Today: How a multi-billion dollar business was started with just $7,000.
It was 1948 and World War ll had recently ended. Businesses were booming but many fear we may fall back into another Depression and hedge their bets by hiring too few people.
Meanwhile two lawyers, Elmer Winter and his partner, Aaron Scheinfeld are on a deadline to file a legal brief with the Wisconsin Supreme Court and their secretary called in sick. Frantic, the men look for a typist.
Finally, they persuaded their former secretary to type it and it took her all-night but they made the deadline. Afterward the two lawyers asked themselves how they could avoid this nightmare in the future.
They knew other firms sometimes had the same problem, while others had too few employees for their work load. They also had a client making money by supplying temporary industrial laborers, sometimes called temps.
Then it hit them. Why not provide office temps?
It seemed like there’d be a market for it and wouldn’t cost much to find out if this idea would work. The two men put up $7,000 and opened a tiny office near their legal firm. They named their new company Manpower and thought of it as a little sideline business.
They ran an ad in the local newspaper, the Milwaukee Sentinel recruiting typists, bookkeepers and other personnel for temporary work. The next day a crowd of applicants stood in line outside their office and Elmer and Aaron knew they were on to something.
They persuaded companies to give their temps a try, but the two men initially lost money. It was discouraging but they refused to shut the company.
For they were learning how to run this business and they sensed they had a winner. Soon it made money and they opened a second office in Chicago. As it made money, they kept opening offices and quit their law practice to focus on the business full-time.
Within six years, they had 21 offices coast to coast and in 1956, Manpower went international as it opened offices in London, Montreal and Toronto. To raise money to fund this dramatic growth, in 1959 the firm went public and in 1962, it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
By 1968 Elmer and Aaron headed a firm with 600 offices in 35 nations.
But two years later, just when they were on top of the world, tragedy struck. Aaron died. Elmer deeply missed him, for he had been his close friend, partner and brother-in-law.
Yet the firm kept growing.
By 1976, Elmer was a vastly wealthy man and at the age of 64, decided to retire and do other things. He sold Manpower to the Parker Pen Co. Manpower was spun off in the 1980’s and then bought by an English company and then spun off again, becoming an independent company.
Today, Manpower generates $22 billion a year in revenue and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It has 30,000 employees in 4100 offices in 82 nations worldwide. It serves 400,000 clients each year.
But here’s the key, Elmer never left. He was chairman of the advisory committee and retained his office in the corporate headquarters, as his presence was felt by all.
He also wrote business articles and authored 13 instructional books, which taught office skills.
And that’s not all. He started an organization to strengthen business ties between the U.S. and Israel and he headed the American Jewish Committee.*
But Elmer was just getting loosened up. He started the Milwaukee Center for Independence, a service organization for disabled people and one of Milwaukee’s largest non-profit agencies. And he adopted an inner city school, while also helping Youthpower, a jobs program for young people and the list of his community and charity work goes on.
In addition, Elmer became a well known sculptor and painter, even taking canvasses with him on business trips.
At his core Elmer was a deeply compassionate man who viewed the world as an extended family. He was also devoted to his own family as he and his wife Nannette raised three daughters. The couple was married for 54 years, until her passing in 1990. Elmer later remarried.
But even in old age, time didn’t slow Elmer down. Ever the optimist, at 95 he bought a red sports car and 96, he renewed his driver’s license and continued driving to work.
At 97, he was not only actively involved with the community and his charities but continued to do as he had always done; he kept his door open to Manpower employees and others who wanted to talk or seek his advice.
However, all good things must end and on October 22nd of this year, you and I and the rest of the world lost a wonderful friend, as Elmer passed away at the age of 97.
How did he achieve so much? “I was not an outstanding kind of guy that was bound to succeed,” Elmer stated in a Manpower documentary filmed last year. “I was just a nice guy.”
This “nice guy” uplifted the lives of millions of people not only because he and his partner started and built an incredibly successful business but because he sincerely wanted to help others which was a crucial factor in why his business and his charity work became so successful.
Success Tip of the Week:
If you have a business idea, however modest, this week do as Elmer and Aaron did so long ago and give it a little of your time and money. In the worst case you will learn valuable lessons from the experience and if it goes well you may achieve your dreams.
In the next KazanToday:
A remarkable black man who succeeded during the 20th century despite the enormous prejudice against him.
*American Jewish Committee, “has worked since 1906 to safeguard Jewish life and to protect the dignity of all people.” http://www.ajc.org/site/c.ijITI2PHKoG/b.685761/k.CB97/Home.htm