Skip to main content
Business Observer Friday, Jul. 15, 2016 6 years ago

Branch out

The tight labor market hasn't dented the growth prospects for a pair of staffing industry veterans. A strong sense of urgency is vital to their success.
by: Beth Luberecki Contributing Writer

Larry Miller thought he was getting out of the recruiting and staffing business in 2000.

He'd worked for Norrell Services since 1986, but was offered a buyout deal when that company merged with another staffing firm and became Spherion Staffing Services. He took the deal and envisioned an early retirement.

But the stock market woes of the early 2000s got him thinking about working again. Which was right around the time Spherion officials asked him to buy his old Polk County territory back, along with the Sarasota and Fort Myers markets.

Miller was interested, as long as his son, David Miller, would join him in the venture so he had an exit strategy for his next retirement. “I wanted a way to get out of the business other than just trying to sell it,” he says. “Trying to sell a franchise is a little harder than an independent business.”

David Miller came on board, and the pair added the Naples territory five years ago. They've since increased revenues more than four times from when they first bought the franchises. And with recent additions of offices in Ocala and Leesburg, Larry Miller projects total revenues among all their markets could be seven or eight times higher than the original numbers by the end of 2016. (He declined to provide specific figures.) The father-son duo, based on their achievements, were named Spherion's 2016 Owners of the Year.

The first key to the success, say the Millers, is the effort they put into finding the right internal employees for their six branches. “This is not a complicated business,” says Larry Miller.
“But if you want to expand, you've got to get people who are very competent to work for you and who buy into your philosophy. And you've got to recognize those people and be sure you do everything you can to keep them.”

Sometimes they find those right people among Spherion's own temporary prospects. The branch manager in Lakeland, for example, started out as a temp. “We see so many people,” says David Miller. “When we see someone who could definitely help our organization, we're always looking at how we can add bench strength and make our offices stronger.”

The Millers' Spherion network has 700 to 800 clients, where they help with everything from single-day temp work to project staffing to long-term hires. The core challenge is to meet their clients' sense of urgency to find people in a tight labor market. They use a wide range of resources to reach prospective hires, including social media, job fairs and referral bonuses.

“If you're a company that's looking to hire an A player, you don't have the time to go through a three- or four-week hiring process,” says David Miller. “These people have their feelers out and they're having other job interviews and moving quickly. When we talk to our clients, we're trying to help them understand what's going on in the market and how fast they have to make these decisions.”

The recent addition of the Ocala and Leesburg offices was not only an acquisition of two markets with growth potential, but also a strategic move from a risk standpoint. “It seems like every year you have a couple of offices that do great and one office that won't do so well,” says Larry Miller. “So it spreads your risk.”

Related Stories