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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jul. 6, 202212:00 AM EST

Northeast Florida's Legacy Leaders: Delores Kesler

Northeast Florida leaders share their lessons and their advice for those looking to find success in business and life.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

When looking for the path to success, which way does one turn?

The road has many waypoints.

We talked with five Northeast Florida leaders who have guided their organizations and businesses for decades toward that destination.

They shared their lessons and advice, such as the payoff of listening, the need for self-awareness and the wisdom of changing course.

Here they share their insights into traveling a generational journey for the benefit of those who want to follow in their footsteps.

Delores Kesler 

The founder of what became Adecco Group North America says to dream big and do your homework.

Born in 1940 in Jacksonville, Delores Kesler grew up on a farm in Dinsmore in North Jacksonville and made her clothes from poultry feed bags.

In 1977, she started a small company, Associated Temporary Staffing, from her kitchen table.

The business took off and later became AccuStaff, the company Kesler took public in an initial public offering in 1994.

It was said at the time that the accomplishment on Wall Street was the first in history for a woman business owner.

AccuStaff later became Modis and then MPS Group before it went international as Adecco Group North America.

Kesler retired in 1997, but remains active, mentoring college students and business executives in the public and private sectors when she is not traveling the world with her family. 

Life’s lessons

Ignore limitations and dream big. When I was a teenager, I decided I didn’t want to stay on a chicken farm in Dinsmore. I wanted to see the world. Now, I’ve been to 55 countries.

Don’t be afraid to revise your dreams. When I started my company, all I wanted to do was make enough money to send my children to college. After I started the business, I saw that my top competitors were billion-dollar companies, so I wanted to be a billion-dollar company. 

Every morning, I get a cup of coffee and go into my backyard with my dog and the birds and squirrels to commune with nature and talk to God.

I recite my favorite John Wesley quote: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

I say it out loud. Then I listen.

Her advice

Preparation and dedication are keys to success. Make sure you have done your homework and have a grand passion. Think about how hard you are ready to work because it will be harder than you think it is.

Pass it on and pay it forward. I needed to disburse some of the IPO funds 25 years ago, so I put in $1 million for the University of North Florida Delores Pass Kesler Scholarship Endowment.  The scholarships are matched by funds from the state and we have a big group every year.


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