By Sue Minichiello
For 27 years, Al DeFilippo has tirelessly served Premier Maintenance, United Services and its related companies. Ever since joining Premier as Controller in 1985, Al willingly took on far more than financial and administrative tasks, doing whatever he could to help the company grow, including assisting United during its first four years and training its new CFO. Al grew with the companies, becoming Vice President of Finance/CFO in 1990. He officially retired on July 13, and the leadership of Affineco wanted to pay tribute to him for all he has contributed during nearly three decades of service. Many of the administrative principles Al established during his tenure have become staples for the AffinEco companies and been shared as “best practices” among peers in the industry across the country.
Former Premier President Alan Diamond hired Al and never looked back. “Al has worn countless hats for us over the years. No matter what we asked him to do, he never once said no and he always did it cheerfully and effectively,” Alan said. “There has never been a question in my mind as to Al’s integrity or ability.”
Alan says he warned Al from the very beginning that there would be a lot more to the job than just pushing numbers around and, boy, did he mean it. When Al came on board, the company had purchased a 12,000 square foot building in Milford, CT to serve as its new headquarters, but the property needed major renovations. Over the course of a year, Al spent a lot of time at that location coordinating plans with the architect, Alan and the building contractors. The building still houses Premier’s headquarters as well as a branch office for United.
Al went on to become well integrated in every aspect of the business. He not only oversaw company financials like accounting, billing, purchasing, budgeting and forecasting, but also nurtured relationships with bankers, insurers and other vendors; developed internal procedures for human resources, proposals and bids; and led the computerization of systems like payroll and job management.
In fact, Al managed three complete overhauls of the computer systems, helping the company to modernize and become more professional each time as it moved from a CADO system to IBM to industry-related software to Web-based software. Al led the modification of all financial and operational reports, designing them on paper and working with programmers to achieve the level of customization needed to increase efficiencies and streamline processes across the board.
“No one knows the systems that run this business better than Al. He’s been the go-to guy for all administrative issues. And he’s tireless; a first one in, last one out type of guy,” said Premier VP of Sales Tim Whitlock, who has worked with Al from day one. “He worked really well with everyone, and his staff say he’s been a great boss and teacher–firm, but extremely patient and fair. There’s no doubt he’s leaving some big shoes to fill.”
United Services President Paul Senecal echoed Tim’s sentiments, adding, “Al demonstrated a strong interest in United from the beginning, and his guidance and efforts most certainly helped the firm grow on a solid financial footing. We very much appreciate all that he did to create that.”
For his part, Al says he has always enjoyed working for smaller companies and helping them grow. Prior to joining Premier and United, Al worked at Corometrics Medical Systems, a company that literally began in a garage but became huge when it developed the first fetal heart monitor. After that, he was CFO for New Haven Airways, a charter flight and flight instruction operation. When airline deregulation allowed smaller airlines to expand, Al helped the company transition into NewAir Flight, Inc.–adding regular scheduled flights throughout the Northeast Corridor–and taking the company through a public stock offering.
“As a company grows, there are more and more demands placed on its workforce, and you have to find ways to keep pace and improve efficiency and productivity. That’s exactly what happened at Premier and United,” Al said. “The fact that when new demands arose, I was able to come up with ways to streamline procedures and boost the level of professionalism makes me proud. But I couldn’t have done it without the leeway and backup from Alan, Michael and Paul. To be so trusting and give someone that kind of freedom is incredible in a privately-owned company.”
Clearly, the connection between Al DeFilippo and Premier/United was a match made in heaven, a perfect fit. And Al says that although he’s technically retired, he’ll still be around. He has offered to help with the transition, train new people and even work on future projects as needed. He does plan to spend some time traveling and enjoying life near the water in Branford with his wife, Patrice, and their six-year-old Sheltie, Angus. Still, he admits he’ll probably take on part-time assignments here and there since he can’t see himself ever retiring completely.
That’s good news for Premier and United, knowing such a cherished and talented man is just a phone call away. “I can’t stress enough how valuable Al has been to us. Everyone who’s come in contact with him–from vendors to employees to colleagues of the company–realizes he is a very special person,” said Alan. “He’s a real gem, a great friend and an exemplary employee. He’s like family to me, my wife Elaine, our son Michael and our daughter Jill.”