Now at 48 years old, Vernon Kwek of Singapore is the CEO of Primech Services & Engineering company, where he owns a 10% stake. This cleaning company now employs over 3,000 employees and has an annual turnover of SGD80 million or over 3 billion pesos.
That is why it’s somehow hard to believe that a very successful businessman like him used to be a school dropout in the past. But Vernon also believes that his past painful experiences helped him to reach his place right now.
Among these was the time when his former girlfriend broke up with him for being poor and “just a cleaner,” which served as his motivation to strive for a better life. In fact, Vernon now makes a fortune from being a cleaner.
Vernon’s father used to work as a salesman, but when he turned 13 years old, his father lost his job. Because of that, he helped his father to look for a job and later found an ad in a newspaper looking for a cleaning supervisor. His father applied for the said post and was accepted.
The young boy would help his father on weekends, doing the cleaning in offices and toilets in various buildings. But after learning that managers of cleaning companies could earn more money than a fresh graduate who has the same course he’s pursuing, Vernon decided to drop out of school to become a full-time cleaner.
Despite his father’s disapproval, Vernon later managed to be allowed by his father to work as a full-time cleaner. Luckily, he was quickly promoted to a cleaning supervisor post at age 14.
“I asked the manager if he was sure. My dad became a supervisor only when he was 40. I was only 14. But he said: ‘Don’t worry. You have your dad’s genes. He has leadership qualities, you should have the same too,’” he recalled.
A few years later, he then became the senior supervisor, but later had to leave for National Service. During that time, his girlfriend dumped him for a university guy because according to that girl, he is only a cleaner and she had no future with Vernon.
Since then, he pushed himself harder to be successful. But before he reached his position now, Vernon also went through lots of failures and troubles, including a year of bankruptcy.
He went back to being a cleaner for his former company and rose to the ranks until he became the company’s CEO. Aside from Primech Services & Engineering, he is also running another two cleaning companies, A&P Maintenance Services, and Maint-Kleen.
On top of that, he is also enjoying his married life with his four kids. Though he is not sure what happened to his former girlfriend, who dumped him before. Vernon somehow thinks that he owes his success to that painful moment.