From the Ground Level Up

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A Different Point Of View

Facilities Partners News

Tuesday June 11, 2019 | | No 100148

From the Ground Level Up

The Story of PRS, RSS, and RMS

By David Lopez
Facility Maintenance Companies

If I asked you what the year 2000 had meant for you, your answer could be a deep exhale because you survived the “unstoppable” Y2K bug or maybe the memory of swapping your trusty beeper with your first cellular phone.

If you were a New York baseball fan, you might say the Yankees’ beating the Mets in the first Subway Series since 1956, or maybe you were enveloped in the unbelievable drama about a five-year-old Cuban boy named Elian Gonzalez.

What the year meant to us, however, was the inception of one company that would go on to bring a more personal feel to the facility maintenance industry across the United States and Canada—a company that would give options to major clients in the retail world and would become a three-headed monster of maintenance, security, and comfortability, and all this in a single 10 x 10 square foot spare bedroom in Manorville, Long Island, New York. Frankly, owner and President Kathleen Larmour and husband Brian “Moose” Larmour created the mothership business, Professional Retail Services (PRS), almost on a whim.

While many other businesses are created some 5-10 years in advance, whether on paper or as the lifelong “brainchildren” of future business people, Kathleen and Brian’s successes were achieved due to getting an opportunity, taking a chance, and investing everything they had in themselves. The chance taken has completely paid off … but not without challenges, obstacles, and even new opportunities along the way.

“I started this company in a room. My husband was a local handyman, and I ran operations. I brought in an employee from a ‘past life’ to round out the day-to-day in the office. I had no clients, a few vendors, and an attitude that no one was going to tell me this wouldn’t work.” – Kathleen Larmour

She was right.

Kathleen worked the phones and handled emails for what seemed like 23 hours a day while Moose did local carpentry jobs. She traveled around the country week in and week out to sell her new company, and she did so as a mother of three. Most people might have taken a step back or would have been slowed down by jetlag, PTA meetings, and people who were afraid to work with a newer company that hardly had references. Kathleen firmly planted her foot on the pedal. “Every time someone would tell me no, it made me want it that much more. So I kept going until it happened.”

And it happened.

A new client here, another new one there… PRS was forced to move into the more spacious 900 square foot basement to accompany six new employees within a year of making that first phone call. However, this time would be just as short-lived as the bedroom. The company continued to branch out faster and in ways that even Kathleen couldn’t imagine. PRS ended up “cutting the ribbon” in a 1,500 square foot office space in Rocky Point, NY in early 2002. They upped their staff to 15 employees including a receptionist, account supervisors, an accounting team, and coordinators, a huge jump from starting out with two people.

If the PRS story were to stop right here, this would already be a success story of great proportions coming from practically nothing more than a woman and her vision. Not only was Kathleen rocking sales on the road, but she needed to expand in the field. It would be at this point where she would go on to employ a “southern belle spitfire” named Robbye Chasteen to split up the country and still come together in driving the up-and-coming product home. New and major retailers began to buy in, and the arsenal of clients that PRS already had started to ramp up work orders at incredible rates.

In 2004, PRS once again found the need to expand and ended up taking over a larger office space in Medford, New York, nearly doubling their space and staff.  At this point, they had no choice but to keep up with the amount of work coming in. Professional Retail Services was becoming more than just a successful business; the table was being set to achieve the title of Leader in the Facility Maintenance industry.

From the beginning to about 2006, Kathleen had decided that the best way to stay strong as a company was to run it with people who she could absolutely trust. Thus, to complete the backbone of her company moving forward, she encouraged her daughters Danielle and Amanda as well as her daughter-in-law Jenn to join forces with some of her longest-tenured employees such as Allison Seguine, Amy Simmons, Diana Stafford, Joseph McLeer, Jackie Miron, Melanie Stafford, and JT Tatum. This move remains extremely relevant today as, 13 years later, the vast majority of the aforementioned employees still work for Kathleen.

As the years went on, PRS prided itself on its strong client relationships, traveled yearly to many important trade shows, such as PRSM and RFMA, and rallied around its strong core of employees. However, as the retail world took its fair share of hits as the great recession took center stage in 2008 to 2009, PRS, unfortunately, was not immune to the hardships that its clients were feeling. Ultimately, the company needed to make difficult decisions to remain successful and survive.

Then came the renaissance.

Eventually, by the end of 2011, people started to spend again. The retail world began to get back on its feet, and in turn, maintenance calls once again became plentiful. PRS would start making changes that would begin to shape the current business model. Both Danielle and Amanda Procida, who had become proficient behind their computer screens, began to get out in the field more. Their roles in the company increased exponentially. They went from coordinators, to supervisors, to overseeing a complete structural overhaul in the company.

“At first, it was a matter of going outside the box and identifying what our clients needed. If they said we have massive plumbing issues, we assured them we’ll fix it. If it was a matter of updating fluorescent light fixtures from outdated T-12 Ballasts to the newer T-8s, we made sure they knew we would do that for them too. Whatever it took, whatever they needed, we had it. We became pro-active. Instead of waiting for service calls, we contacted our clients to get their service calls. We were separating ourselves from every other maintenance company out there; we restructured the office to accommodate.”  – Amanda Procida

The office was restructured and reports changed to become goal-oriented. Trade trainings became more plentiful; supervisors and coordinators were not just running calls; they were getting an education on everything they were doing. Employee incentives became the norm. They created the program “PRS 101” to go along with their business model of Commitment, Consistency, Creativity, and Communication (the Four Cs). For the next few years, PRS once again saw their needle move north as the company found excellent growth and was firing on all cylinders. These changes mixed in with the pro-active approach of keeping the open line of communication between PRS and clients; Kathleen internally decided that the time was right to create her second company, Retail Security Services (RSS). However, it would not come without pushback.

The pushback came from her own daughters.

The company was strictly designed around facility maintenance, but she began to notice that, on overnight jobs and during emergencies, they were being dependent on whether the security companies that their clients had been hiring would come through. Clients began telling us that we would do great in the security field. Little by little, they began to ask for us to supply guard service, and at times, they even went as far as to beg us to try and help look for guards. As a favor to their largest client, one service call was set up to get a guard on site in January of 2008. One year later, PRS decided to begin fielding more of these calls, and within a few more years, PRS set up a team of three employees (led by Allison Seguine) strictly to handle security calls.

Kathleen began to see the numbers coming back on security calls alone. She knew that the reward would be worth the risk to capitalize on building what would become Retail Security Services (RSS).  Danielle and Amanda Procida pled their case of just keeping it PRS as they felt another company wouldn’t be necessary and/or financially responsible. They did not want a separate company at all. Now, remember, as stated before, when you tell Kathleen no, she only wants it more. She thanked her daughters for their insight and feedback, re-entered the office, and in so many words said,

“Now, figure out who’s going to run it between the two of you.” -Kathleen Larmour

Danielle, at the time, was running finance for PRS; she was quite happy about where she was in the company. However, Amanda was pregnant with her second child and nearing maternity leave. The decision on who becomes the Director of Operations for Retail Security Services (RSS) ended up being an easy one. In 2014, Retail Security Services became a registered business, and the Director of Operations would end up being Danielle Procida.

“I admit that I had no idea on how this was going to start off. I wasn’t originally involved in the beginnings of RSS, so I leaned on Allison Seguine, Liam Sundin, and Amanda to really help kick off the business. Originally, we just supplied unarmed guards. Shortly from there, it blew up into armed guards, mobile guards, and cash drops. We evolved quickly. Word of mouth got out that we were out there, running security calls, and it became wild fire.” – Danielle Procida

This decision ended up becoming top tier as retail security began to immediately pay dividends. They were getting more work orders than they knew what to do with. Kathleen ended up buying the office space behind PRS and expanding their RSS team from 3 to 30+ employees within the past five years, and they found themselves continuously expanding.

At this point, Danielle decided it best to adopt the same structure she helped build with Amanda and Liam for PRS. She molded her core team around herself and Allison, brought Jen Sparling and Lisa Rivera over from PRS, and hired new employees, such as Frank Struffolino and Casey DeCesare, to set the tone of the budding company. From coordinators and supervisors to finance and reception staff, Danielle smartly studied her employees and gave them positions according to their areas of strength. She began vendor conferences as well, giving the vendors and the people behind RSS the opportunity to meet and enabling them to learn from each other on a face-to-face level. This gave the company successful results and was extremely popular among employees and vendors. These conferences were fairly unique as RSS was one of the few national security companies in the United States offering such a meeting ground.

With retail security blasting through the ceiling, Kathleen realized that, with Amanda returning from maternity shortly, she could set a plan in motion for Amanda to begin a takeover of power on the PRS side of the office. Prior to taking some time off to have her baby, Amanda had begun to excel exponentially in her travels, connecting with their clients and becoming the go-to person for many inquiries and projects. Amanda, who had been running multiple teams in the trenches of service, was given the new title of manager of client services. Within the next few years, Kathleen decided the time was right again and bestowed on Amanda the title of director of operations for PRS—a move that spoke absolute volumes for how she felt about both of her daughters’ developments and successes.

But wait, there’s more!

In 2016, PRS and RSS were beaming in their own ways. As stated before, revenue started to go on the uptick again. New structures were implemented, and new hires began to strengthen the companies in ways PRS had never seen. New departments were created to alleviate the workload of coordinators and supervisors, such as vendor relations and dispatch. The time for lightning to strike a third time would be too tempting for Kathleen. And just like the events that led up to the inception of RSS, she once again put her ear to the track listening to what her clients were asking for. Whereas again, there was some early difference of opinion between Kathleen, Danielle, and Amanda; if a third company was again needed, and if so, what would this new company be centered on? Janitorial, HVAC, roofing and mold remediation were all options on the table, but none were a real early front runner. And although Kathleen didn’t quite have her finger on what the new company would be, she had the plan; the capital, the need, and she even had the perfect person in mind to run it.

Previously, as Professional Retail Services started to pick up steam in its early days of 2003, Kathleen decided the time was right to hire a receptionist. She would offer this job as a measure of good faith to her daughter-in-law—Jennifer McCoy—a fresh-faced 19-year-old, ready to take on the world. Within the next ten years, Jenn ran the PRS gambit. From reception to a coordinator, to supervisor, and up to becoming Kathleen’s right hand. Jenn had built herself impressively through the company and found great success in doing so. By 2013, she felt the overwhelming need to find growth outside her comfort zone. She figured that if she left PRS, she would be able to find opportunity to learn more and branch out to a higher level of management.

After about two and a half years of being away from one another, there was a strong mutual interest in Kathleen and Jenn coming back together. For Jenn, she missed working with the family and overseeing the everyday operations of PRS. For Kathleen and the conception of her third business, she knew that Jenn would be the only person she would feel truly comfortable with and who would be qualified to run her newest ship. The pieces of the puzzle could not be a better fit at the right time. Jenn would find growth in new ways, becoming a Director of Operations of a new supported company, and Kathleen would have a partner in whom she could put all her trust and faith into the position.

The newest company would become Janitorial, or maybe not.

Now, there is great difference of opinion among all four company heads if Janitorial was indeed the company that was truly given the green light by Kathleen. It is, however, the popular opinion that was indeed the front-runner among all the potential companies. What comes next would go down as Retail Mechanical Services (RMS) legend.

As Kathleen was moving closer to announcing the new company, she met on her travels, one of PRS’s major clients for a wellness visit and service update. After going over the scorecard and seeing that PRS had an A+ rating for maintenance service, the client would go on to tell Kathleen that they wish their HVAC company had the same demeanor and customer service that PRS provided. Without hesitation, Kathleen asked the company, well, what if PRS ran your HVAC calls…

At this point, PRS was not an HVAC company. However, they weren’t exactly strangers to running electric service calls alongside HVAC technicians and systems. So there was some HVAC knowledge already within the service department. Jenn McCoy, who had already been tagged as the next director of operations, had also picked up HVAC and refrigeration knowledge in her travels away from PRS so… within minutes, her future company had a new direction. When the client told Kathleen that they would absolutely give her a large portion of their HVAC calls, given that PRS would have a seasoned team dedicated to this trade, Retail Mechanical Services was born before she left the conference room. This would spark the great debate years later on whether Janitorial services was ever a “real thing.”

At first, Jenn and Kathleen would sit in the corner of her office for months to build on, create, and fashion new programs and systems to build Retail Mechanical Services from the ground level up. Jenn would be on Skype with company saleswoman Robbye for hours a day, building plans and coming up with tactics to get clients and vendors on board. After a few months of filling out RFPs, building their operating system, internal meetings with Kathleen, and meeting face to face with potential clients, RMS got their first work order to service an HVAC system on October 19th, 2016.

RMS would begin to catch fire at an incredible rate. As previously stated, the major client would end up coming through on their promise and gave RMS 50% of their HVAC calls to start. The need to expand the team became evident. Their first full-time hire would be Danielle Palhares in March of 2017, and just like Jenn, she too was no stranger to PRS. Danielle was Kathleen’s assistant for PRS years before and had left the company to work finance for a major Long Island windows and doors company. Jenn and Danielle would continue to stay close, and during a country music concert, Jenn pretty much threw out the offer before the proposal. She asked if Danielle would ever entertain coming back and working for her at Retail Mechanical Services. Before they knew it, RMS had its second member, and they were off to the races.

For the next two years, RMS kept growing and growing but finding the right team members to join them started becoming somewhat tougher. HVAC was a different beast, and even with PRS offering to help cover the work that was coming in, Jenn realized that she would have to build a new team whose skills and experience were centered on the HVAC and refrigeration trade, and solidify a well-rounded company. This would also establish a distinction between PRS and RMS, giving the HVAC company their own identity that they could truly build up. In early 2017, Jenn, alongside Danielle & Amanda Procida, built a structured plan and hired based on those needs. As of today, RMS succeeds with a dispatch team, two service teams, a finance team, and a preventative maintenance team to manage over PMs.

“We continue to make strides and show impressive growth in our company. We have filtered in the right people, continue to get exceptional customer feedback from our clients, and word-of-mouth is taking us to new heights. Where many companies these days are leveling off, we are looking at constant expansion.” – Jenn McCoy

This September, Professional Retail Services will share its 19th birthday in the facility maintenance industry. They have come a long way from the days of a spare bedroom in a Long Island home. PRS now operates out of a 10,000-plus-square-foot facility that holds the company itself as well as two other growing sister companies, Retail Security Services and Retail Mechanical Services. From just three people at the start of PRS in the year 2000, the three companies now have a total of over 70 full-time office employees, including PRS’s long-tenured supervisor crew of Amy Simmons, Will Walsh, Brianna Molfetto, Chris Davis and Nicole Bartolomeo, two well-traveled salespeople, and a sharp carpentry team that works locally on Long Island with Moose and his long-time right hand man, Freddy Castro.

Together, the three companies are not just known for their exceptional round-the-clock service, but also for constantly giving back to the community and helping those in need. In the past three years, PRS, RSS, and RMS have donated over 100 full turkey Thanksgiving dinners with all the fixings, a slew of Christmas trees with stands and decorations, thousands of school supplies, and held multiple food and toy drives, and they are now planning to come together and make 500 PB&J lunches with sides for those in need across Long Island.

All three companies have become regulars at some of the largest trade shows in their respective industries. As stated before, PRS and RMS have become regulars at shows like Restaurant Facility Management Association (RFMA) and Professional Retail Store Maintenance (PRSM) now re-branded as Connex . RSS has become quite the regular as well at such trade shows, such as National Retail Federation ( NRF Protect), Restaurant Loss Prevention & Security Association (RLPSA) , and Secure Stores. The three companies have held major conferences, sent their vendor relations teams to meet with vendors in the field, invited vendors and clients to their facility, sent supervisors across the country to spot check jobs, as well as met with clients and continued to bring the best customer service to everyone that all three companies work with.

Whereas most companies’ brain trust would take credit for making the decisions and keeping their company successful throughout the years, Kathleen, Danielle, Amanda, and Jenn firmly realize that nothing gets this far without all of the people who have been employed with them through the years.

“Our people are our greatest asset. Everyone that has ever stepped through these doors made their mark on our walls. Some of our most important guidelines that we follow daily were created and implemented through our people and our experiences together. Whether it’s our amazing current employees, as well as our equally amazing former employees, we don’t last 19 years without all of them and their contributions to our company.” – Amanda Procida
“To piggy back on what Amanda said, we’d thank our client’s everyday as well if it didn’t seem too much. The chances that they took on us, the opportunity to let us handle their maintenance calls, their security needs as well as their HVAC issues has made us what we are today. 19 years and only getting stronger!” –Danielle Procida

When asked if Kathleen would end up going back to the drawing board and creating a fourth company, she simply smiled and said, “Never say never.”

“The biggest challenge that I have had working here in nineteen years was handing over the reins to my daughters on the day to day operations of all three companies. The biggest success that I’ve had here, has been watching all three of them succeed.” – Kathleen Larmour