Locally-owned temporary staffing business going strong after 25 years

November 12, 2003|EMILY TOADVINE

Ray Spivey of SDS Service got started in temporary staffing by accident. He stayed in it because factories liked to be able to hire employees on a temporary basis.

In 1976, Spivey had left a position as director of accounting at University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center to start a janitorial business with his brother that would serve factories. In 1978, factory managers expressed interest in hiring temporary workers.

"We were already in the plant and taking care of their janitorial needs. I said, 'Hey, we can do this.'"

Spivey's brother eventually went into another business, but Spivey stayed in the business and kept expanding the company. It's a family business. His wife, Jackie, is the receptionist. At age 66, Spivey is semi-retired and his son, Darren, is president. His daughter, Linda Devine, is treasurer and controller. A grandson, Clay Devine, is payroll supervisor. Another important member of the team is Chris Attberry, who does most of the hiring.


That's a large job considering that about five years ago, SDS was in charge of 600 temporary employees. The company has scaled back since then.

"After 9-11, we're fortunate to hang on. This has been a good year," he says of the company, which now has 200 employees in Danville and 60 to 70 in western Kentucky. "A lot of small businesses have not hung on. We have just been lucky to have some good clients."

SDS' clients include about 20 businesses in Danville, two in Richmond, one in Nicholasville, two in Harrodsburg, and three in Liberty.

Spivey likes the concept of temporary work because it allows employers to see if someone will be a good worker and allows the worker to get a foot in the door.

"It gives people who may not have the opportunity to work to prove they have good attendance and work records, and then, when they do have a hiring session, to get on full-time."

The term "temporary" can be misleading says Spivey.

"We've got one guy who's been with us for 28 years in a janitorial job. He's going to retire in February."

Spivey also knows that starting as temporary worker sometimes is the only chance a person has of being hired by a factory.

"A lot of companies are going to that 100 percent."

Temporary staffing is an efficient way to run a company, Spivey says.

"It makes sense that if a company is using temporary instead of full-time workers that the company is saving bundles of money, but we hope they do hire full-time."

Spivey says the popularity of temporary staffing waxes and wanes.

"It's based on the management in a plant at any time," he says.

Because of current trends, competition is great among companies who do temporary staffing, such as SDS, Nesco, CBS and Kelly Services.

"They come and go pretty quick. Every time a new one comes in, people say, 'That's it for SDS.' But we've survived."

One of SDS' survival techniques has been to diversify. It is in its second year as a distributor of Bluegrass Bottled Water.

"We started with zero and now we're up to 140 customers," Spivey says.

A carpet cleaning service was added three years ago.

"We stay pretty busy," he says.

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