[Podcast] Industry Spotlight | Gary Miller – CEO of Miller Resource Group – Strategies for a Lasting Impact in Executive Search

The Miller Resource Group provides a full desk experience, offering strategies for CEOs and executive search to achieve a lasting impact.

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Show notes

Welcome to another episode of Industry Spotlight, where we dive deep into the recruiting and staffing industry, uncovering the secrets to success and the innovations shaping our future. Kortney Harmon had the pleasure of hosting a true veteran in the field of talent acquisition – the CEO of Miller Resource Group, Gary Miller. With an astonishing 46-year tenure in recruitment, Gary shares his transformative journey from his early days in sales to leading a firm that’s a beacon in the industry.

We’ll explore the undeniable importance of self-belief, curiosity, confidence, and commitment – keys that unlock success in any profession. During our conversation, we’ll also delve into the impact of positive culture on attracting and retaining top talent and the anticipation of generational change in our industry.

From the challenges after 9/11 to the evolution of talent acquisition methods – from push-button phones and yellow pages to LinkedIn – Gary provides an intimate look at the growth, setbacks, and milestones of his company’s journey. With 29 employees and a personal mission to help others achieve their dreams, his insights are invaluable.

As the world of recruitment adapts to technological advancements and the integration of artificial intelligence, Gary and Kortney discuss the incomparable value of the human connection. We examine the drive for improving automation, particularly in manufacturing, to overcome labor shortages, while reasserting the irreplaceable element of face-to-face interactions.

And of course, our guest doesn’t shy away from reflecting on past mistakes – from premature office expansions to decisions that placed self-interest first. It’s a frank conversation about leadership, the pivotal nature of decision-making, and the relentless quest for a balanced life as a forward-thinking entrepreneur.

So, grab your cup of coffee, settle in, and get ready for a profound episode with Gary Miller, filled with stories and strategies that define not just a stellar career, but the heart and soul of recruitment. Let’s begin.


Gary Miller [00:00:00]:
I used to think pay setter is not a destination but a state of mind. If you believe you should be and want to be in the top 10% of your profession, then you’ll be there. You’ll figure out how to be there. Even if you make that decision, the world will provide opportunities for you. If you don’t make that decision, the world will not provide opportunities. It’s going to be very difficult.

Kortney Harmon [00:00:23]:
Hi, I’m Courtney Harmon to director of industry relations at Crelate. This is the industry Spotlight, a series of the full desk Experience, a crite original podcast. In this series, we will talk with top leaders and influencers who are shaping the talent industry, shining a light on popular trends, the latest news, and the stories that laid the groundwork for their success. Welcome back to another episode of the full Desk Experience. Industry Spotlight welcome back to another episode of the full desk Experience. I am thrilled to welcome Gary Miller to the show today. As CEO and owner of Miller Resource Group, an executive search firm specializing in automation, manufacturing, food production, Gary brings an astounding 46 years of recruitment experience to this conversation. In fact, Gary’s been an industry trailblazer in the recruiting industry.

Kortney Harmon [00:01:22]:
He initially joined his organization in 1977, really focusing on sales, and eventually had the opportunity to purchase this organization in 1986. And it’s been under his leadership and vision for the last 35 years and significantly expanded its capabilities and reach across automation and so much more. Gary’s really stayed true to his passion for helping ambitious professionals advance their career and helping clients build high performing teams. With decades of recruiting and matching talent with industry leaders. Gary no doubt has a collection from his share of recruitment war stories, lessons learned, and keys to building standout search firms. So I can’t wait to unpack Gary’s experiences and insight. We’re going to talk about what it means to have an IT factor and so much more. Gary, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.

Gary Miller [00:02:20]:
You’re welcome. And this is going to be fun. I look forward to spending time with you.

Kortney Harmon [00:02:24]:
Amazing. Do me a favor and tell our audience a little bit more about you and maybe the Miller resource group.

Gary Miller [00:02:29]:
Well, it all started in a small town. I think you want me to fast forward a little bit from there. So in 1977, I was graduating from western Illinois University, the Harvard of the Midwest, with no plans whatsoever. My total vocational counseling was I was tending bar. And some gentleman know you have a good personality, son. You ought to try sales. So my then girlfriend, now wife Sandra, her sister sold a copier to a place called Sales Consultants in Oakbrook. She told my wife, they seemed professional, you should go there to try to get a sales job.

Gary Miller [00:03:13]:
So I did, and I went in there with my pastel blue suit on and a tie borrowed from my dad. And sure enough, they sent me on an interview to sell greeting cards or something like that. And I called back after the interview a couple of days later, I was kind of ghosting the recruiter. But anyway, I called back a couple of days later and asked for him, and they said he left the company. And my reaction was, well, who’s taking his place? First thing I thought of. And they said, why? You’re interested? And I said, well, yeah, it’s a job, isn’t it? And so they brought me in the interview. They passed me around. I sold them a stapler, all kinds of things like that.

Gary Miller [00:03:56]:
And the manager said, I don’t think so. He told the owner, he’s green. He’ll be afraid of the phone. And the owner of the firm said, I kind of like this kid. Let’s give him a one week tryout. So they offered me a one week tryout at $2 an hour minimum wage. And I said, no matter what happens, do I get the $80? I think I had a date the following weekend or something, and $80 would have come in handy. So that was the start.

Gary Miller [00:04:27]:
Two days into it, I was on the phone making obscene phone calls to prospective clients out of the yellow pages, and it just kind of clicked. They took it from there, and by accident, the first area of specialty in a sales consultant’s office. You worked a specialty. Mine was electrical, electronics, things, industrial, whatnot. And I took to it and found a good client at the right time, at a time when the industry was becoming digital, if you will. Factories were being automated with computers, and I caught some good clients and was on my way. So that’s the opening, the entree, if you will. I took to it.

Gary Miller [00:05:15]:
Like I said, I made pay setter a couple of three years early in my career, and there were some senior people to me that had never made pay setter, that made pay setter after I made pay setter. So I started bringing people along, and I was kind of a goof in the office. I wasn’t driven to success. Making cold calls was a pain in the butt. So I would bet people and gamble, people like, I can make more calls than you kind of a thing. And I was doing this all the time. And then it would be, hey, us three guys can beat you. Three guys for lunch, right? For who can make the most calls, and next thing you know, sales start growing.

Gary Miller [00:05:56]:
So, a few years later, the owner was not real healthy and asked if I could hold the fort down for a month while he was out. And I said, sure. So when he was gone, I said, hey, guys, don’s out for a week, for a month here. He asked if we could hold the fort. Let’s do something for Don here. And so again, sales went up, and he came back. He asked me to be the manager. And then that was 83, end of 84.

Gary Miller [00:06:25]:
He said he wasn’t real healthy, actually, he was in his 50s, but he had emphysema. And he said, how would you like to buy the firm? And I said, okay, sounds good. And that was the essence of the planning. It took us several months to work it out, but I remember one day on Friday, I went home a recruiter, and I came in Monday as the owner of the firm. It was weird.

Kortney Harmon [00:06:48]:
That’s amazing.

Gary Miller [00:06:49]:
So I was blessed to be part of MRI. So many mentors, so many people who had been there before that I learned from and watched and studied and bought lunch for and met at conferences. And heck, I used to go ask people if I could come visit their office, spend a day or two with them. They would invite me into their homes. I was thirsty for learning. And what do they say? If the student is ready, the teacher appears? Well, they were everywhere. So I learned from some phenomenal teachers. And we’ve been plugging along ever since.

Gary Miller [00:07:26]:
It’s kind of funny. I had lunch yesterday with a new fellow, an intern that we just promoted to full time recruiter. He graduated, and he starts January. So we had lunch to celebrate, and we were talking about. He was asking you about the ups and downs of the business. And I said, well, you remember how challenging it was after 911? And he says, well, I wasn’t born yet, so that kind of dated myself, how long we’ve been around. But anyway, it’s been a great journey, been a great experience. I’ve met amazing people, been blessed to have great people come into our firm.

Gary Miller [00:08:02]:
I think it’s James Maxwell, the guy that speaks on leadership. He talks about there’s certain kinds of luck. There’s good luck and there’s bad luck, but there’s also who luck. And if you’re lucky enough to have certain people show up in your life, that’s a real gift, and that’s a blessing. And I’ve had a lot of who luck in my career. I’ve had a lot of great people come into my life, and that’s just been a gift to me.

Kortney Harmon [00:08:27]:
That’s amazing. How many lucky who’s are at your organization. At the Miller resource group today, we.

Gary Miller [00:08:33]:
Have 29 people right now.

Kortney Harmon [00:08:35]:

Gary Miller [00:08:36]:
Yeah, we’ve been in the high 20s for a long time. We grew rapidly around 2000, and I was going to be a CEO and not do sales anymore, and we expanded like crazy, and 911 hit and went from 30 people to eight people. Our office was like a ghost town and it was a great learning experience. So anyway. But we survived that. I’ve always had my hand in client development, client relations. I mean, it was a biller and a billing manager for a long time. So I’ve always been able to prop up the company in a tough time, and I still enjoy being out in front with customers at conferences and things like that.

Gary Miller [00:09:21]:
I’m very active that way, but I don’t do much recruiting anymore.

Kortney Harmon [00:09:24]:
That’s fair. You’ve seen a lot. So I’m going to ask a two part question. First off, how has recruitment and overall talent acquisition changed over 46 years?

Gary Miller [00:09:36]:
Well, we could sure have a long session on that. I was one of the first people to use a push button telephone. I mean, we had the yellow pages and a phone. A long distance was prohibitive. There was no such thing. We’re not allowed to send a resume by mail because it took too long. And so we had to convince for the first several years of our business and forever, really, the only way we could arrange an interview was to get the client on the phone and explain to them why you thought it was a good fit and schedule the appointment. And it was a much different world.

Gary Miller [00:10:10]:
And when you developed good relationships with clients, you could call them up and say, hey, I got somebody coming over at 03:00 his name is Bob. And that was fine once they trusted your judgment. But then I mentioned the story. I mentioned it a few times. My mom passed away a few years ago, and she was 97, so she’s born in 1917. And I asked her when she was in hospice, she was still pretty lucid. And I said, mom, what’s the biggest change in your life that impacted you? And she thought about it for a minute and she said, hot water. She could have said television or radio or tv or whatever, but hot water was her biggest thing.

Gary Miller [00:10:53]:
I would have to say it’s LinkedIn. The ability right now to look at, find a profile, find a person, tell in an instant whether or not there’s good ods. They’re a prospect we used to call people. Our total knowledge about them was their name and their company, maybe their title, and we didn’t even have those. We’d have to call companies and try to figure out who these people were. So 80 calls and three or 4 hours of phone time was required because 50% of that was research, trying to figure out who you should be calling. Now, all of that Research can be done with a boolean search on LinkedIn and say, okay, these are the 20 or 30 people I want to reach out to. And by the way, I don’t even have to call them.

Gary Miller [00:11:38]:
I could just send them a message first and then call them. And there’s so many other ways to engage. So the fact that the world is available for you to explore, I don’t know the numbers I’m hearing 80% of the people that we’re after are on LinkedIn. And if they’re not on LinkedIn, a lot of my old buddies are not on LinkedIn. I wouldn’t want them anyway. So that’s been the biggest change for me. It’s very much a digital multichannel omnichannel engagement strategy, and it’s a lot more about standing out and being noticed. Like, I get 20 messages a day, 20 in mails a day, emails a day, sequenced emails from people where my message is being bubbled up in my feed and whatever.

Gary Miller [00:12:26]:
I ignore them all because they wanted to sell lead generation. So if you’re a good candidate with a good background in a hot market, how many messages are they getting each day sequenced from recruiters? So how do you stand out? That’s the biggest challenge I think we face today is getting through to the right people and getting noticed. I think there’s like three skills in the business engagement, getting somebody to talk to. And then there’s basically two other avenues. Can you do an intake call, qualify a client’s need in a consultative way, and help them during that process? And can you do a good interview, a qualifying call with the client? It used to be a screening call, and it was a cds. Now it’s a attract, engage, qualify, consult, sell. All those things have to happen in a call. So a little more strategy to it.

Gary Miller [00:13:20]:
But it’s fun, and we’re learning and growing and evolving. And somebody asked me, like, 45 years, don’t you get bored? I mean, same thing. I said, no. Every day is a new adventure. Every new employee is an adventure. Every new client is an adventure. Every phone call is an adventure, a chance to meet somebody new. So I don’t feel like I’ve had one job for 35 years.

Gary Miller [00:13:44]:
I’ve had ten jobs in the last 35 years because it changes so much. And now I was a novice recruiter, then I became an experienced recruiter, then I was a novice manager, then I became an experienced manager, and then I was managing other managers. I was a novice at that, and then I became experienced at that. And now I’m a novice at succession planning. I’m learning how to let go, and that’s a new challenge for me, very challenging by. So there’s always something going on. Reminds me of that scene in Forrest Gump where he sticks his butt in a hole in the ground and goes, in Vietnam, there’s always something to do. Well, there’s always something going on here.

Gary Miller [00:14:25]:
In this recruiting business.

Kortney Harmon [00:14:27]:
You’re not wrong, and I love that you mentioned LinkedIn was the thing that stood out to you most. Now maybe switch that to your industry with being an automation, manufacturing. You’ve seemed to play in that space for a very long time. So what is the biggest change you’ve seen in automation and manufacturing over the years of you being there beyond just the recruiting?

Gary Miller [00:14:46]:
Well, the labor statistics, the boomers retiring, the birth rates in the whatnot, and the boomers are consumers. We like to buy stuff. We like to eat well, we like to go places. And the boomers have trillions of dollars to spend, so they want stuff and they want things and to produce it. There’s not enough people to work in the factories to produce the factories and warehouses and whatnot, to produce all the things we need, not just the boomers, but as a society, as a planet, whatever. And we need to eat. Sustenance is not optional. We need to eat and we need things.

Gary Miller [00:15:32]:
We need water, need heat, need fuel. We need all these things. But there’s not enough people in the factories to produce them. The only option is to automate some of these processes and certain parts of it. I mean, if you think about it, we had a client recently that engineered a plant that makes truly, perhaps you and some of our audience knows what truly is. I’ve never tasted it myself, but anyway.

Kortney Harmon [00:15:56]:
I might have had.

Gary Miller [00:15:57]:
They designed the plant that produces truly at like 3000 cans a minute, multiflavored, that go into mixed packages and then put in a package, put in a case, case on a pallet, pallet labeled, shipped out the door. There’s sugar and water and flavors coming in in tanks, and it’s going out the door, packaged, palletized, barcoded, ready to go. So then it’s on the shelf of every liquor retail establishment in America. All the time. And there’s very few humans involved in that particular truly plan compared to what it used to take in the old days. So, I mean, that’s just an example of the automation that’s required. And then we’re in downtown Naperville. There’s 50 restaurants within five blocks of here.

Gary Miller [00:16:51]:
There’s 100 restaurants within five blocks of here. Nice restaurants. A lot of them aren’t open at lunch because they don’t have workers. They can’t find the workers. And so it’s just this labor shortage, this demographic, it’s like a comet coming towards the earth. I mean, there’s something’s got to be done about it. And the only solution is automation. Now all your listeners that are recruiters, don’t go try to get in the automation business.

Gary Miller [00:17:15]:
We already got it covered. You stay working in insurance and it, and all those other things. So med device is really good. Go there. It’s another hot market anyway. But I find it a fascinating thing. And the level of automation that we need to be at compared to where we are, it’s just a fraction of that.

Kortney Harmon [00:17:33]:
Automation is essentially innovation. So let’s bring you back to recruiting. What are some key innovations that maybe have had the biggest impact on your business and maybe the industry of staffing and recruiting as a whole. Innovations. Key innovations besides LinkedIn?

Gary Miller [00:17:48]:
Well, it’s funny that it’s like we’ve gone backwards to go forwards. We developed a strategy years ago and we are very visible in associations and trade organizations. We show up, we go to conferences, we speak at conferences, we attend conferences. It’s almost like we used to Hire people. First thing we did is they make 80 calls a day for a month and we see what happens. Well, now it’s like, okay, well, what association are we going to attach you to so you can become part of the fabric of that? So that’s innovative or certainly different for a lot of traditional recruiting firms, but it’s not technologically innovative at all. It’s going human connection. How do I be face to face with more humans? So, yeah, we bought our first Unix based software system in early 90s.

Gary Miller [00:18:42]:
Maybe was Unix based, this green was brown, things were amber. And when you pulled up a page, it would go like this. And I was always pretty like a disorganized person. I mean, not to the outside world. I was. I mean, I had stacks of papers and some guy would call and say, hey, I haven’t talked to you in a while. And I would reach over because I knew exactly where this piece of paper was. His application or his form, if you will.

Gary Miller [00:19:10]:
We were putting the computer in the consultant. I said, wow, this is great. I’m going to get all organized now. And he said words I never forget. He said, you can have a sloppy computer, too. And it was so disheartening. And to this day, I don’t know if you heard of this company, Crelate. We’re in the process of a migration to them.

Gary Miller [00:19:27]:
It looks to me like we have an opportunity to, for the first time in a long time, have a tool that can be a real magic wand in helping us organize our approach, organize our outreach, collect data, collect information, and frankly, information is what we live on. I heard somebody say one time that I’m not a recruiter, I’m an information broker. I collect information about companies and opportunities. I collect information about candidates and their desires and skills, and I broker them to each other. It’s in a good way to look at it, but I was blessed with a good memory, too. One of my team the other day mentioned a guy’s name. I said, oh, I know who he works for. And it’s like 15 years.

Gary Miller [00:20:12]:
I remembered what company he worked for, but that’s certainly not scalable or teachable, and it would have been a lot better if I had kept because all I did was remember what company he worked for. I don’t have any other data on him. So the ability to collect information easily, store it sensibly, and retrieve it easily is going to be something I’ve sought for years and have never found it. I think we got a solution up our sleeve here.

Kortney Harmon [00:20:39]:
That’s amazing. I love that. You’re right. You can have a messy computer. I look at my desk right now and I feel really seen that my desk is messy. The good news, my computer and my stuff that I store. There’s a method to my madness. When we talked last time, I got excited about this.

Kortney Harmon [00:20:54]:
We talked kind of over your career. You must have learned a lot through both success and mistakes. I want you to talk to me about the top five mishaps or regrets or things maybe you didn’t do the right way the first time, and you learn from them. For our listeners, as they’re looking to accomplish what you’ve accomplished over the years.

Gary Miller [00:21:17]:
I think the mistake and somewhat self deprecating in a way. Around that time, around 1997, we were doing really well. We were getting recognition. We were winning awards. We had a lot of trophies, and I was recognized by MRI as up and comer or whatever, and they were feeding that. My ego was healthy. And they kept feeding it nutrition, right. And so we tried to expand our office from room for ten people to room for 40 people.

Gary Miller [00:21:49]:
We did. We signed a lease to go from ten to 40 people over a two year period. Hiring managers, hiring whatever. And it was not sensible in retrospect. Right? It was too big, too fast, too much. So keeping the ego in check and make sure you’re doing things for the right reason was a big one. We do everything in the service of self, but in the grand scheme of things. But finding the right balance between responsible self interest and helping others has been the quest.

Gary Miller [00:22:27]:
And there have been times when I’ve gotten a little bit like too much about me and not enough about the team I’m trying to serve the clients I’m trying to serve whatever. So there’s a whole bunch, there’s 100 little lessons that kind of feed into what I just said. I’ve long been known as when I get tested on things like caliper and whatnot, I get very high marks on creativity and ideation. Ideas not so much on follow through and implementation. So I have a habit of throwing out an idea which somebody hears and they think I want them to go pursue that idea. So what I have to learn to do is to shut up. My wife helps me a lot with this, mentioning things before they’re fully baked or if it’s an idea, be crystal clear that it’s an idea, not something that somebody should take action on. For example, we had one legacy database for 1520 years.

Gary Miller [00:23:31]:
We decided to change a couple of years ago I did some research, popular CRM for recruiting and this one name of this company kept popping up and I go, oh, it must be cool. It’s an international company, oh, it must be really cool. Not that many people know about it. I’m going to be the one to pioneer this in the United States. And they go, you’re right, Gary, that’s a good idea. It was one of the worst business decisions I ever made. It probably set our firm back. Well, let’s just say we didn’t grow as well as we could have.

Gary Miller [00:24:02]:
21 and 22 were record years. They could have been even better. But I actually slowed down and stunted our development because of a poor decision with a CRM that again wasn’t well researched, it wasn’t sensible. I was all enraptured by this fact that I was going to be the one that and I wasn’t even a valid avid user. So this time evaluating new systems, we had at least ten people. We probably put 100 to 200 hours into evaluating the system, and then I let this committee, if you will, vote. We evaluated two systems side by side, diligently, and then I let the team decide which one, and they voted. This is the system that we want.

Gary Miller [00:24:48]:
This is the system that we’re going to help us. And unlike the last time, we said, hey, we got this new system here, we’re going to implement it next week. Well, I mean, it wasn’t that spontaneous, but this time we’ve got three months of planning, and again, another 100 hours into getting ready for the launch instead of launching, and then figuring out how to do things on the way. So that’s certainly a big mistake. I mean, in 40 years, there have been some people I shouldn’t have hired. Yes. Have there been some people that left that I regret they left? Yes. When you’re the person at the top and you’re responsible for who you, there’s a lot of soul searching that goes on, and there are so many ways I could have be again, leadership and management.

Gary Miller [00:25:35]:
There’s no such thing as perfection. It’s idealistic to try to perceive it. I’ve done a lot of good things. I found a lot of great people. We have some phenomenal producers in our firm now. Phenomenal support team. It’s as good as it’s ever been. But I still feel like there’s so much I could do better in terms of leading, coaching, developing.

Gary Miller [00:25:56]:
So I think I leave people to their own devices. Sometimes a little too early, and then sometimes we hang on to people a little too long. But I think most executives in our business would tell you they’re all guilty of that to some degree. I’m a quote collector, okay. And I literally have a scrapbook of quotes that I’ve collected over my career. I reflect on it often. But there’s one that comes from one of those daily calendars. Oh, no, it was a Zen calendar.

Gary Miller [00:26:26]:
I love these little Zen calendars, these little pithy sayings. One says, a Zen master’s life is one continuous mistake.

Kortney Harmon [00:26:34]:

Gary Miller [00:26:35]:
And when you think about it, there seems like there’s something amiss all the time. I should have done this. I mean, I probably say that several times a day, but that may be, hopefully that’s a small percentage of all the things that we do well and that can weigh on you. You can’t dwell on that. Back to that concept of finding the center. I don’t want to make too much of myself. I don’t want to beat myself up too much, but I want to just find the center and have that right balance. This is part of the learning, succession, planning, how to let go.

Gary Miller [00:27:12]:
And there’s a quote Emerson put out something like, man wishes to be settled, but only as far as he is unsettled is there any hope for him. Everybody wants comfort, peace, whatever. I’m never comfortable with the way things are. There’s always something that I want to improve. There’s always another place on the journey we want to get to. And I don’t know how to turn that off. I don’t know how I’m ever going to turn that off. So if there’s any coach probably got.

Kortney Harmon [00:27:42]:
You as far as you are today because of that constant change and that very keen sense of awareness.

Gary Miller [00:27:49]:

Kortney Harmon [00:27:50]:
All right.

Gary Miller [00:27:50]:
You interview a lot of people. Is my story similar to a lot of others, that this evolution is continuous?

Kortney Harmon [00:27:57]:
Yeah, absolutely. I think the entrepreneurial spirit is there with a lot of people, but I think where a lot of people get stuck is the concept of growth. We can get to a certain place. A lot of people, like you, like me, never intended to be in recruiting. But then they get to this spot and they’re like, how do I do more? How do I get further? How do I scale my business? And I think that’s like the common challenge, but I think these are like, I hate to use this, but it’s like the tweening cycles. Everybody’s going to have it, whether it’s from 1 million to five, five to ten, whatever that looks like. There’s always a tweening stage, but it’s those ideas that you have that you’re talking about that is your constant churn that help you get through those phases. So it’s absolutely, it’s par for the course.

Kortney Harmon [00:28:44]:
It’s what everyone thinks about that has that same entrepreneurial spirit.

Gary Miller [00:28:49]:
I think a lot about. I like reading westerns, not cowboy and indian, but good ones, like lonesome dove and things like that. And I think a lot about the early pioneers. They’re in the original 13 colonies or whatever, and they got this notion that there’s something better out there and they’re going to go west. They’ve heard there’s land of milk and honey, there’s whatever they’ve heard, something is driving them to go out there, especially the early ones. I mean, think about the mountains they crossed, the rivers they crossed, the hardships they endured, all to get a vision of better that they didn’t even really understand. I have a theory that that’s kind of why America has done well as a country is our ancestors. There was some of that pioneering spirit as part of our DNA.

Gary Miller [00:29:43]:
And so I have this vision of this utopian workplace that we’re always striving to get. I can see it. I can feel it. Or I kind of know what it looks like or what does a utopian workplace look like? Quite a debate. We keep trying and pushing there. We keep bumping into grizzly bears and rivers with rapids we can’t cross. But somehow we get there and we keep going for it.

Kortney Harmon [00:30:08]:
Well, you talked about the things, the trailblazing. We talked about mistakes. Talk to me about the key factors maybe that led to your success or decisions or really accomplishments from leading your teams and learning how to scale. What are some things that you did well in your career that you’re like, yep, that was a good one?

Gary Miller [00:30:27]:
Well, I think, yes, you pay attention to billings, and when you’re in an organization like MRI, you pay attention to ranking sheets and things like that. And it’s interesting, but the rankings wasn’t the thing. How I do compared to how somebody else does is that’s a thing. But how well do I do compared to how well I could do? How good are we compared to how good we could do? That to me, is the game. That’s the gap right there. And so that’s where we’re striving. So by other people’s standards, we’ve probably done pretty well to have. But how well would we be doing if we didn’t have any comparison, if we didn’t know what was expected? Is there always a bell curve MRI speak? What pace setter target this year was? Say, 400,000.

Gary Miller [00:31:15]:
Well, if we did one of those men in black things and blanked out everybody’s mind and came back and pay setter was 600, would we still have the exact same number of pay setters? I used to think pay setter is not a destination, but a state of mind. If you believe you should be and want to be in the top 10% of your profession, then you’ll be there. You’ll figure out how to be there. Even if you make that decision, the world will provide opportunities for you. If you don’t make that decision, the world will not provide opportunities. It’s going to be very difficult. So, a lesson early on, I mean, I fell in love with my industry. The term work a desk to a client.

Gary Miller [00:32:00]:
What the heck does that mean? Work a desk, what does that mean? So I became enamored and immersed in my area of specialization. I am part of the industry. I work in we are part of the mosaic of that industry and that total dedication to helping that industry get where it’s going, I think is a differentiator. I think companies notice that when we work with them. That I would say is a strength of ours. Certainly we’ve invested in our brand building. I think that helps. It’s not about ego so much.

Gary Miller [00:32:37]:
It’s like we have elections coming up. I hear. I hate that when every street corner is filled with 1000 signs. But there’s a reason they do that, is they just want you to be familiar with the name when you’re in the booth because you’re more likely to vote for a name that you’re familiar with and have seen, even if you have known nothing about it. When we invest a lot in our brand and then we’re reaching out to candidates, if the candidate says even subconsciously, Miller Resource group, they’re more likely to take the call. Remember how I said earlier about how do you stand out? That’s part of what brand building is for us. I think we’ve invested heavily in that. I think that’s paying some dividends.

Gary Miller [00:33:18]:
But there’s also, they say a strength is a weakness sometimes and vice versa. I don’t like role managing people. I don’t like confronting people about how many calls they make. You said you would made 40, you made 39. That’s not the way I want to live my life. That Hulu has brought us people that have that inner drive. And one of those quotes of mine is like, if you hire a stallion, you have to give them a big field to run in. If you hire somebody who is destined to be a top 1% or 10% biller, it’s very difficult to put them in a structure and tell them to do this, do it this way.

Gary Miller [00:33:59]:
Do you understand? And never let them waiver. So we have three pretty big producers in our firm and if you put them on a panel and ask them to share best practices, you wouldn’t know they work for the same firm. They all do things so differently. So I don’t like micromanaging. I’m probably not that good at it. I consider it kind of a weakness, the managing part. But it turns out that the right kind of people have flourished in our society here. That’s been a good thing.

Gary Miller [00:34:30]:
So again, finding the center, the exact right amount of coaching, managing, leading, letting go, letting people fail on their own, I think that’s a byproduct of 40 years for sure.

Kortney Harmon [00:34:45]:
I love that we talked about this the last call, but you really are hitting on it right here, talking about these stallions. It’s the it factor, right? It’s the elusive, I want to say elusive it factor. And you kind of talked about this the last time we talked about knowing, being able to fire early or, you know, right away, within days, weeks, hours, months, if someone has the it factor. Talk to me about how you kind of tried to understand that it factor and or nurtured that within your organization, because it sounds like you have quite a few good it factors in your organization today.

Gary Miller [00:35:22]:
I think it’s a combination of, well, not me. Einstein said, curiosity is a sign of intelligence, and people that want to know everything about. I want to know everything about. If I’m a candidate, I want to know everything I can. If I’m talking to a client, I want to know everything. I mean, like, geez, you ask a lot of questions. I’ve heard that a lot. But with that curiosity, if you have a lot of information, then you can be more confident.

Gary Miller [00:35:48]:
Confidence to me is the self confidence, bravery, whatever it is. I don’t expect brand new people to be highly confident when they’re making their first phone calls. There are people that sound confident, even when they may not be, but there are some people that sound confident that are not. And this it factor, I mean, I believe this for sure, that everybody has an invisible antenna, and it’s sending and receiving signals in a way that we don’t understand. If you believe in yourself, believe in what you’re doing, have the right amount of confidence and confidence, you can be too confident. You cross over in the cocky. That’s not good. You can push up against it, but you can’t go over the line.

Gary Miller [00:36:36]:
Confidence, curiosity, and just total belief in what you’re doing combined with a commitment to a goal, to a journey. When you say, this is my profession, I am going to be successful in this, I love what I do. There’s a quote out there I want to say it’s been attributed to Mandela, but I think it was Marianne Williamson. That political candidate said something like, until one is committed, all sorts of things are going to be in your way. And I’m paraphrasing here, when you are committed, providence moves, too. I can’t tell you how many times that I would say, all right, today’s the day. I’m going to put the best business plan together. I could possibly put a call plan for today.

Gary Miller [00:37:21]:
I’ve got this impact player I’m bringing to the market. I have researched these companies. This is a dead hit here, and I’m going to call these 40 companies by lunch. I am going to get through to five people. I am going to get a company interested in this person. That’s my mindset. And I come into the office, there’s a message with a call in job order. You tell me why that happened, why that works.

Gary Miller [00:37:44]:
So my antenna put out into the universe. I’m committed. Here it comes. And then Providence moved, too. I believe that 100%. And then somebody says they’re committed. How do you know if they are?

Kortney Harmon [00:37:56]:

Gary Miller [00:37:57]:
Yeah, maybe. But we’ve all seen people that go through the motions sound really good, but it doesn’t really happen. I sit next to a guy in the 80s. He was horrible on the phone. Horrible. But he was one of those guys. He would bring his own coffee thermos to his desk so he didn’t have to waste time walking back to get coffee. He didn’t want to talk to anybody.

Gary Miller [00:38:21]:
But he made calls all day long. He was committed, and it worked. He wasn’t eloquent. He wasn’t graceful. He wasn’t a wordsmith by any means, but he made it happen because of his commitment.

Kortney Harmon [00:38:34]:
I think that’s amazing. And it probably is a true testament of the people that succeed is their commitment. And I love that. I hope my antenna sends off the right message some days. So I love it. Okay, I’m only going to ask you one more question, Gary, and then we’ll wrap up. We talked about the challenge of people trying to grow, trying to scale their organizations. What’s one piece of advice you would give someone that is looking to scale their organization? One piece of advice.

Kortney Harmon [00:39:05]:
What would you tell them?

Gary Miller [00:39:06]:
Well, growing and scaling are two different things. I think the personal professional business is hard to scale, meaning it’s hard to hire somebody and have them do exactly what, you know. MRI probably did as good of this as anybody because they had their system, they had their daily planner, which dominated the desk, and you couldn’t hide from it. And your phone was there and your ashtray was there, and they taught you what to do, how to do it, the order, when to do it, what time of day to do it. And guess what they did? They scaled. They grew to 800 some offices or whatever. But then the offices, the owners started to figure out, well, there’s other ways to do this. And they started putting their own personal brands on it.

Gary Miller [00:39:52]:
And there aren’t that many, at least in my experience, has been. It’s very hard for us to stick to a process because we let people go. So if you want to grow and add people and find good people. You can hire people, give them a shot, teach them as best you can. If they grasp it, great. Do everything you can to hang on to them. If they don’t seize the opportunity, you have to replace them and move on. I think there’s an adage that if you want to attract people, you have to be attractive.

Gary Miller [00:40:25]:
We’ve tried really hard to package our story and be attractive to people. It seems like we’ve been good at bringing people to the door and giving them an opportunity. Scaling. If you have a legitimate process, a foolproof process, and it’s something we want to get better at it. When I hire people now, I kind of bring them in and say, okay, well, who’s got some projects we can help with? Let’s get them acclimated. And then they kind of like, blend into the organization some way. They figure things out. Next thing you know, they’ve got a client that came from a recruiting opportunity and they’re off and running.

Gary Miller [00:40:58]:
Like, don’t have to worry about guiding that person anymore. A better way to do it would be to carve out, here’s 500 companies. This is your territory. The way sales, most sales organizations do it. Here’s 500 companies. This is your territory. This is what we expect out of you. This is how I want you to.

Gary Miller [00:41:17]:
It used to be cold call with an impact player. Now it could be call, email, email, follow on LinkedIn. There’s other sequences you can get through. If you have that system like that. Set it up and keep investing, or just attract people to be around you and help you grow your business. And then eventually you can start handing off your clients to people and let them grow their own network. But people say, well, I can’t afford it, whatever. Maybe that’s true.

Gary Miller [00:41:48]:
I mean, I’ve never been afraid to invest, make bets like gamble. I’m a gambler, literally. I don’t do sports betting. I don’t do that. But if I think about if I have funds, I could put them in a mutual fund somewhere and get a 6% return. And there’s all kinds of mutual fund managers that are betting on companies to do well. So I’ve got money invested in companies that I have no idea who they are, what they’re doing, or I could take that money and put it here right in front of me. If I blow it, I blow it.

Gary Miller [00:42:19]:
But at least I saw it and learned from it. So I like investing in organization. I like investing in people and giving them opportunities. And my personal mission statement has been to help people get where they’re going. The first motivational tape I ever listened to was zig Ziglar. And I remember him saying, you get anything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want. And isn’t that what we do?

Kortney Harmon [00:42:44]:
That is. I love that. That’s great advice. And I love that in order to attract, you have to be attractive.

Gary Miller [00:42:49]:
Good stuff. If you think about, look at your clients somehow. I mean, we wrote a white paper on that. An attractiveness checklist. Holy cow. I went to visit a client one time back in my early days. There was a bullet hole in the window in the front. Mean, good to know that.

Gary Miller [00:43:05]:
Wait, what attracts people to an organization? But it goes back to that vibe that’s being put out there. If you have a vibe as a good place to work, where people grow and prosper, and that vibe will be picked up on.

Kortney Harmon [00:43:18]:
I love that. Thank you, Gary. I appreciate you sitting with us. You gave such insightful, enjoyed. I obviously, I’ve known you for a long time, but I enjoyed even our pre call where we were talking about the ashtray was the picture on your desk to show you what everything looked like and when long distance calls and pump files and it’s just really fun to see how this industry has changed and it’s going to continue to change. Do you have any thoughts about where this might go or if you’re in this industry, what things you may need to pay attention to going into the next five to ten years?

Gary Miller [00:43:54]:
Well, I’d like to say there’s people that think that, well, I could have artificial intelligence write my script, dial the phone. An avatar could take the job order and submit it to a CRM where a computer will evaluate that person and maybe an avatar will interview this avatar and somehow people will come together and we just sit there and do nothing. So that’s idealistic, but I think we’re a ways away. I don’t think I’m going to see that in my lifetime. I think I could imagine in five or ten years I will be a 3d image in a room with you as a 3d image. I wonder if there’ll be a shock when we try to high five. I don’t know what’s going to happen there, but, yeah, I think those kinds of things are going to continue to evolve, and artificial intelligence and chat and whatnot are going to help us with our communication. But the intuition, the ingenuity.

Gary Miller [00:44:45]:
I mean, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an essay and he talked about, there was an example of a dating service where 100 people, 50 males, 50 females were going to do a speed dating thing. But before that they filled out all these preferences. What they like I like walk on the beach. I like walk on the beach. I like sports. I like sports. I’m a health nut. I’m a health nut.

Gary Miller [00:45:08]:
I like classical music. I like classical music. So they had all these things and then they predicted which couples would meet up and ultimately date and then they studied it and some of these people got married. The matches were totally no correlation whatsoever between what you thought would be a good match and what was a match and why those people matched up. They couldn’t explain. Something clicked. And I think that that ingenuity, that decision about who to hire, who to bring in your team, who to bring in your organization, who to invite into your tribe, I think that’s innate part of our biology. As long as that’s the case, I think recruiters have something to do.

Kortney Harmon [00:45:54]:
I don’t disagree. This human connection is what really gets us through and that’s how we differentiate ourselves with our clients, our candidates and our internal teams. So I 100% agree with you and I’m sure it’s going to evolve and change in months, years to come. So I’m along for the ride and I’m interested to see we go. But my big push is not to lose that human element.

Gary Miller [00:46:18]:
Come on along the journey, we’re going west.

Kortney Harmon [00:46:21]:
Come along the journey. Well, Gary, thank you so much for joining me today. Well, that wraps up a truly fascinating and insightful interview with the recruitment legend himself, Gary Miller. Over the past hour, Gary has guided us through the evolution of the talent industry, factory automation and executive search. Across his 46 year career, we learned how industries and technologies have rapidly advanced. Yet finding that intersection of talent, role and company culture remains a timeless key to successful hiring. Through the ups and downs of managing his firm, Gary showed pivotal lessons around nurturing talent, overcoming hiring challenges, and the ingredients behind building a thriving recruiting business that stands the test of time. While future trends may bring new disruptions, Gary’s wisdom around spotting and developing the essential IT factor will continue to empower recruiters from now and to come.

Kortney Harmon [00:47:20]:
As he looks ahead towards retirement, Gary shared his enthusiasm not only for the future of the automation sector, but for passing the torch on so new generations of recruiters can write their own success stories. I want to thank Gary for joining his remarkable insights that will undoubtedly help shape stronger talent strategies and tighter cultural alignment across companies everywhere. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the full Desk experience industry Spotlight. Remember the full Desk is your one stop shop for all things staffing and recruiting, so stay tuned for more informative episodes with industry leaders, have questions or ideas, or even want to be on the show, email us at [email protected] I’m Courtney Harmon with Crlate. Thanks for joining us for this episode of Industry Spotlight, a new series from the full Desk experience. New episodes will be dropping monthly. Be sure you’re subscribed to our podcast so you can catch the next industry Spotlight episode and all episodes of the full desk experience here or wherever you listen.

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