Keeping it in the family with MJ Hall

Family-owned business is keeping up with the bigger wholesalers by keeping things personal

Keeping it in the family with MJ Hall


By Chris Jones

MJ Hall’s president John Donahue said family-owned wholesalers are becoming increasingly rare in the consolidation climate, making their community-over-corporation mentality more valuable than ever.

He explained that of the top-50 wholesalers in the US, the top-10 own the lion’s share of the market. There are the large independents, and then retailers which have bought their own wholesale operations and are growing them internally. However, there are only a few which are considered family owned – including MJ Hall.

He said that compared to the top 10, MJ Hall and the other smaller, family owned and operated wholesalers see less business than the bigger companies due to the scope of their businesses.

“You’re talking about regionally focused family businesses that are trying to compete with these very large networks, and I think we do it well. We do it differently. Our brokers do it with service, we do it with relationships, we do it by being able to access the markets that the bigger companies can access, we do it by investing in our technology,” he said, adding it’s difficult to compete with such large entities with more resources than a family-owned business.

Ultimately, these businesses need to adapt as consolidation becomes more prevalent, he said. They can do this by building relationships, focusing on customer service, and investing in the systems and the kinds of things that keep companies like MJ Hall as good as, or even better than, the bigger companies.

MJ Hall, in particular, has spent a lot of time and energy on getting to know its retailers, said Donahue.

“When they send in a submission, we make sure to get it back to them quickly,” he said, adding the way they have adapted to keep up with the bigger businesses is by focusing on customer service.

MJ Hall’s brokers are out looking to get business done the right way, while striving to deliver the rapid service demanded by today’s market. They use social media, build personal relationships with agencies, and they focus on smaller agencies that have a bigger need for wholesalers.

“But, we also have larger agencies, and we have some unique products … We have an exclusive cannabis program that helps differentiate us. We have the ability to write on six different binding markets that help us to differentiate our products a little bit,” he said.

Donahue noted that bigger companies than MJ Hall have a need to grow, as often a bigger company will merge with another bigger company to remain competitive, and even surpass the competition. But, they are often saddled with more overheads, which they need to make up for in higher commissions and fees. For smaller wholesalers, this translates into more retained earnings for producers and no overhead costs to them.

“If you watch, one of the big ones will merge with one of the other big ones. Now, the number three goes and grabs number four, and they merge to become number one – now number two has to go out and find someone to buy. So, there’s a bit of that competition – ‘They want to be the biggest,’” he explained.

He noted there are several ways to grow in the wholesale business. One of these is to add people, and the other is to acquire.

“There’s a lot of capital backing the bigger players to go out and make acquisitions,” he explained. “That’s why the family-owned businesses – the family-owned wholesalers are kind of dwindling down, because they are selling to the bigger entities. They have a lot of capital – they make a very persuasive argument on why you should join them in terms of finance, and then they consolidate.”

The other way to grow is to create a place to work with a good, healthy environment, he said. Workers are rewarded for what they do, and the company works hard to bring in more people.

“That’s more tactical,” he said. “It’s one at a time. It’s time intensive. But that’s the strategy we utilize. We try to just tell our story to other people working for other wholesalers, and tell them ‘Hey, here’s the difference. Here’s what it’s like to work at our company.’”

In the end, what sets MJ Hall apart is the fact it is family-owned, and smaller than the bigger wholesalers seen today. Being family-owned, according to Donahue, allows MJ Hall to be more focused, personable, and customer-centric.

“If the values of the family are strong, then I think that that’s the case. If you were to come and visit MJ Hall at our office in Stockton, we have a chef that cooks food for our people for breakfast and lunch at no cost to our employees ,” he said, adding they also have a workout facility with a full time personal trainer.

He also pointed out that the family who owns MJ Hall, the Halls, are very employee-focused, and care about their employees a great deal.

“When you have that kind of environment, I think you get more loyalty because it is a two-way street. I think people appreciate that differentiation that the Hall family has, and the way they approach business and their employees,” he said.

In the end, Donahue said MJ Hall takes care of its employees, and they in turn take care of their customers. To find out more about MJ Hall and the services they offer, visit

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