Administratively, I never thought of myself as particularly skilled. I was indeed an entrepreneur, and had a very clear vision of what I was to accomplish, but the administrative perspective was way too structured, systematic and maybe boring for my active service heart to ascertain. I remember early on, when organizing a housekeeping company, the idea of keeping books, hiring staff and actually purchasing a computer in 1981 was way over my head. I set up my first corporate bank account using my father’s credit card and cashed in a paid up life insurance policy purchased for me at birth. He co-signed the card so that the bank knew someone would be accountable. After all, I was just a cleaning lady. I kept that card for 25 years, well after he had passed on. Giving it up was a traumatic experience. His name on my credit card forced me to always keep my bills paid. I would have rather died than have the bank call him, suggesting I had failed in the administrative duty of paying bills.
I also remember coming to a place in my business growth where I was completely overwhelmed and simply did not know what to do. I went to my then female banker, and with a tear in my eye, asked a series of questions. She sternly replied, “I am not your business consultant. Go to the business section of a book store and research all that you might want to learn.” She turned and walked out of her office. I felt rebuked, but it was the best advice anyone could have given me.
My first book was on simple accounting. My second book was on basic business practices and hiring. They saved me and Starkey. Administrative skills used to be primarily writing a well-written letter. This has been transformed into writing a well written e-mail. Good Administrative Standards and skills are all about effective communication and organization. It is essential that you have good systems and procedures as platforms for accomplishing many of the tasks that actually hold the container of your business or the Business of Private Service and supporting your Principal’s lifestyle. That will take you, as Household or Estate Manager and all your staff, out of crisis mode!
At Starkey, I have the business of education, the business of placement, the business of publishing, a non-profit that provides scholarships and the business of owning a 13,000-square-foot historic residence. Each business requires a unique set of administrative skills and specific Administrative Standards to uphold. These include: appropriate phone and door answering, computer software for schedules and for collecting database contacts and vendors, procedures for hiring, dismissals and other HR requirements. It also entails health insurance, appropriate interview questions, business etiquette and protocols, identification of risks for insurance and liability, budgets, functional chart of accounts, accountability procedures and timelines for payables and receivables, identification and approximate costs and care of collectibles, profiles of staff and their position descriptions, qualified instructors and support vendors. It’s business, and it’s also the Business of Private Service!
I have made a few 1,000 mistakes over the years. I have quit Starkey twice only to discover when I continued to sign pay checks, my staff kept going. They loved Starkey. I have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to fraudulent activity as I did not always watch closely. My business lawyer informed me several times I was naive and trusted way too much. I paid dearly for this weakness. My biggest administrative lesson, one I learned the hard way among many others, was to “Trust, but always Verify.”
I also have done some things right. I always kept my vision and my intention of helping to create a Private Service Profession. The most important thing I did was to hire enough of the right staff, and in that I have indeed succeeded. Many of them were better than me in a variety of skills, and that’s what you look for. Don’t settle for anyone but the best, which is not always easy.
The business of Private Service will only succeed when you learn to put your service heart aside and be practiced and consistent in performing your administrative duties, and by putting functional service systems into place. Private Service Managers must have approved procedures for your staff and vendors and a good service flow for performing tasks. They must take the time to hire the right staff, provide real and time-oriented position descriptions, Zone and create customized Task Sheets with your Housekeepers and Maintenance staff, develop the weekly Day in the Life for your effective time management, and maintain good communication with your Principal. Always be aware of these most important priorities. They change often.
When systems and functional Administrative Standards are in place, you have the creative time and energy to think outside the box, and be a leader and great problem solver. Administrative Standards placed within your overall Service Management Plan make you a true manager in Private Service.