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  Millner, Guy W.
NameGuy W. Millner
Address3640 Tuxedo Rd NW
Atlanta, Georgia , United States
Born February 16, 1936 (83 years)
ContributorNot in Public Domain
Last ModifedRob Ritchie
Mar 24, 2018 02:39pm
Tags Pro-Life - U.S. Navy - Presbyterian -
Info Guy Millner reflects on the transitory nature of life: "My pastor says we're all temporaries. Life's a temporary assignment."

Maybe all flesh is as grass, but you can still make hay. And perhaps you can even find a way to make it in harmony with the pastor's view of life's evanescence.

You might, for instance, start a temproary-employment company. That's what Guy Millner did. He is the founder, chief executive officer, and principal owner of Atlanta-based Norrell Corp.

To judge by what has happened in recent years at Norrell and in the industry of which it is a part, Millner has certainly been in harmony with something. For the past two decades, the temporary-employment industry has expanded nearly twice as fast as the gross national product. Last year, the industry's payroll totaled around $10 billion, and an average of 1 million workers held temporary jobs every week.

The growth in the number of temporary jobs has speeded up, from a compounded annual rate of 10 percent in the '70s to almost 12 percent in the '80s. One study suggests that employers are making "more sophisticated" use of temporary workers: A company that once might have hired only a temporary secretary to fill in for a few weeks at vacation time may now also hire specialized workers who spend only a few days in a greater variety of temporary jobs--a temporary accountant, say, or a temporary computer programmer.

According to the National Association of Temporary Services, around 2,800 firms make up the temporary-employment industry, ranging from giants like Manpower and Kelly Services down to small local agencies. The industry's biggest companies were all founded in the years immediately following World War II, but now Guy Millner's considerably younger Norrell Corp. is muscling its way into their midst; its current sales make it at least the fifth-largest in the field. Operating revenues increased last year by 48 percent, to $434 million, and Millner says they will pass $500 million this year.

Millner backed into personnel work after taking a degree in political science from Florida State University in 1958. "I was going to be a lawyer," he says, "but then, lawyers sat in their offices and waited for business. I decided I wanted to be a little bit more active."

He became a partner in a new personnel agency in Atlanta. "That partnership survived for about three years," he says, "but at some point I felt I needed to get out and have a little bit more room for growth. My associates were more satisfied with the business as it was structured, and I wanted to see it expand outside of Atlanta."

He started his own temporary-employment company, then known as Southeastern Personnel Inc., in 1961. In 1964, he bought another agency, named Norrell, and changed his company's name to Norrell Southeastern. It became simply Norrell Corp. in 1975, when the company first expanded outside the South.

Norrell's net income last year was low--$6.6 million--even for an industry that historically has operated with slim margins, but Millner says that is because he has built a company that can handle rapid growth without wilting under the strain: "Our last look at it said we could handle $1.5 billion in revenues with our existing structure."

(As head of a privately owned company, Millner need not worry about stockholder pressures to go for short-term gains. Millner holds around 80 percent of the stock, and most of the rest is employee-owned. Norrell nevertheless publishes a detailed annual report that is all but indistinguishable from those issued by many public companies--"The information is available anyway, if a creditor wants it," Millner says, "so why hide it?")

If there has been any secret to Norrell's rapid growth in the past several years, it has probably been Millner's emphasis on anticipating needs. Even though the economy is creating tremendous opportunities for temporary-employment companies, it also threatens to strangle those firms that don't understand its new requirements. The old-style "temp" who used an electric typewriter and answered the phone is no longer of much use to corporations that work with sophisticated computers--and expect temporary employees to settle into their complex routines with a minimum of coaching.

Norrell got the jump on most of its competitors by installing an 800 number for its employees to use when they had a question about the software or hardware they were using. When temporary workers call Atlanta, Millner says, "people working on the database can plug that question into the computer and come back within two minutes and bring them back up to speed."

Under the name Dynamic Temporaries, Norrell has begun franchising offices that will offer nothing but office-automation temporaries. (Half of Norrel's 379 offices are franchised. Norrell bills the customers and pays all temporary employees directly; Norrell and the franchisee share the receipts in excess of payroll costs.) "Of Norrell's revenues, about 30 percent are in office automation," Millner says. "Dynamic is a franchise approach to compete with ourselves where we already have company operations."



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