February 19, 2008
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
Security and Service
Hill Resident Richard Primrose establishes an All Star Team at Palladion
by Cary Shuman
Richard M. Primrose learned the importance of teamwork as a starting offensive lineman for the Yale University football team. He was an integral part of three Ivy League championship teams.
Primrose graduated from Yale in 1983 with a degree in Economics and received his MBA Degree from Harvard in 1991.
A Beacon Hill resident, Primrose started Palladion Services, LLC 11 years ago from scratch and today the business, headquartered on High Street in Boston, employs 500 people and has the highest customer and employer retention rates in its market in the city.
Primrose said Palladion has earned its reputation and its business "by establishing a track record, of keeping our promises, and really exceeding our customers' expectations in terms of service quality."
"We conduct our business the old fashioned way," said Primrose. "We're close to our customers and we work very hard at servicing our accounts. What we really sell is trustworthiness and responsibility. Our customers entrust us with keys to buildings that are worth millions of dollars."
Palladion began as a security company and Primrose faced the issue of how could he differentiate an intangible in an intensely competitive market
"We sell an intangible [services], not something you can touch," said Primrose. "One of the ways we were able to distinguish our business was by establishing a rigorous selection process in terms of background screening and the processes job candidates go through before becoming employed with our company.
"I found it produced a better quality candidate - the very best in our labor pool and our market," said Primrose.
Primrose said he approached one of his first clients and offered to do more than a traditional, one-dimensional security provider. The client, who owned a residential building in Cambridge, asked Primrose if his company could provide concierge services as well.
"That was nine years ago," said Primrose. "Today, the concierge side of our business is our fastest growing market segment. We have the largest market share of the high-end residential market in Boston. And it's a direct outgrowth of our service philosophy. We've been able to capitalize on the growth in the area's high-end residential market because we were the first company that positioned ourselves as a concierge provider."
Among the properties where Palladion provides concierge services is a 220-unit luxury condominium building on Beacon Hill and other downtown luxury properties. All told, Palladion provides services at 55 buildings, half with security services in high-rise, high-end commercial buildings, and the other half with full concierge services in high-end residential buildings.
Primrose grew up in Everett and graduated from Everett High School in 1979. His mother, Theresa, was the secretary to three different Everett superintendents of schools for 25 years.
"I'm very big on public education," said Primrose. "I think Everett High gave me a great education. My mother is a remarkable woman who stressed education to my brother and me."
After graduating from Yale, he worked for Bank of New England for six years, first as an analyst and later in commercial real estate. While studying for his MBA at Harvard, he took a highly competitive internship for Disney Development Corp. in Orlando. He was offered a job from Disney to help build a hotel at EuroDisney Land in France but turned it down to take a position in a security services business [Guardsmark] in Boston, where he became the executive vice president and chief operating officer overseeing 11,000 employees and more than 200 offices.
He wrote a business plan for Palladion in 1996. "I saw an opportunity in Boston because I felt the term "security services" was a bit of an oxymoron in that there was more security and less service in the industry so I thought a locally owned company that really focused on service at some of Boston's non-iconic buildings could do well and that was our target market," said Primrose.
Through Primrose's hard work and aided by an excellent management team that includes 16-year business associates and friends, Patrick Knight, vice president, and Paul Chicarello, senior manager, Palladion has built an impeccable reputation in the security and concierge business in Boston. Knight holds undergraduate and MBA degrees from Syracuse University while Chicarello holds undergraduate and MBA degrees from Harvard.
"We learned the business the same way and they're two of the most dedicated people I've ever met and they're both exceptionally talented," said Primrose.
Knight credits Primrose for his exemplary leadership and his ability to motivate his employees on a daily basis.
"I think Rick's leadership qualities are what motivates all of us and gives us direction," said Knight. "When I came on board, there were 15 employees and now there are 500. Rick's strength is that he knows every single employee that works here. He's very focused and very driven. He demands excellence all the time. There is no room for mediocrity."
Reflecting on his business career, Primrose said his athletic background helped set the foundation to his success.
"I was an offensive lineman in college and you fight for inches, and this is a business that you build one hour at a time," said Primrose. "Brick by brick, you build this business. I love what I'm doing because we earn our way and we are able to positively impact people's lives. We have a positive impact on our employees. We keep our promises to our customers and I think it's the noblest way to make one's livelihood."