Richard Perry Jeff Booker Victor Vennable
In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned after the Watergate scandal chased him from the White House; North Carolina State shocked college athletics to win the NCAA Basketball Tournament and the national speed limit was first lowered to 55 MPH.
That was also the year Richard Perry started working for Al Diamond’s cleaning company, Premier Maintenance, Inc. (PMI). Perry had met his new wife, Joan, at the factory where they both worked, but he knew he needed a better job so the young couple could make ends meet.
“A friend I worked with heard PMI was looking and suggested I check it out,” said Perry. “They offered me a part-time cleaning job in the Norwalk-Westport area, and I took it. I told my wife, ‘I got a job, but not THE job.’”
Fast-forward to 2016: PMI is part of a much bigger cleaning corporation stretching from New York to Boston, and celebrating its 50th anniversary. Perry has been there since its early years as a family-run business and is a beloved 41-year company veteran. One might say he really did get THE job.
“Now, I’ve got all the best parts from the different jobs that I’ve had over the years,” said Perry, who has been semi-retired for five years and currently has the job title of Quality Assurance Manager. “I do inspections for cleaning, work with client retention, keeping everyone happy. Good business is all about building good relationships with your clients and your co-workers.”
In the 1980s, Perry earned a promotion to Operations Manager in Norwalk. His wife Joan celebrated the event by purchasing her husband a new three-piece suit, shirt and shoes, which Perry wore to work the next day.
Checking on a cleaning site, he discovered one of his staff was trying to complete an especially timely task without the help of his usual assistant. With a company VIP visiting the next morning, the floor had to get stripped and buffed that night.
Perry peeled off his new suit jacket, rolled up his new sleeves and got to work helping his employee. By the next morning, the floor was beautiful and the client happy. But the cleaning chemicals and hard work had ruined Perry’s new suit and shoes, dooming them to the trash. That’s just one example of Perry’s priorities and work ethic.
“He does excellent work,” “shows a genuine concern for others,” and is “loved by the 125 people under his supervision,” are just a few of the comments from a 1987 letter of recommendation from PMI’s then-president Al Diamond to Perry.
As District Manager in Norwalk, CT, Perry hired Jeff Booker in 1989, and the pair has maintained an excellent relationship since. Booker is still a part-time cleaner, primarily working in the Conde Nast Building in Wilton and the Gault Building in Westport.
“Time goes by so fast,” said Booker, who still lives in Norwalk. “I’ve known [Perry] such a long time. Whenever you need anything, he is always there. He is a genuinely nice person.”
Booker, celebrating his 27th anniversary this year, also works full-time for a carpet cleaning company during the day.
“It’s been a long time,” chuckled Perry. “He has given us outstanding service over the years. I’ve hired a lot of people, but I think Jeff was one of the first.”
Three years after bringing Booker aboard, Perry found what he called his “right-hand man” when Victor Vennable joined PMI in 1992.
“For jobs he wanted me to do, he would go with me, show me exactly what needed to be done,” Vennable said of Perry’s leadership. “I became comfortable because of him doing that with me. Then things got better with time, and I felt like I could handle any issues that came up. We’re good friends, too.”
After starting with Perry at PMI, Vennable shifted over to sister company United Services of America 15 years ago. He is currently based in the Cartus Corporation building in Danbury. He and his wife Josie reside in Stratford.
“When I was in Inspection Services, the clients loved him. Mr. Personality — they loved his personality,” Perry said of Vennable. “He would go to a job and do everything he was supposed to. He does really outstanding, quality work. Good people make managers look good. You are only as good as the people you hire.”
With 90 years of experience between them, Perry, Vennable and Booker have seen their share of changes as PMI merged with United Services and blossomed into AffinEco. Throughout the years, they say, one theme has continued to define how the men feel about the company they work for.
“I feel like I’m part of a family,” Perry said. “The people in our office have been together for a long time. It’s been like a team all these years. The best part of this job is the great relationships you build within the company and with your clients.”
“A lot of changes have been happening since we first got there,” Vennable said. “We changed from PMI to AffinEco … but it’s still in the family. I’m comfortable with that. They have treated me well. I think all the changes, for me, were for the better.”