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Recruitment veteran and pioneer of the staffing industry, Bernard Marks, passed away in the Australian capital Sydney on 4 February at the age of 89. He was known for running a successful family-led staffing firm, the Alfred Marks Bureau, in the UK for 35 years between the late 1940s to the early 1980s.
John Nurthen, Executive Director of International Development for Staffing Industry Analysts said, “With the very sad news of the death of Bernard Marks we see the end of a link to the creation of the modern staffing industry. His legacy extends not only to being a pioneer in the delivery of staffing services but also, through his lobbying activities, includes the fundamental legal framework which underpins the UK industry today.”
Alongside his father, Alfred, Bernard could lay claim to being one of the leading pioneers of the modern staffing industry. The supply of domestic staff in a temporary capacity developed in the nineteenth century but, in 1919, it was Alfred Marks who, from his small office in Frith Street, Soho, first saw the opportunity to extend this service into the catering sector. Waiters would earn 25 pence for serving lunch from which the agency would take 2.5 pence in commission. Until his tragic death in an explosion during the Second World War, Alfred Marks built the company so that it was supplying catering staff in 70 different countries.
On taking over the company, Bernard was responsible for a number of innovations which are common characteristics of the UK staffing industry today. In the 1950s, alongside his leading competitors (Brook Street Bureau and Reed) and mirroring developments in the US from other pioneers such as Kelly and Manpower, he seized the opportunity to provide temporary workers in the office sector. In 1960, he opened the first staffing office to be based from a retail site (on the corner of Waterloo Bridge and the Strand). Up to then, staffing companies had been located in upper-floor offices in the fashion of US staffing firms.
Under his leadership, the Alfred Marks Bureau was also one of the first staffing firms to seek a public listing in 1969. By the time he sold the company to Adia (now Adecco) in 1976 for $3.4 million, the company was the market leader in the UK.
After his retirement he was appointed to the Equal Opportunities Commission and was also honoured with an OBE.
As part of his enduring legacy, he will surely be remembered as the only member of the staffing industry to be immortalized in a Paul McCartney song. While by no means one of his greatest (nor politically correct!) compositions, each verse of ‘Temporary Secretary’ contains the regular refrain, “Mr Marks can you find for me…..”.