparably, 2019
- Best Workplaces in Ohio, 2020
- Top 10 Employer in the State of Ohio, 2006
- Dayton Business Journal Business of the Year, 2008
- Two-time Finalist for Dayton Business Journal Service Business of the Year
- Dayton Business Journal Top 25 Fastest Growing Companies (multiple years)
- Dayton Business Journal Top 100 Businesses in the Region (multiple years)
The Connor Group Kids & Community Partners
The Connor Group’s core values have guided Larry to where he is today and continue to drive him in every endeavor he pursues. Especially when it comes to giving back.
With the growing success of his company, Larry felt a desire and responsibility to pay it forward. He founded The Connor Group Kids & Community Partners as a philanthropic investment partner focused on providing opportunities to disadvantaged youth in the communities in which The Connor Group operates. But Larry’s non-profit work means more than just writing a check. It’s an active investment. It’s taking the proven practices and principles that have made The Connor Group successful and leveraging them to make good programs even more effective and truly make a long-lasting impact on the lives of children.
The Connor Group Kids & Community Partners has taken part in numerous projects ranging from toy drives, to scholarship programs, to disaster relief missions. In 2019, the group established the Oregon District Victims Relief Fund immediately following a tragic shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District that claimed the lives of 10 people on August 4, 2019. The day after the shooting Larry posed the question “How can we help?” That same day, the group launched the fund with the goal of raising $250,000 for the victims, with The Connor Group donating the first $100,000. Ultimately, the fund distributed $262,000 to the victims and their families.
The Greater Dayton School
In 2017, Larry decided to open The Greater Dayton School – Ohio’s first non-religious private school for under-resourced students. The concept, in and of itself, is new. But the school’s philosophy, methods, and ultimately its results won’t be merely evolutionary. They will be revolutionary – a national model conceived and realized in the heart of Dayton. A model that shows what underserved kids are capable of accomplishing – not just as students, but throughout their lives – when they have access to all the resources they need to succeed.
The Greater Dayton School is scheduled to open in the fall of 2022.
On April 23, 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Larry put actions to two of The Connor Group’s Core Values – People Count and Do the Right Thing. In a surprise video broadcast to all of his employees, Larry shared how he had recently made $1.6 million in the stock market and he was giving every dime of it to them as a symbol of his gratitude and appreciation. For his generosity, Larry was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes, People Magazine, USA Today, and New York Daily News. He also appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, and Yahoo Finance.
In the early days of the pandemic, The Connor Group would also commit to making $2.5 million in loans to locally owned and operated small businesses in Dayton and Cincinnati to help them get through the pandemic. “I can relate to what small business owners are facing right now,” Larry said about the coronavirus outbreak. “I’ve faced those situations when you’re scrambling and doing everything you can to make payroll.”
Larry and The Connor Group Kids & Community Partners also lent their support and resources to Dayton Public Schools when they were made aware that not all DPS students had access to Wi-Fi for remote learning. In a matter of days they were able to negotiate with a national Internet provider to provide $1 million worth of Wi-Fi to students in the district that did not have access to Wi-Fi service.
Regional Billing Services
In 2003, Larry co-founded Heartland Regional Billing, a firm that provided billing solutions to the multi-family industry with software that was designed, built, and developed in-house. Heartland later changed its name to Regional Billing Services and is now an industry leader for online apartment community billing and payment services.
First Billing Services
Based on the early success of Heartland, Larry co-founded First Billing Services in 2012. The new company provided services to over a million consumers representing utilities, government, multi-family, and service industries. Its flagship offering, FirstCloudTM, was one of the first cloud-based solutions for outsourced billing.
This was a step into the unknown, but venturing into unchartered waters was nothing new for Larry, literally and figuratively. However, the early years of managing the company would prove to be strenuous, losing $150,000 per month at one point. Quitting wasn’t an option. In those demanding first years he learned many lessons – restructuring and later selling FBS for $57.5M in 2019 to Virginia-based company, Paya.
Spearheading Innovative Research
Larry works as a strategic partner with the acclaimed Mayo Clinic on initiatives to combat problems associated with aging worldwide. Larry himself proposed a regenerative research project and is the project’s lead donor. He is also the lead donor in Dr. Jim Kirkland’s ground-breaking research on aging and is personally involved in other Mayo Clinic initiatives regarding regenerative medicine. In 2020 he entered a similar relationship with the Cleveland Clinic, funding groundbreaking spine and hypertension research. In 2022, Larry plans to further both of these partnerships by conducting medical experiments in microgravity aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as part of Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1).
The University of Dayton
Larry shares a special connection with the Dayton area, and although he did not attend the university, this connection extends to The University of Dayton. The connection can be traced back to his 27-year-old son, Colin who was born with Down Syndrome. Colin works in the athletic equipment room at the University and he eats, sleeps and, breathes all things Flyers. So, when the school expressed interest in renovating their basketball arena, Larry took on the seemingly impossible task of raising $72 million. “Whenever we hear the word ‘impossible,’ we’re all in.” It’s this mindset that has made The Connor Group so successful and played a crucial factor in raising the funds. What resulted was a complete transformation of University of Dayton Arena and the successful completion of the largest capital project in the school’s history.
Other Relentless Pursuits
Aggressive but calculated. Audacious and ambitious. This is perhaps the best way to describe Larry’s business philosophy, but it can also be used to describe his philosophy towards life. Whether it’s getting behind the wheel of 1,100-hp Trophy Truck or strapping into the cockpit of an F-5 fighter jet, he’s always relentlessly pursuing interesting endeavors.
Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1)
On January 26, 2021, it was announced that Larry will become the first private astronaut mission pilot to go to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of a historic proposed private mission. Houston-based Axiom Space announced Connor as part of its four-person, multinational crew for Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1). Ax-1 will be comprised of the first fully private crew to visit the ISS in human history.
“I believe space is the last great frontier,” Larry says. “I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of this historic mission.”
Piloting the historic Ax-1 mission is an endeavor Connor plans to combine on orbit with his non-profit efforts and partnerships with renowned medical experts at Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic.
“That’s what I’m excited about,” he said. “It’s not about being the pilot. It’s about doing things that can only be done in space – experiments in microgravity. It’s a unique way to help humankind.”
While aboard the ISS, Connor also intends to provide instructional lessons to students at Dayton Early College Academy, a nationally recognized K-12 school that produces first-generation college graduates.
In April of 2021, Larry successfully completed three dives to the deepest parts of the oceans in only five days. These dives were done along with Patrick Lahey, president and co-founder of Triton Submarines, in a Triton 36000/2, named the DSV Limiting Factor. The pair gathered high-quality video footage and samples in the ‘hadal zone’ or the area of the ocean below 20,000 ft. – the final frontier of exploration on Earth. The footage and samples will be used to get a better understanding of the geologic and biologic makeup of the hadal zone. The three explorations took Larry to the Challenger Deep, Sirena Deep and a seamount in the Mariana Trench, located in the Western Pacific Ocean near Guam. The three dives covered more ground than researchers had previously accomplished between 1960 to 2015. During that timeframe, only two dives were successfully completed to those depths. Larry said, “To successfully complete three dives in just five days into the darkest, most inhospitable and unknown parts of Earth is an endeavor I was honored to be a part of.”
Larry’s racing career dates back to 1982 and includes more than 70 race wins. He is a two-time winner of the Baja 1000 and Baja 500 in the Trophy Truck Spec class with his own team, Team C Racing. In 2015, Team C Racing completed a perfect season in the SCORE Off-Road Racing Series, winning all 5 events and bringing home the championship, a feat that only has been accomplished three times in the 50-year history of the series.
Larry is also a two-time Formula Atlantic National Champion in 2000 and 2001, and in 2003 he won Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in the LMP2 class. He also holds track records at multiple racing circuits throughout the U.S.
Larry is an avid aviator with experience on over 16 different aircraft, including an F-5 fighter jet, and is also a rated helicopter pilot. He is also a five-time winner of regional aerobatic competitions and has participated in multiple events in the U.S. National Aerobatic Championship.
Larry is also set to become the first private astronaut pilot in the history of space travel as a crewmember of Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1). Ax-1 will send the first fully private crew to visit the ISS for a mission slated for no earlier than January 2022.
Larry has worldwide rafting experience having taken on infamous rivers including the Zambezi River in Africa, the Futaleufu River in Chile, as well as various rivers throughout the United States. In 2009, Larry accomplished his greatest rafting feat participating in the first descent of the Drangme Chhu River in the Himalayan Mountains.
In 2007, Connor successfully summited Africa’s highest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,308 ft. above sea level) in Tanzania. A year later he successfully summited Mt. Rainier (14,416 ft. above sea level) in the face of severe weather in Washington.
- Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, 2001
- Cover of Entrepreneur Magazine July, 2020
- Dayton Business Journal Philanthropy Award, 2020
- Dayton Business Hall of Fame inaugural inductee
- Recipient of The Everest Award, honoring leaders and legends on the I-75 growth corridor, 2019
- Featured on Good Morning America, People Magazine, Yahoo Finance, USA Today
- Arthur Anderson Dayton 100 Award Recipient, 1999
- Two-time finalist for Dayton Business Journal Executive of the Year
- University of Dayton Entrepreneurship Program Volunteer of the Year, 2011