Thank you to Al Barney, owner of Premier Home Services, for answering a few of our questions!
Where were born and raised and, if it was someplace else, when and why did you come to Loudoun?
I was born in Morristown, NJ and raised in Union Township, NJ, home of the Union farmers. We moved to Loudoun County in 1991, I was still in the hospitality industry and was looking for a new environment to raise my family. I had a Job offer at the Inn at Little Washington but not realizing the commute from Sterling was not going to work out, so I declined the position and restarted my food and beverage career as a General manager with national food chains. While working in that capacity I became fully aware that I was building someone else’s corporate dreams and I was not enjoying my personal life, or family due to the amount of time I was spending at the restaurants.
How long have you been in business?
In 1993 I started working as a freelance designer, supporting four local builders with design build services. Less than a year later, I became a General Contractor and formed Premier Home Services, Inc., and shortly after I acquired my Class “A” License.
How did you get into this line of work?
I left the hospitality industry because the quality of my life had diminished, due to the long hours and low pay. I joined the Electrical Union IBEW Local 26, prior to my freelance design services. I was accepted into the Journeymen Program with Coastal Electric, a 35-year-old established electrical contracting company, where my active employer used my management skills to help them grow. This was a game changer for me; the love and creativity I had for food as a former pastry chef and sous chef, transferred to architectural design, and fell in love with my career all over again. It wasn’t long after, that it dawned on me, that if Coastal Electric used my skills to grow their business, it made sense to build a business for myself and family; my quest for entrepreneurship and self-independence began.
Have you had any special mentors or inspirations that guided your career?
Absolutely, early in my career after starting Premier Home Services, a Black businessman in Sterling who was a client of mine, became intrigued with by business gave me great advice, on banking relationship, insurance, and leadership. The conversations inspired me and encouraged me to build not just a brand, a financial powerhouse, he taught me how to leverage my revenue for higher profits through relationship management. Its not about how much money you make its about how much money you keep.
What is the best part of your job and why?
The best part of my job are my customers. I love meeting new people, and I love sharing and understanding their vision of their home, and how they would like to improve or upgrade their living space; I truly get caught up in the moment still today. I love designing spaces, that moment when a client can start to see their project coming to life and they are so happy with the finished product, it is extremely gratifying. I’m also able to share my daily work experiences with my wife who runs the office, and still be present for my family.
What is it like owning a business in Loudoun?
Initially there were plenty of growing pains and hurdles to conquer as a very young Black contractor. At times, I felt people’s apprehension, and there was often an uncertainly of whether potential clients would judge me on the basis of the color of my skin, instead of my abilities in creating fine living spaces. For the first 3 years or so, I usually would introduce myself as a designer, or manager of the company that I owned; it was not so easy walking into people’s homes and finding genuine acceptance.
Over the years I have seen a tremendous change in the culture of the community and the acceptance of who I am as a designer. The Loudoun County Community has been extremely supportive, so much so, that we are currently working on launching our Contractor Portal NextProjectx. I have been fortunate to build two other companies that have a strong presence in Loudoun County, StalkEyes supporting local business to business services, and Secured Network Solutions, Inc., a telecommunications company that builds network infrastructure for voice, data, and security systems.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
In an ideal world, there should be no need for Black History month, however, as we do not live in an ideal world, it’s a month that spotlights the learning and appreciation for our history and an amazing culture built with perseverance, creativity, family, character and faith; this is who I am every day of the year. My wife and I are working on building a global social media platform that supports Black and Brown culture, arts, food, and businesses throughout the world. Stay tuned for “Pamoja” – ‘Tuko Pamoja’ is the Swahili phrase meaning “we are together”; a shared sense of purpose or motivation in a group – it transcends mere agreement and implies empathetic understanding among the members of the group. Our passion: TOGETHERNESS
What are some of your favorite things to do when you are not working?
I enjoy serving the community as longtime active member and former committee leader of the Loudoun NAACP, former Economic Development Commissioner for the town of Leesburg, and actively serving as planning commissioner for the town of Leesburg. I had the pleasure of coaching my sons in various sports over a 15-year period, I love to cook and entertain. My wife and I try to travel as often as possible as we enjoy island hoping throughout the Caribbean, we have two sons living abroad, one in Paris, France the other in Bogota, Columbia and our oldest son lives in Atlanta; he is married, and we are expecting our first grandchild in 2021. We still have one daughter in high school, LCPS. Life is great!
Thank you Al! Check out the Premier Home Services website here