In an interview conducted for the Company's 50th anniversary celebration, Russell Kelly and Terry Adderley discussed the
history of Kelly Services.
I came to Detroit right after the second World War. I selected Detroit because it was home to the booming automotive industry. There were ample opportunities for individuals with drive, experience and an entrepreneurial spirit. That was me. I used my savings to buy some calculating machines and go into the inventory business.
No one had a name for what we did. That's why I called it temporary help, so it wouldn't be confused with part-time work. Our intention was to do project work and replace vacationing employees. We were just there to fill in when the permanent employees weren't at work.
To sell this idea, I worked hard. I was always in a hurry. I had to be everybody -- salesman, bookkeeper, even delivery boy -- because at first we delivered business machines with our employees.
I wanted to sell to the automotive companies, but I didn't know who to call, or how to do it. So I started by calling on smaller businesses. And I used every sales technique I knew. I was always looking for ideas. When you're selling, you have to be innovative. Finally, I called on Chrysler, Ford and GM. Soon I was working with all three companies.
There were plenty of obstacles in those early days. Things we don't even think about now. I remember we had our employees view a film strip to help them explain to their husbands or fathers why it was all right for a woman to be working.
You can't stand still in an industry like this, because the competition is always trying to copy you and undercut everything you do. Being the largest has never been our goal. But quality and leadership have been. I would suggest that we are the best. All through the years, we have set the standards for the industry.
Terry Adderley: As Russ pioneered this industry, he introduced many "firsts," such as the Kelly guarantee. He told customers that our employees were "Insured, Tested, Bonded and Guaranteed." Obviously, innovation has been a core value of this company for 50 years. It was present when Russ started the company, and it is still very much a part of the company's values today. Russ's sound values and ideas provided a solid foundation for the company.
When you decided to stop running day-to-day operations, was it difficult?
Russell Kelly: You can't have two captains running a ship. Somebody has to be in charge. I retired to make room for Terry, and gave him free rein to do what he thought necessary. I think our values and beliefs have been very important to our success. But I also believe our success can be attributed to Terry joining the organization. He straightened out difficult situations and has brought in good, strong people.
Terry Adderley: Through the years, the company has evolved to meet the changing needs of our customers. Yes, we are still getting orders and filling them with qualified people. But today we are being called upon to provide people with a broad range of skills -- everything from receptionists to marketing professionals, computer programmers to engineers, office professionals to lawyers, data entry people to geologists, graphic designers to biochemists and many more.
Russell Kelly: It still amazes me to see the wonderful organization that grew out of our little company. I spend a great deal of time telling people how proud I am. I am very proud of the success we have achieved, and of our employees, who have persevered over the years, and have done a splendid job to keep this company growing.