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We Pursue Margin: The Ray Neslund Core Value Story

Core Values Series: This is the third of an eight part series
highlighting the backstories to our core values


My grandfather Ray Neslund was an astonishing man. He spent most of his childhood in Stockholm, Sweden. Immigrated to a very poor side of Chicago. There are parts of his childhood that he wouldn't share. You can just tell that things were not good.

One of the things we do know is that he lied about his age to go fight in World War II. At 17 years old he traversed the Atlantic dodging German U-boats. Even back then, 17 year olds wouldn't volunteer for that type of operation if things were good at home.

He never went to college. He came back from World War II and after some time he started the Manpower franchise for Denver, Colorado.

It wasn't until I co-led a massive FEMA emergency meal operation in 2017 that I learned a nuance of Grandpa's business. Within that project, we had to employ 700 temporary employees. Even though we employed temps every day in our normal operation, there is something to be said about needing 700 temps as quickly as we needed them.

We had a very small break between Hurricane Irma production and Hurricane Maria production. In that small amount of time, another executive and I debriefed and we said that most went fairly well, but one thing that needed to change was how we checked in temps. In a matter of two days and a budget of $40, I developed a digital check-in system that could most easily be described as an airline boarding process. This took the temp check in process down from 2 hours to 15 minutes, and from requiring 10 people to 2.

Later I was sharing this story with a family member who said, "your Grandfather would have loved to have seen that." I was a bit surprised because I was always under the impression that his business employed more office temps than blue collar temps.

My uncle said "ohh no, he made his name in Denver with blue collar temps because he created a niche where he would pay them the same day they worked. This enabled him to get the best temp employees in the Denver market."

Grandpa of course did very well in business (with no formal education). He had built a lot of profit and margin for himself and his family. But he also built a lot of margin for his customers and his employees.

At that time credit cards weren't as accessible as they are today - especially to this population. Being able to pay the same day extended a lot of lifestyle margin to his employees. I also know full well that a lot of margin is extended to a company (his customers) that used temporary employees either by impacting profitability or flexibility or adaptability. You are enabling a lot of margin for that company too.

That is what we intend to do. We pursue margin for our employees, our customers, and our owners.

Thank you, Ray Neslund. We will strive to be like you.