Tribute to William Russell Kelly

Managing a growing enterprise

In the early years, Russ turned to other family members to help him grow the company. His first recruit was his brother Richard H. Kelly, five years his junior. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Dick was then on the staff of the A&P. Brothers James W. "Jim" and Theodore E. "Ted" Kelly also came aboard a few years later.

In the 1950s, with Dick by his side, the business grew rapidly. Company sales during its first full year of operation in 1947 had totaled $92,000. By 1954 sales had climbed to $1,500,000, reflecting the wisdom of moving beyond the service bureau business.

"If we can do this in Detroit," the Kelly brothers thought, "why not in other cities?" They began to explore the possibility of expansion. First they purchased a small service bureau in Louisville in 1954 (with Dick moving there as manager) to test the feasibility of direct expansion. In January 1955 they opened a pilot licensed branch in Grand Rapids. Later in the year, 29 more licensed branches opened. Less than a decade after its modest one-office beginning, the company was doing business in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

Russ brought Dick back to headquarters in 1957 as executive vice- president. When the company went public in 1962, Dick served on the first board of directors. In 1965 when Russ Kelly became chairman of the board, Dick became president.

Meanwhile Terry Adderley had been moving ahead steadily. After serving the company in various capacities during summers and school breaks, Terry graduated with a BBA from the University of Michigan in 1955. He earned an MBA in finance from the University's School of Business in 1956. After two years in New York City, in the Treasurer's Office of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, Terry Adderley came home.

Russ and Marge Kelly in 1959.

Terry joined the company full time in 1958, as manager of the Louisville office. He returned to the corporate headquarters in 1960 and became a vice-president the following year. Terry was elected to the board of directors in 1963 and was named executive vice-president in 1965 when Richard Kelly became president. During these years, Terry took his turn at managing most departments of the company. He led the move to public ownership, and in 1962 the stock began to trade on the over-the-counter market.

Russ had always been proud of the name Kelly Girl, which had been coined by his temporary employees in order to more easily identify themselves when working in the customer's office. The term gained national recognition for quality temporary employees. As a result, the company changed its name to Kelly Girl Service, Inc. in 1957. But times were changing, and so were the services the company offered. Marketing, technical and light industrial services had been added, and a greater number of men were being employed by the company in all service sectors.

Richard Kelly in his Free Press 		Building office in 1953.

As the number of new services increased, Russ and Terry began a search for a new name, one that would encompass the total business of the company. In 1966 the company became Kelly Services, Inc., a name that would cover a variety of services. The new name was easily translated into other languages, and was fittingly close to the name Russ had painted on the door in the Transportation Building in downtown Detroit in October of 1946.

The gift of a smooth transition

It is a great challenge for the founder of any organization to prepare for retirement and an orderly succession. This is a step that many leaders fail to accomplish, to the detriment of their companies. But it is one that Russ Kelly accomplished with his usual grace.

Russ's withdrawal from the day-to-day operations of the company was accomplished with a matter of fact, business as usual ease and naturalness. As Dick Kelly and Terry Adderley moved into their leadership positions in the mid-60s, Russ announced that he was going to leave the running of the company to them.

When Dick Kelly became ill in 1967 and retired, Terry Adderley became president. Over the years, Terry would call Russ to describe his innovations, his management decisions and his plans for the company. Russ might ask a question or provide a new perspective. But his confidence in Terry was complete. Russ was a close, valued friend to Terry through the next three decades.

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