The Patriot USA Story– By Jim DiNardo
I don’t prefer to talk about me. I don’t like the spotlight, but my position has come to demand that I speak on behalf of our firm from time to time. I’d rather be behind the scenes, but It’s impossible to share the Patriot USA story without sharing our beginnings. At the start was a kid with no life experience but desperate for a change and wanting to make a difference. That young kid was me.
After dropping out of art school and a few “go nowhere jobs” in the late eighties, America was at war in the Persian Gulf with Saddam Hussein. In the summer of 1990 I hastily decided to enlist in the Navy, quitting my job in a car dealership.
Almost two years later (after basic training and a year and a half in school) I arrived in Coronado, California . It was early 1992 and I was an eager and inexperienced Aviation Electronics Technician fresh from school.
I checked in for my first “sea duty” at Helicopter Squadron Six or HS6, “The World Famous Indians”. The “Indians” were a combat search and rescue and anti-submarine warfare squadron that occupied a giant dirigible (blimp) aircraft hanger built near the turn of the century.
As I passed through on my way to the office to turn in my orders and report for duty, I spied them. OceanHawk helicopters (the navy version of a Blackhawk), painted haze gray and sitting idle in a row, waiting to fly. My heart pounded. This was what I signed up for. I believed I had finally “made it”. I was 22 years old.
Reality was different than I had imagined.
As “low man on the totem pole” I was put to work troubleshooting and repairing 8 helicopters and spending many long hours. Within just a few weeks our squadron began to deploy on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln for up to 6 months at a time.
To say it was stressful would be an understatement. Working during flight operations on the deck was exhilarating but also very dangerous. I quickly learned to think on my feet in an intense and fast paced environment, or pay with my life.
What I hadn’t anticipated (the part they don’t tell you in the recruiting office) was all the maintenance required to keep our aircraft hangars, office spaces and the ship looking great.
Presumably they omitted these details because they lacked the “Top Gun” glamor that had motivated me to join. It wasn’t uncommon to wrap up a 12 or 14 hour day of helicopter maintenance by stripping and waxing a floor, scrubbing an aircraft hangar or cleaning a bathroom till it gleamed. It seemed we were always preparing for a inspection.
I didn’t mind. My grandfather and my dad had worked in the 50’s and 60’s cleaning public schools. I was taught early, stripping an waxing floors as a young boy at the local volunteer fire house where Dad was Fire Chief and Mom was Ambulance Captain. I liked to run a buffer most and became good at controlling it though it was twice my size.
At the squadron, we often joked that the wings we wore on our uniform (mine had an “tron” or atom symbol between the wings) should be replaced by a buffer symbol. We had a never ending schedule of cleaning and maintenance to do. Aircraft maintenance, building maintenance and repeat.
After 6 years of service and twice around the world I was honorably discharged in 1996. I packed up a truck and drove from California with all our belongings, returning with a new family and to my roots to the Philadelphia area.
In early 1997 I answered a vague add in the paper “Sales and Operations Executive” not knowing it was for a large cleaning company. I was offered the position and reluctantly I took it. I had big aspirations, but bills and obligations that were bigger. I had success and learned quickly, but ultimately found I was in conflict with my new employer’s ethics. The company had been in business for many years and appeared to have pedigree and a long track record. Behind the scenes they treated clients like numbers and their employees poorly. What disturbed me most was that they treated cleaners like they were the dirt. “Expendable”. I was swimming up stream to make change. I began to believe that I could do better.
It was around this time I had a “crazy idea”. Actually three crazy ideas.
One- I was convinced that the same vigilance we had experienced in the navy protecting our troops could be applied to protect business image through cleaning. If a customer could trust they were always clean and looked great, setting the best impression consistently, then the client who hired us could focus on the success of their business instead of managing the cleaning service or calling to complain.
Two- I began to see that similar systems used for efficiency, quality and safety maintaining helicopters, buildings and ships could be modified to fit a cleaning business.
Three- I deeply believed that people were most important and that no one should ever be treated or compensated like they are not. Not clients, not employees, not cleaners. Not ever.
In 1998 I set out on my own to build Patriot. It was difficult at first. Our family had been blessed with a newborn son and we had just a few dollars in the bank. I worked sales during the day and met with clients then cleaned and trained others at night for years. Many months would pass with very little sleep. We experienced growing pains, cash shortages and stress. We made mistakes but we learned. We survived and the experience made us strong. Thankfully we were lucky along the way to find many talented dedicated people would join us on our journey. They brought unparalleled work ethic, honor, trustworthiness and skill to the team. They continue to be what make Patriot among the best in the nation. The true value of any company is in it’s people.
Fast forward. We are still headquartered in the Philadelphia area. We are still independently owned (not a franchise). Patriot serves clients as far west as California, north to New York and south to Miami Beach. We clean millions of square feet of of all types of buildings from state of the art facilities, high profile corporate spaces and some of the nation’s top restaurants. We are proud to be trusted by some of the most prestigious companies in the nation. We treat all our clients and all our staff with deep importance and respect. Without them we are nothing.
I’m still actively involved with all aspects of Patriot, and I have no intention of retiring. It could be said I have four children but actually I have five. Patriot USA is my business child. My days are still filled with operational and administration oversight. I still meet with our clients and develop new ones, and I still troubleshoot if necessary because I love what we do, and spending time with our people. I don’t clean as much as I used to, but when I can, I still enjoy getting my hands dirty and working along side our staff. I am always teaching and always learning. In addition, working with the cleaners periodically is always a refreshing reminder of how incredibly hard our people work in the field. Keeping pace with them just a few hours can be exhausting. With all this as I have since the beginning, I still make time for my loving family. We are blessed and grateful.
Patriot USA isn’t “just another cleaning company”. We are a brand, health and image protection firm and an American success story. The Patriot USA story.
The Patriot USA ethos and mission: We protect our client’s business as if it were our own.
The Patriot USA Logo: “The Patriot” standing with his rifle symbolizes vigilance. The stars encircling symbolize our roots, our history, our country and our deep patriotism.
Patriot USA Quote: We suggest this to anyone hiring a cleaning company,
“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those be well tried before you give them your confidence.” – George Washington
Thank you for taking the time to read the Patriot USA story.