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Industry expert Katharine Giovanni gives you all the tools you need to create a successful concierge, lifestyle management, errand service, or personal assistant company.
In this definitive and popular guide, now in its fourth edition, Giovanni covers the basics of starting a new company—from creating a business plan to handling the day-to-day logistics to developing attention-grabbing marketing materials. PLUS, she packs this valuable resource with sales ideas, marketing tips, sage advice on topics such as insurance, and much more.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- Why people and companies use concierges and why it is a business poised to explode in the coming years.
- How to find your niche market. Do you want to create an on-site, lobby, or corporate concierge service? Or are you looking to serve individuals?
- How to run a concierge business and structure your company for success.
- What services to offer.
- How to set fees.
- How to sign up top vendors and negotiate commissions from them.
From small boutique concierge services to large corporations, this manual will help everyone.
Giovanni started her own concierge business in 1998. She is an internationally recognized concierge consultant, who has worked with thousands of companies and individuals from more than forty countries and every U.S. state. Tap into her knowledge and experience. She knows what she’s talking about—and it’s all in The Concierge Manual.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: What Exactly Is a Concierge?
Chapter 2: Fifty-Two Ways to Use a Concierge
Chapter 3: Niche Markets
Dry Cleaners Offering Concierge Services
Mall and Airport Concierge
Concierges Specializing in Divorcées and Singles
Seniors Are a Huge Market Right Now!
Funeral and Hospice Concierge
The VIP Concierge
Security and Valet Parking Companies
Just Choose One or Two Niches
Chapter 4: What Skills Do I Need to Become a Successful Concierge?
Chapter 5: Business Basics
Employer ID Numbers (EINs)
Company Name and Logo
Legal Issues and Contracts
Chapter 6: Your Business Plan
Chapter 7: Getting Started
Letterhead and Business Cards
Setting Up Your Databases
Chapter 8: Website Creation Made Easy
Basic Computer and Internet Skills
Creating Your New Website
E-mail vs. URL
Internet Service Provider
Setting Up Your URL
Building Your Website
Finding a Web Hosting Company
Preparing Your Site for Submission
Submitting the Site
Other Options to Drive Traffic to Your Site
A Marketing Caveat
Chapter 9: How to Set Your Fees
It’s All about the Money
How to Set Your Fees
Establishing Your Daily Labor Rate
Establishing Your Overhead
Fees: How Much Do I Charge?
Individual Concierge Services
Corporate Concierge Service
On-Site/Lobby Concierge Service
How Is the Client Going to Pay for Services?
Chapter 10: What Services Should I Offer?
Personal Assistant Services
Chapter 11: Event Planning
Budgets and Clients: Important Questions to Ask
Site Selection: How to Find the Perfect Site
Contracts: Look for What Is and Isn’t There
Logistics: Creating the Event
Food and Beverage
Registration: Location and Staff
Photographers, Florists, and Decorations
Chapter 12: Business Proposals
Chapter 13: Logistics
(What to Do When the Call Comes In)
Chapter 14: Service Vendors and Commissions
Interviews and Contracts
Where Do I Find Service Vendors?
List of Service Vendors
How Do I Get Commissions from Vendors?
Chapter 15: Errand Service
Setting Up Your Errand Service
Should I Hire Independent Contractors or Employees?
Finding Errand Runners/Personal Shoppers
Accepting Credit Cards and E-commerce
Chapter 16: Staff
The Hiring Process
Chapter 17: Sales and Marketing
Know Your Business
Manners and Etiquette
Sales Techniques and Tips
Your Marketing Plan
The Six-Step Marketing Plan
Thirty-six Ways to Market Your Business
The Ten P’s of Success
Chapter 18: Customer Service Can Make or Break Your Business
A Few Customer Service Tips
The Customer’s Basic Needs
Chapter 19: The Media and Press Releases
Chapter 20: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
Chapter 21: Half-Empty or Half-Full? It’s Up to You!
Chapter 22: Helpful Information
Appendix: Sample Forms and Applications
Sample Employment Application
Sample Client Application
Sample Vendor Application
Sample Vendor Proposal
Sample Driver Trip Sheet
Sample Errand Order Sheet
Sample Errand Order Sheet
Sample Daily Dry Cleaning Trip Sheet
Before You Leave Home Checklist
Sample Services Questionnaire
Sample Services Questionnaire
Sample Concierge Job Descriptions
Sample Concierge Job Descriptions
Sample Concierge Company Employee Handbook
Sample Performance Evaluation
Example of a Concierge Service Business Plan
About the Author and Contributing Author
Katharine C. Giovanni, CCS
Ron Giovanni, CCS, Consultant, Publisher
What Exactly Is a Concierge?
What exactly is a concierge? It really depends on who you ask. Entrepreneur magazine’s Concierge Start-up Guide gives the following definition. It’s really the best one I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of them!
“Although more and more people are becoming familiar with the term ‘concierge,’ very few know where this customer service based profession originated. The word ‘concierge’ evolves from the French comte des cierges, the ‘keeper of the candler,’ a term that referred to the servant who attended to the whims of visiting noblemen at medieval castles. Eventually, the name ‘concierge’ came to stand for keeper of the keys at public buildings, especially hotels. There is even a famous prison in Paris that is called The Conciergerie, in honor of the warden who kept the keys and assigned cells to the inmates.”
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary offers this definition: 1: a resident in an apartment building especially in France who serves as doorkeeper, landlord’s representative, and janitor. 2: a usually multilingual hotel staff member who handles luggage and mail, makes reservations, and arranges tours.
Lastly, a client of mine from Mexico tells me that in his country, the word “concierge” means janitor!
Regardless of the origin, hotels around the world were the first ones to adopt the concierge idea and offer the service to their guests. Today, independent concierge companies have brought this ancient service to the modern world so that now everyone has access to concierges.
So what exactly is a concierge? I think the short version here is that it is simply another word for personal assistant. The independent concierge business is growing by leaps and bounds, and concierge companies are literally popping up all over corporate America. Concierge services have been available for some time but were historically only found in hotel lobbies. Recently, however, these services have begun to emerge in the corporate world.
The independent concierge industry itself is only about twenty to twenty-five years old and started with a few brave pioneers who took the hotel concierge idea and decided to offer it to the corporate world. I have been in the field since 1998, and when I started, there were perhaps two dozen or so concierge services around the United States. Today, I suspect there are thousands. I have nothing to base these numbers on except my personal experience in the field. You can actually see the phenomenal growth by looking at my company’s numbers. Triangle Concierge began in 1998 with a dozen clients. Today, we have thousands of clients from more than fifty countries and every U.S. state.
You can now find concierge services everywhere—in hospitals, malls, corporations, apartment buildings, office buildings, airports, colleges, associations, churches, and on and on. You could sum up the state of the industry in two words: extraordinary growth.
We all do a balancing act every day, and since most of us don’t have a personal assistant to make the phone calls and run the errands for us, we try to cram them into the weekend and on our lunch hour during the week. In fact, many people feel that there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done. Right?
Well, help has arrived!
Although the concierge industry is fairly new, the number of companies that are catering to time-starved people is skyrocketing as is the customer demand for such businesses. Why? Simple. People are
trying to squeeze thirty-six hours into a twenty-four-hour day, and when you do that, you don’t do it well. If you continue to go at this pace on a regular basis, then eventually your body will resent it and you’ll get sick. Concierges are here to give you your health back. They’re here to do what has to be done and give you the extra hours that you have been craving, so that you can do what you like—whether it’s spending more time with your children or squeezing in a few extra hours at work.
Companies around the world are also getting into the act. They are not only starting to use corporate concierges, but they are making them a part of their corporate benefit packages. Companies are reasoning correctly that the less time people spend running personal errands during the workday, the more time they can spend focused on their work, which increases productivity, and focused on their personal lives in their off hours, which boosts morale.
We all have to do that balancing act every day, and although everyone’s schedule is different, it may go something like this: Once you get breakfast on the table and pack the children off to school, you rush off
to work only to get slammed by rush-hour traffic. At lunch, you make some personal telephone calls, check your e-mail, run to the drug store or dry cleaners, and quickly buy your son a new book bag for school. Then you grab a fast-food sandwich on the way back to work. Sound familiar yet?
After work, you pick up the kids; take them to their various after school activities; make appointments at the doctor, dentist, and vet; and cook dinner. Then you make more telephone calls, set up a golf tee time for next weekend because your father-in-law is coming, and deliver groceries and a prescription to your elderly mother’s house. You then put her groceries away, tidy up her house, feed the cat, walk the dog, and make her a quick meal.
Tired yet? Wouldn’t it be great to have a personal assistant who could do this stuff for you? Someone efficient, reliable, and affordable? Most people, unfortunately, do not have their own assistants, so they try to cram these little errands into their after-work hours and already busy weekends. More often than not, however, these chores creep into regular work time. After all, most people who you need to do business with do business during regular work hours, right? In fact, sometimes it just seems like there are not enough hours in the day. We are simply exhausted from the increasing demands placed on us at work and by the daily commute, so at the end of the day, we drag ourselves home to give only sleepy-eyed attention to our families.
According to a study of the U.S. workforce released by the Families and Work Institute in the late 1990s (statistics found online at www.entrepreneurmag.com):
- The average worker spends forty-four hours per week on the job.
- Thirty-six percent of workers say they often feel completely used up at the end of the workday.
- Eighty-five percent of workers go home to daily family responsibilities.
- Seventy-eight percent of married workers have spouses who are also employed.
- Weekends are consumed by errands and housekeeping.
- Seventy percent of all parents feel that they don’t spend enough time with their children.
Downtime? What’s that? No one has the time for it anymore.
When looking at these statistics, it is easy to see why time has become the commodity of the century and will be even more so in the decades to come. The popularity of concierge services stems from the fact that people are stressed out, overworked, and need help dealing with life so they can spend their free time nurturing themselves and their families. As good workers become harder to find, businesses are offering concierge services as perks to keep valuable employees happy and productive.
Recently, I e-mailed my good friend Jackie Farley, professor of women’s studies at the University of Oklahoma as well as CEO and founder of Wise Women Incorporated. I asked her if she has noticed any new trends in the concierge industry. Her answer confirms what I’ve been seeing for a few years now:
As for the trends, I’ve been doing a good deal of research while formulating my Intergenerational Workplace workshops and have found the concept of concierge services and work/life balance issues to be quite prevalent when discussing expectations in the workplace, especially in relationship to Generations X and Y. Linda Gravett, PhD, SPHR, and Robin Throckmorton,MA, SPHR, wrote the book, Bridging the Generation Gap,published in 2007. Between 2000–2004, they interviewed five hundred individuals from four generations, and it is interesting to note that their research indicates that both Gen X and Gen Y will expect work/life balance issues to not only be addressed but implemented. Among the priorities for these two generations are concierge services. Gravett and Throckmorton believe that in order for businesses to attract and retain the best and brightest of these workers, they will need to provide concierge services (chapter 7).
Again, in chapter 9, Gravett and Throckmorton address the changing workplace in relationship to Gen Y by saying that businesses must “continue with concierge services but make certain to ask this group what type of services they want or need” because they may be different than what Gen X expects. I think it is important to realize that work/life balance is discussed in this book in relationship to the changing of the guard of generations. There are multiple discussions—eight mentions according to the index—on the importance of work/life balance, which is one more than the discussion on technology. Almost every serious publication examining generations recognizes the growing importance of work/life balance, and concierge services are a natural and often noted part of the process by which businesses will achieve their goals.
I don’t think there is any doubt that there are multiple opportunities in hospitals, private healthcare assistance, urban living, collegiate services, personal assistant, corporate, business errands, real estate, travel industry, luxury, and seniors.
As Farley clearly points out, work/life balance and concierge services are not just new trends that will disappear in a few years. They’re trends that are clearly here to stay. Working Mother Magazine published a list of the top 100 companies to work for, and they all seem to have one thing in common: they all offer work/life benefits to their employees. Companies are finally focusing on the fact that people cannot do it all; they need help. Consequently, companies are adding work/life benefits such as day-care centers, job sharing, dry cleaning pick-up/delivery, leave for new parents, and telecommuting (allowing employees to work from home). Some companies are even adding on-site company chefs who will cook dinner for you to take home at the end of the day! Others are developing programs to help you care for your elderly parents, and, of course, concierge services are being added as part of corporate benefits packages.
The work/life idea is taking off like a brush fire and is reaching almost every corner of the United States. When we started in 1998, there were only a handful of concierge companies around the nation. Today, with work/life programs becoming increasingly popular, there are probably thousands of concierge companies, with more popping up every day. In-house (or corporate) concierges are also appearing, as are on-site (or lobby) concierges.
People are embracing concierge services because they give individuals more time to spend both at their desks and with their families at night. It is the classic win-win situation. In addition, real estate management companies are offering on-site/lobby concierge services to their tenants to add value to their properties and increase their marketability.
These “lobby” concierge companies are placing concierge services in office buildings to provide personal and business services to tenants. The concierges offer a host of services that include picking up dry cleaning, managing catered business lunches, procuring theater tickets, ordering dinner, and shopping for clothes. They become the friendly faces that clients see on a daily basis that can help them manage their lives. Personal service is the hallmark of the concierge business.
One question the media always seem to ask me when they call is: Where do you think the concierge industry will be in a few years? Well, I can best answer that question through a little history.
After I graduated from college in 1984 (I’m seriously dating myself here), I found a job working as an administrative assistant to a meeting planner. After a few months, I discovered that not only did I enjoy
the work, but I had an aptitude for it. In those days, however, there were no books on meeting planning or courses you could take to learn meeting planning. You just learned it from the bottom up while in the field. Not many people knew what a meeting planner was back then, and certainly no one was teaching the subject in college.
Today, meetings are a billion-dollar industry. Colleges are offering majors in meeting planning, seminars are being taught around the world on the topic, associations have been created for meeting planners, and hundreds of books have been written on the subject.
The independent concierge industry is going to go the same way as the meeting industry; it just isn’t going to take fifteen years to do it. It’s already a billion-dollar industry as I sit here writing this. Quite soon, I think you are going to see colleges and universities offering concierge courses. The industry already has books, software, conferences, workshops, business opportunities, franchises, and associations (such as ICLMA) dedicated to the industry.
Soon, most companies around the nation will provide concierge services as part of a benefits package. It will be standard for apartment buildings and businesses to offer concierge services to tenants and businesses, and everyone will not only have access to a service near them, but they will be able to afford it. Most of all, they will also be able to finally spell and pronounce the word “concierge.”
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