Giving The Gift Of Time
Plan a surprise birthday party. Arrange travel, accommodation and furniture storage. Find and furnish a new home.
When these unusual client requests first landed on Mandi Ford’s table a few years ago, she could have easily turned them down. Her business, after all, revolved around project management and strategy, not concierge services. Instead, she obliged.
Mandi and her team soon found themselves cheerfully playing the role of unofficial concierge to their clients, and before long the initial trickle of requests grew into a deluge.
“We would go to a project meeting and find ourselves walking out with all these personal requests!” she recalled. “Our clients are incredibly busy people who need our support with their business and personal to-do lists. They are all trying to find some form of work-life balance. We thoroughly enjoyed taking on whatever tasks that were causing them distress and giving them a gift of time.”
Mandi very quickly saw that a formal concierge service was exactly what her clients craved and launched Essential Solutions Lifestyle Concierge Services three years ago. The range of its lifestyle management services span the areas of health and fitness, entertainment, travel and even shopping. But the real beauty of her second business, Mandi pointed out, is that its membership caters to diverse personal and professional backgrounds.
woman with drive spoke to Mandi about her biggest business challenge, how she practises work-life balance and the one question she would ask Australian cookbook author, Donna Hay.
What is the biggest challenge of running a business that focuses on custom-designed solutions and how did you tackle it?
Developing and maintaining a close relationship with our members in order to understand their changing needs and offer them the right level of support. Our Lifestyle Managers meet each week to discuss the tasks they have executed or will be executing, share new services requests and discuss new products and services.
What was your favourite Aha moment in the business?
A true Aha moment is when a member tells you it is the best thing they have done for themselves. One recently said that before her membership with us, her house was just a place where she lived. After we helped with the landscaping, renovations, interior styling and home-delivered meals, she says her house is now a home and sanctuary. This was such a heart-warming moment and reaffirmed our role in bringing positive change to people’s lives.
Which unexpected aspect of the business demands a significant amount of your time and effort?
Researching topics for our upcoming blog articles. This is a crucial method of communication with our members.
How do you practice work-life balance in your own life?
Achieving work-life balance is always tricky when you own and run two businesses. The passion I have for the business makes turning off somewhat of a challenge because I find exploring, researching and reading about new products and services very inspirational. But this year I have committed to fitting my workday around daily exercise so I consult my diary and outsource certain tasks like purchasing gifts, arranging business travel, hiring a cleaner or making personal medical appointments. What better way to measure our deliverables then to use our own team to help me achieve work-life balance!
What are your top three rules for exceptional customer service?
Always treat a customer as you would like to be treated, give a 150 percent commitment to delivering on each business request and above all, partner with the best suppliers that represent your own service delivery model.
What blogs do you read on a daily basis?
I am currently enjoying Women’s Agenda, Goop, Huffington Post and Expert 360.
How do you take time out for yourself?
I enjoy two to three weekly Pilates classes which rebalances my body and gives me 45 minutes to shut off from the world.
You mentioned in a previous interview that you have deep admiration for Donna Hay. What is the one question you would ask her?
What were your initial goals when you left marie claire and did you ever think you would become a household name?
How would you spend any extra time you have? Tell us in the comment section below!
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