The principle reason you may want to hire a domestic professional is to buy back your time. Whether you have one or multiple professionals working for you it’s always smart to get some advice and training in order to make things run smoothly.
Alan: Welcome back, I'm here today with Jennifer Laurence of Luxury Lifestyle Logistics welcome to today's show.
Jennifer: Thank you so much for having me I'm delighted to be here.
Alan: So Jennifer for the background of the listeners, can you give us you know the timeline of how you got to where you are today?
Jennifer: Sure so I think I've been predisposed to be in all things hospitality and home since I was a little girl. True story, when other girls were getting Cosmopolitan magazine I literally had a subscription to Martha Stewart living at 12 years old. So I'm I just loved all things floral and design and hearth and home. My original major was music business so I moved from San Francisco California to Nashville Tennessee and I worked in radio promotions advertising and I also worked at a record label and where I got to support a lot of high net worth individuals, celebrities, people in the public eye, so it was really a great case study and how to be a support mechanism for someone with that type of public lifestyle. There's so many people that take care of all of that for them and through an event planning colleague I was able to host a party at a beautiful estate for one of our clients and I saw the world of home management for the first time and it was phenomenal. There were you know drivers and chefs and butlers and maids and all these things that were running this beautiful home and I had never known that that could be a full-time career. So pivoted, I changed my major, I moved to Chicago Illinois to a small women's college. The women's college had an undercurrent of domestic service to the curriculum it wasn't specifically a domestic service degree but it was a full four-year degree in hospitality and the conversation because it was a woman's college was, how do we professionalize the art of home management, how do we bring our business sense to the world how do we bring that woman's touch to our work environment. It was a really unique opportunity to showcase how you can kind of professionalize the art of home management and systematize it as as if you would a business. So I knew I wanted to be a butler and household manager and that was the the best school that I could get my undergrad in and after that I did a year of wine and sommelier studies, I did a year of visual communication school and then I went on to the Charles McPherson Butlers and Household managers academy in Toronto Canada. And so that was an amazing opportunity, I was trained under some of the world's best Butlers. We had the butler one week for the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland in Europe and would tell us stories of the you know Queen and Prince Philip coming to dinner and all the anecdotes that would happen with the staff and the team there. And you know here in America we don't necessarily think of the butler tradition and entertaining so formally but we still have high net worth individuals that need home management and so I knew that I would be a household manager here in the US and thought that my calling was to be in that support role that I had learned so early on.
Alan: So as you started out this venture how did you get going? I mean you had to degree from the college and now you put your stake out and you say okay now I am in business?
Jennifer: Yes for sure. The butler school was certainly instrumental in setting me off on the right path. They have several placement agencies in the US that only staff for domestic household staffing so they were wonderful in getting my first jobs in the industry and then we also have an excellent professional association, the domestic estate Managers Association. And they support our industry there's 23 chapters nationwide and two in Europe and all of us that work in private service come together we share stories we network together we get professional developments so it's really a great opportunity to so to hone your craft and be with other professionals in a very unique environment.
Alan: We talked about a lot of emphasis is on the butler's but do you do you delve into like personal assistants also?
Jennifer: Yes thank you for that question it is a misnomer- this butler kind of household manager divide. As I mentioned previously in Europe, there is still the butler tradition because they entertain much more formally you know we think of them depicted in movies as the staunch older gentleman opening the door and a coat and tails you know that type of thing, but here in North America they're called household managers and it's very much more an administrative role. They support the needs at the household level or personal level for a high net worth individual who can support payroll for a modest staff. And they can have multiple titles, they could be a personal assistant, they could be an executive assistant, a house manager, basically anyone who's taking care of their personal needs so that they can go be the better professional that they're meant to be in the world. They take care of their properties, their automobiles, concierge services such as booking tickets and travel and things so it really is a full-time role and it can be very challenging and exciting.
Alan: For the layperson this may be foreign to them, but individuals that are in that category understand that really to manage the size of these estates really takes a team.
Jennifer: It does, it does I mean you can imagine a 20,000 square-foot estate it's like running a full-time hotel but it's for one person or one family so there's a lot of property management that goes into that facility management the fine finishes and fixtures take a lot of care to curate you're almost like a little curator of a museum. The art the oriental rugs the you know the marble countertops all of that has to be maintained on a schedule and so I love to kind of compare and contrast for those of us that don't live in a multi-million dollar mansion the ways in which they can systematize their home to really just taking the time to do things in a systematic way so that the maintenance of the household doesn't overtake what they need to be successful. Changing the HVAC filters on an annual basis, getting that oil changed on the car I mean it sounds like simple stuff but it can really overtake people's weekends and so I think the takeaway for paid staff to do this is that they're buying back their time and so I want regular people to buy back their time to with a more systematic approach.
Alan: I'm visiting here today with Jennifer Laurence of luxury lifestyle logistics and Jennifer I need to take a quick break and we'll be right back after these messages.
Welcome back I'm here today with Jennifer Laurence of Luxury Lifestyle Logistics and Jennifer, the company that you found is specialized in really helping the ultra affluent manage households and their wealth and estates, but how does an individual know when they're ready for your services?
Jennifer: Oh absolutely that's a great question. People struggle with this quite a bit I think that there's a modesty there's this hard work ethic in America that they want to do everything themselves and they want to be that super mom or the super dad that can go to work and also manage the household but I really feel like when the details of your life overtake the enjoyment of it, that's the first tell tale sign that it's time to start hiring some household help and we usually refer to the front line defenses as the front line employees are the first level employees that would be like a nanny or a housekeeper. And starting off with either one of those, depending on the makeup of your family will really help to bolster up the cogs in the wheel that keep everything turning for your household and once you kind of get in a groove of managing that individual if you feel like you need to add on more staff after that it just would depend on your particular needs if the family doesn't have children let's say and it's an older distinguished gentleman who has to drive to work back and forth every day and he's an executive, maybe a chauffeur might be more in line with his needs at the time. So hiring staff is challenging because you're kind of running a little side business in addition to your regular life now you're an employer of household staffing structure so it's important to maintain the right level of staff and get them hired and trained effectively and really make sure that they're serving your needs effectively.
Alan: Now your title is Luxury Lifestyle Logistics seem to indicate that you're not just gonna take anybody that calls you up but is there a certain criteria an individual needs to make before they'll become a one of your clients?
Jennifer: It's not necessarily a monetized criteria I think that when the logistics of their luxurious lifestyle become overwhelming I have a systematic approach in terms of writing a policy and procedure manual and streamlining efficiency of operations for their household staff to train each silo like let's say food and beverage housekeeping you know wardrobe management finishes and fixtures management all of those things in a more systematic way and when all of those details become so overwhelming they know that they need kind of an outside consultant to come in and give them an organizational assessment.
Alan: Ok so between so you have North America, do you could you go worldwide with your services?
Jennifer: I would love to go anywhere my passport will take me so that's a lot of fun. I have clients all over the US currently and they do have multiple properties. Multiple properties for one family might run very differently if they have a beach home it runs different than a ski chalet in Aspen. So even though we want to recreate the preferences for the family at those particular environments we want to embody the feel and the spirit of the home that they're trying to create there for their family- it's a holiday home in the in the mountains you know we want to make sure that the staff is aware on how to run that to give them that feeling of coziness over their beach house let's say that might be a little bit more casual.
Alan: Will you help these clients also in their decisions of hiring the right individual will you do some interviews or how does that-
Jennifer: Absolutely so I coordinate with the domestic placement agencies throughout the US. I'm aware of about 40 or 45 domestic placement agencies it it sounds like a lot but they they do so very much for our industry they're really the gatekeepers between the clients and the candidates. And so I come in as a liaison when perhaps the staff is not working out very well, there's a personality conflict even if they have hired someone fantastic they just need training for the particular skill set. An average person might not have ever touched the types of finishes and fixtures that they're going to be working with and so it takes a real care and concern and consideration to care for some couture items- these gorgeous wardrobes that they're gonna have to be pressing and steaming and laundering- how does one go about doing that if they've never shopped in those department stores? So that is where my training comes in and also my professional association offers a lot of professional development in that arena.
Alan: I'm visiting here today with Jennifer Laurence of Luxury Lifestyle Logistics and Jennifer I need to take another break and we'll be right back after these messages.
Welcome back and is here today with Jennifer Laurence of Luxury Lifestyle Logistics and Jennifer, after the prior segments we're talking about how you got into the model of assisting the ultra fluent with their management of household and staff but I want to move now into the operational side what are some of the mistakes individuals make when they start to engage household as staff?
Jennifer: Absolutely, staffing a home is a really unique challenge and there is a line of decorum and discretion that is unique to any other business model. You're working in someone's personal space and so it's important to have the staff be friendly be personable but not too personal with the family that they're serving. So there's this line of discretion I think that's the first crux is to kind of navigate that personal relationship, it's your work environment but it's their home you kind of want to be seen and not heard as you're as you're doing your work and not disturb the family, but also create that magic that luxury just things just happening on their own. They might move from one location to the next in the household and then all of a sudden they go back to that room and it's already prepared for them again. Those are the types of things that I like to train on. So I think that would be the first mistake is just not knowing how to navigate that interpersonal relationship, the second I think is not training them and paying them as professionals. There is a stigma in the domestic service industry about being kind of an indentured servant and this is one of the oldest professions since the Romans built the roads. We've had hospitality and people traveling and staying with other people, so up until this point a very educated career path, but now with the professionalization and the principles that we're serving are so very well-educated, they're leaders of industry and so you really have to be on your game to keep up with the people that we serve. They're leading fortune 500 companies and they're CEOs and things, so that individual we would refer to them as the principal homeowner. They really need to give the autonomy to the staff to to grow into the position, to have parameters like they would in a business. Have benchmarks for success, have checklists have standard operating procedures and really some things that they can sink their teeth into to be successful every day. The problem I face a lot in my consulting practice is when households tend to do this delegation like popcorn style and they text message their staff in a really frantic approach and say, oh I need to pick up the dry-cleaning or I need tickets to Paris and it's always this rush rush rush and if things were more systematic and if people had a system for calendar management, maintenance management, schedules those types of things, everything is much more at ease. So they don't have to feel so hurried all the time.
Alan: You know, it is an art trying to take care of these families, especially when they're on the move, multiple properties logistics locations, what have you found in your experience of some of the real challenges of how do you get the right staff when you have multiple locations and properties?
Jennifer: That's a great question um the staffing agencies do an excellent job in their markets of knowing the candidate pool. We have a blogroll that goes out nationwide every morning and it's a very small number of jobs sometimes there's only 10 or 12 jobs that morning for all of the United States and so it's best to work with the domestic placement agencies they fully vet the staff they do background checks they help with the training and coaching and all of that type of thing, but then also they real go into the interpersonal aspect of it like I mentioned previously and make sure that if the job description requires that the staff travel to meet the needs of the family that they're willing to do that or they staff those multiple homes separately and just call them in when the family is going to be there if it is a vacation property so there's multiple approaches I think it's not a one fit all solution but I really do think that attracting the right candidates and paying them appropriately with benefits and making sure that they are w2 employees, I just run into so much of people that think that a 1099 is acceptable and really the IRS is very stringent terminology on what can be considered an independent contractor versus a w-2 employee. So I would just encourage your audience to speak with their tax professional and make sure that they really understand that they are an employer and they run a business now and they want to be protected not only on the tax information but also for insurance purposes so reach out to their advisers for that.
Alan: I think what people fail to realize is that labor laws play into this about paid vacation and overtime...
Jennifer: Absolutely and there is no HR department when you work for a family. They might work you 60-80 hours a week, you're on call 24/7, believe me I've gotten phone calls when the TV remote has not worked in the upstairs you know master bedroom. And like you mentioned they're traveling to multiple households around the world they're on planes all the time sometimes they just want the ball game on and they can't remember how to work the cable box and so it can be something as minute as laminating a sheet for them next to the remote control to remember how to get the TiVo on versus throwing a party for 400 people on the lawn for a cocktail party, so you never know what the day will bring.
Alan: There's an old saying, in the Agatha Christie mysteries that the butler did it.
Alan: I want to go somewhat into it because in the luxury lifestyles, how does a family protect themselves because they're this individual this servants coming in and they're surrounded by some sometimes some really pricey things-
Jennifer: And sensitive information, absolutely so that is a great question my first week in butler school we actually delved into all of the the ways butler's are depicted in the media and in you know historical application. And the word butler actually means like cupbearer and it was a trusted advisor of the King, they were their closest confidant and were their right-hand man and so the butler's role- I'll pivot that question a little bit is really to protect the family and be this liaison this gatekeeper between the outside world that is very much wanting their time and attention and protect them and say no you know Mr. or Mrs. are not available or can I assist you with that? It's a very symbiotic relationship and it has to be very closely guarded. So it's really important to get the right person that role because they're gonna be your secret keeper they're gonna be the doorway to everything and if you're creating your home is your castle this raspit away from the world you really want it to be to be the right fit.
Alan: I'm want to touch on the calendaring and systematizing, you know the schedules for these individuals that are your clients.
Jennifer: Absolutely, thank you for that question. In order to delegate a very complicated lifestyle with all of these details and the more a family grows in stature the bigger the job description gets because they have so many details that they have to manage and if that is all coming into the inbox of the owner it's just gonna be overwhelming and they're gonna continue to delegate it without ever having the freedom to just enjoy the lifestyle they've created. So it's important to systematize all of this and I have a three step approach. My first approach is to create a Google account for the household something that's not associated with the family's last name because that would be a security risk. So please don't do like Smith at gmail.com or something like that but keep it neutral and create a virtual office for the family. So once you have this domain set up, this gmail account you're going to be inboxing all of your administrative needs for the household that are not sensitive. Let's say the dentist appointment for your child. You want to send those reminders to that inbox rather than your own. Maintenance on the car, vehicle appraisals, warranty information all of that type of thing. So not only are you creating calendaring because then you're going to calendar it on that Google account but then you're creating a manual because they can go back and reference all of that information you've got contacts in there for your vendors your art appraisers that type of thing and then you can pass it off effectively to a staff member once you gather all of those details. So my first thing is to do that google account and have it all digitized so that it is accessible by an outside staff member. Secondly I recommend to create a policy and procedure manual because how the family interacts with those to-do lists might be very different. When we put a holiday on your calendar and on my calendar, mine might look very different than your household and so you need to break that down for your household and what is expected on entertaining aspects and you know who do we need to call to get the flowers in to get the caterer there you know and so that manual can really be something that is a living breathing document it's not stagnant because as the family evolves you want to change those details. And then the third thing I would recommend is a database like a CRM for the contacts of the family. You're gonna want to put vendor names in there, family members names, you know just name address telephone number but something with a notes feature so that when you have an interaction with that particular person or entity you create a time date stamp for when they were on your property. Let's say the pool maintenance man was servicing the pool and the pump went out, so now you have a place to put a note that says they were here on a particular day they changed the pump you know and put it into a file you know that way if something goes wrong you can reference it and I think that this like little triad of administrative support is that is the best foundation in which to have the household really be successful and administratively.
Alan: So Jennifer if an individual wants to contact you for your services how would they go about?
Jennifer: Thank you they can reach me at my website which is www.luxurylifestylelogistics.com, the name of my company.
Alan: Jennifer I appreciate you being on today's show and we've been busy here today with Jennifer Laurence of Luxury Lifestyle Logistics, thanks for being here with us today on American Dreams and join us next week right here on this station.