Ten years ago I met Jim Terry on the Great Expectations dating site. We were in a relationship for eight years and made it official September 2014. I quit my job the day after we got back from our honeymoon and was finally free to launch my new business. I told Jim about my vision. He told me to just go for it and, as the plans began to fall into place, Jim became my biggest cheerleader and main supporter. My mother also — who since my earliest memories has been my rock, advocate, and an unfailing source of encouragement — has walked with me every step of the Her Concierge journey.
The business was to be founded upon fixed core values. First among these was the value that everything had to be win/win/ win. I wanted the organization to be structured in a way that would ensure each part of the business would be of benefit to everyone. I began putting together a map, which I worked on for a year.
My mind is like a racing machine, often running in high gear with the tachometer redlined at 7,000 RPM. I was lying in bed one morning at 2:00 a.m. thinking about what to call my new business when the name Her Concierge came to me as though by some kind of divine revelation. A concierge is the person who cares for your luggage, arranges tours, makes theater and restaurant reservations, etcetera. In other words, the concierge is the person in charge of providing each guest with services, both inside the hotel and outside, that would make the guests’ stay as pleasant as possible.
My business would be called Her Concierge because I would provide each of my clients with whatever services they needed to ensure that their stay on the planet, at least for the time being, would be as pleasant as possible.
Sometimes men, such as single dads, need my services, as well, but as the title implies, Her Concierge is focused mainly on women, because it is often the woman who is multi-tasking. Besides a fulltime job, she keeps track of the kids’ soccer games, music lessons, dentist appointments, school delivery schedules, parent-teacher conferences, and a thousand other tasks competing for her attention. Too many women are dashing about in such frantic efforts of caring for others that they forget about caring for themselves. They feel overwhelmed.
As Her Concierge, I play the role of the woman’s personal life project manager. My intervention is efficient and thorough. It begins by meeting with the person for an hour or more during which I learn everything I can about her life without getting into any creepy areas. Even creepy would be safe with me, however; the woman can be as frank as she wishes because I will discuss my client’s life with nobody — not even my husband.
On the basis of the interview, I put together a complete portfolio with details about the woman’s background, children, birthdays, anniversaries, pets, pets’ birthdays, and the holidays she celebrates. I learn if she has living parents and, if so, what demands are they making on her. I ask her to recite for me typical day-in-the-life scenarios, looking for areas in which she might feel overwhelmed or where she might leave something undone that she otherwise would have wished to do.
After getting to know the details of her life, I accompany her on a walk around the house. I note projects that are half-done or unstarted. I might ask about a spot on the carpet and about a dripping facet. I take copious notes.
After finishing the tour, the two of us sit down together while I read back to her the things that came up during the process. Some clients are amazed when they hear it read back to them. In some cases they are impressed with the level of detail that I was able to achieve. Others are amazed at how much complexity they actually have going on in their lives. If the woman said at one point that a particular room was driving her crazy, we will examine the alternatives, such as installing an organizer or perhaps converting the room into a spare bedroom.
We refine the list of things to be done by talking about priorities and timeframes. We prioritize the list in a rank order, beginning with the thing she wants most of all and the timeframe she would be most happy with in getting it done. At each point, I make sure that I didn’t get ahead of myself by asking, “Do you want to do this?” type questions.
The preliminary work-up ends by filling out an intake form that lists the services she needs and matches them with appropriate vendors, tradespeople, and retail services. By now, of course, I know the woman’s schedule, so I take the information back to the office and begin to create a realistic “Plan Her” with each task enumerated according to importance. The Plan is put online, shared with the client, and protected by a login name and password. At any point, the client is allowed to look at the plan and to view the progress I’ve made up to the present time. She can interact with the list, changing the position of any of the tasks in order to suit her changed opinion about their relative importance.
At this point I provide some added value to the program, because I spent more than a year in an ongoing search for strategic home service vendors and have created a vetted list of more than 60 highly qualified, dependable, and affordable services. For each I include information about warranties, business license, contact information, etcetera. I don’t simply leave the contact with my client, but will conduct all the coordination required so that the task gets done without requiring any effort on the client’s part. I treat charges from the vendors as pass-through budget items, so the client doesn’t have to bother with other invoices.
I customize membership services to suit the client. For example, if she needs a plumber but doesn’t want the man alone in the house, I’ll provide a trusted and vetted person to be in the
house until the work is finished. If something falls through — for example someone fails to show up at an appointed time — the client simply texts me and I handle the problem from that point. My income comes from an initial assessment fee and a quarterly membership that operates much like a retainer.
I had the good fortune to be raised in a two-parent family with genuine Leave It To Beaver qualities. I was the youngest of three children and the only girl, with the result that my older brothers teased me unmercifully. But we had fun; we were all good with each other. My father passed away on my son’s tenth birthday, only five months before my folks’ Golden Wedding Anniversary. He left behind a rich and enduring legacy in the hearts and lives of his children and three grandchildren.
My single ambition during my childhood and early 20-somethings and all I ever wanted was to be married and have kids. I love kids! I wanted the kind of marriage my folks had. When I was four years old I was taking care of kids in the neighborhood. I thought I was babysitting.
I was born and raised in Daly City. The weather was terrible and depressing. I was a member of a minority ethnic group at Westmore High and had to develop “street smarts” and relationship tools to survive in that tough environment. My home life provided a wonderful refuge from whatever knocks and bruises I was picking up in body and spirit at school. I have come to appreciate the diversity, however, because I am now able to blend in well with any mixture of race, color, or creed.
A grim reality about our modern society is that many women are filling the role of servants, called upon to do everything for everybody. It is typical, of course, for both the man and the woman in a relationship to be working full-time jobs, which should mean that they then split household and family chores 50/50. Don’t make me laugh. A number of guys have admitted to me that they have trouble remembering to put their dirty socks in the hamper.
Before my child turned three, I became a single mom. I picked myself up, got to work, and for the next two decades made a good life for Alec and myself in the beauty industry. But it was very difficult. At times, I found myself crying at night, not because I wanted a husband but because I needed a wife. Almost from the beginning of my single-mom state I vowed that if the time ever arrived when I could do so, I would create a business to provide women — or anyone stuck in life as I was — with the resources to keep them from going through what I was going through. I would create an environment to help people with the mundane tasks in life so they could focus on the more important things — the relationships they needed to preserve or the unique contribution to the world that they would be empowered to make if they only had the time.
I held this ambition in the back of my mind during the 22 years I was single.
Good things come out of bad things. It was finally time for me to put together the business of providing services to harried and harassed people, so I got my DBA in April 2015, formed a corporation, and created my Her Concierge registered trademark.
By the way, I never cried too many bitter tears about the failed marriage. The fact is, continual resentment and an unforgiving spirit would dim the bright fire of my happy engagement with life. Rick wasn’t able to play the Prince Charming role that I tried to pin on him, but he and I were always good friends. Someone said that marriage ruins more friendships than any other institution on earth, but we were unwilling to permit that to happen. We remain good friends to this day. Rick & his girlfriend, and Jim & I get together frequently. My son Alec got a pre-med degree from UC Santa Barbara and is planning on becoming a psychiatrist. (He’ll be a good one!)
Life has obviously brought me to a wonderful place. My marriage, family, and social life are altogether joyful. My business of helping my precious Her Concierge clients experience some of the good life along with me is one of the best things I have going on.