Welcome to Portico Inc.'s library. It contains many articles published over the years on subjects that will be of interest to Private Service Professionals and the Families who employ them. Happy reading!
Like many of us, I have been doing a lot of reading, listening to podcasts and television binge-watching in order to occupy myself through the tedium of isolation and to escape the steady onslaught of unfathomable news. All that escapism might provide some needed mental health salve, but there is no escaping the multi-vector impact of COVID-19 on our lives, the lives of our families, loved ones and our livelihoods.
Like it or not, around the globe, business owners and workforces have been thrown into unpredictable and uncertain times. We have not experienced anything like COVID-19 in our life times. We are not in control. And yet, I would suggest that we can assert some measure of control. However, that last bit is for a follow-up article.
We were there. We are now here. But where exactly is here? And once we get past “here,” what is “there” going to look and feel like. Yet another unknown and further uncertainty. Are you still with me?
These are the questions this article addresses as it focuses on the recruiting industry with a particular focus on the sector that services the demand for private service staff for high and ultra-high-net-worth households.
Looking for a private staffing job is about setting yourself apart from the field. That is a cliché and this article is about clichés and avoiding them. So, oops. It’s a competitive labour market out there and the objective is always differentiation.
A sure way to fail in setting yourself apart from competitors is by using cliché words and expressions. You can bank that countless other people being interviewed are either using precisely the same, over-used language or an approximation thereof.
Why join the herd?
"Occasionally, a story begins with its ending.
This story ends with an emphatic 'Oui!'
The question that prompted the response? “When you look back on your career, would you still make the choice to become a private chef?”
So, you have the question and its answer, but that is not what this story is about. This story is about the journey that brought a very talented and accomplished man (someone who likely could have succeeded in life at anything he set his mind to) to such a decisive answer.
Recently I had the honour of meeting that man. We will call him “N” since he works in a world ruled by discretion. The meeting had been planned for many months, but our professional commitments kept preventing it from taking place. In life some things are worth the wait. This is one such instance.
"We all have them and we have all experienced problems with them.
Of course, I am speaking about zippers... To what else would I be referring?!
There is nothing worse than being stuck in a garment with a zipper that simply will not budge. It's a terrible feeling and causes, at least in me, feelings of claustrophobia..."
I’m a recruiter. In my business terminology matters. Incorrect terminology can lead me down a faulty path as I look to fill positions. Correct terminology provides me with a road map to help my clients achieve their goals.
The recruitment issues aside, I also think that clarifying the difference between a Private and Personal Chef is important for the individuals in the field. Knowing who you are, what you do, and how to categorize yourself provides tremendous marketing and branding advantages. One never wants to leave a potential client scratching their head wondering “what is it again that this person does and what do they want?” If that’s the result after an interview or meeting, it should be categorized as a “FAIL.”
I am sure at some point, somewhere, each of us have been told “Don’t pick up a hitchhiker!”
There are times, however, that hitchhikers choose to pick us up. Those are the ones to be on guard against.
Am I being cryptic enough yet?
Well, let me get to the point of this article…
Fabric-attacking moths are notorious hitchhikers. Having them is not a reflection of shoddy housekeeping, so never feel ashamed if you have an infestation. Denial will only cost you lots of money. It’s just a costly fact that webbing and case-making clothes moths will often find us. That’s right, they find us. And they find us because we have things that they want – everything from woollens to silks to natural fur… They LOVE that stuff and they want it. And when they get it, you will be left with an unwearable garment, and a figurative (and possibly literal) hole in your pocket. And here’s another fact… Moths don’t read clothing labels. It could be a garment worth $50 or something worth $10,000, if they want it, they will get it.
During an interview, always be yourself. Don’t try to be some other person. Don’t try to be the cutout figure you imagine your interviewer wants you to be. Don’t gaze into a crystal ball in order to cobble together a preconceived idea of the “perfect candidate.”
Simply breathe, prepare yourself, and be yourself. Be your best self, but always be yourself.
Okay, so "high-octane nannies" might be a thing for some - at least according to this article in The Telegraph.
Some families might be demanding that their nannies have Masters in Child Psychology, oh and be military-trained martial arts experts too (can't forget that). They might be willing to pay a whole lot of money for that thing called "perfection," which is akin to looking for unicorns. While I'm on the subject (because it's a bugaboo for me), there is no such thing as "perfection" people. We are all human. We all have flaws. As such, we have our strengths and weaknesses. It really always comes down to a matter of family's choosing the strengths they want and the weaknesses they can live with. That is the bottom-line when hiring staff or choosing a home mortgage.
It’s hot out there! You don’t need the sleuth tactics of Sherlock Holmes to figure that one out. With that heat comes sweating & that’s actually a good thing. It’s our body’s way of cooling us down & keeping us safe from over-heating.
Unfortunately, perspiration causes other problems. It can stain our clothes - particularly our whites can be yellowed by excessive perspiration. The sweat-stain dynamic is, in part, caused by bacteria & waste products that build up in our bodies & get secreted as chloride, phosphate, ammonia, & lactic acid to name just a few “ugh” things.
Let’s face it… Not all Recruiters are created equally. Candidates know it. Clients know it. And, yes, Recruiters know it too.
One of the key differentiators between Recruiters are some are Contingency-based, while others are Retainer-based. Each model comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Either model will appeal to Clients and Candidates for different reasons. Both models can boast Recruiters who are good at what they do. And neither model has a monopoly on bad Recruiters.
So what are the differences between Contingency and Retained Recruiters?
"A recent poll of 2,677 individual (including Employees and their HR Managers) conducted by a Human Resources consulting firm out of San Francisco revealed that 98% of the participants thought annual performance reviews were unnecessary. Putting aside that dubious 98% figure – the sort of figure one finds in “elections” held in dictatorships – there is a trend towards deleting performance reviews from the corporate world.
This article will argue against that trend in favour of performance reviews that are not generic and, instead, are tailored to the position, work culture, and events that might have occurred affecting work performance. In other words, performance reviews that are conducted with sensitivity and relevance."
"We clean for all kinds of reasons that include good hygiene, germ control, organization, aesthetic detailing of rooms, and so on. Occasionally, however, we need to clean for reasons of safety. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, it is estimated that there are 15,000 home fires annually in the US caused by improperly maintained clothing dryers. It’s a staggering statistic, because so many of those fires could have been prevented."
"There are words that have the ability to evoke images and sounds. The name Natasha is such a word. That final syllable – that “shah” sound – is a gentle breeze filling the sails of a sea-faring vessel. “Shaaaahhh…” and I can visualize the sailcloth filling with the warm, salty air of the Mediterranean. I hear the sound, and, in my mind’s eye, I watch the sails, and I feel the movement of the vessel as it takes me from one exotic destination to another..."
"I am often asked by individuals with varying professional and educational backgrounds for suggestions on ways to “break in to” the Private Service field. Specifically, I am most frequently asked for ideas on how one might become a Household Manager.
It is a good question with no straight-forward answer. How does one get a start in such a highly-niche field? The pathway to becoming a Household Manager is not the same as that for a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant. It is an unusual position with different traditions depending on where you happen to live. It is also a position that can be highly rewarding, financially and otherwise. That people are interested in the field, should not come as a surprise."
"I am a Recruiter. I prefer to think of myself as someone who places good people in good jobs with good families, but that’s an awful lot of words and, while it might capture what I do, I also know that I run the risk of losing my audience whenever I utter them. So I’m a Recruiter. It’s what I do..."
"The ancient Babylonians made them 4,000 years ago. The Romans began their tradition around 46 B.C. with promises of good conduct for the year to come. The Christian tradition is thought to have started in 1740 with the “Covenant Renewal Service,” which was created by the English founder of Methodism, John Wesley..."
"Salary negotiation in Private Service is always a bit of a dance. And in that dance, you don’t want to step on the toes of your dance partner. The intent of this article is to identify some best practices and strategies to assist individuals avoid stomping on toes. Some people need guidance, while others have negotiation skills worthy of a United Nations diplomat. This article is addressed to the former group."
"It always amazes me when I encounter intelligent individuals who make the mistake of assuming they have a job “in the bag,” proceed to resign from an existing position, and then discover that what was “in the bag” was one big puff of smoke that dissipates before their eyes. For 20 years I have heard story after story of credulous individuals who thought that a verbal offer carries the same weight as a written offer. Don’t get me wrong… I understand that regardless of whether an offer is written or verbal, it is in fact a legal contract..."
"Canada was not always a wealthy nation. Voltaire famously dismissed Canada in Chapter 23 of “Candide” as a worthless place and a sad matter of “a few acres of snow.” In Voltaire’s opinion, France would be better served focusing on its colonies in the Caribbean. Leave Canada to the snow and ice was his counsel..."
"I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I have heard the words 'a good Domestic Couple is difficult to find.' In the Domestic Staff Placement world, the sentence is something of a truism. So, why is that?"
"It is not unusual to be nervous prior to an interview. Practice does make perfect, but, let’s face it, we do not want to spend the rest of our lives in interviews trying to perfect our skills in that area. If we are always interviewing, it goes without saying that we also are not working. Obviously, this is not the desired outcome of an interview."
"I am always amazed by the casual manner in which Live-In Employment arrangements are treated by both Employee and Employer. Setting aside for a moment practical matters like what is being offered in the form of accommodation and standard operating policies like are visitors permitted, few people recognize the legal issues that surround so many aspects of Live-In Agreements."
"I am forever coming across posts on LinkedIn and elsewhere about how horrible Recruiters are. The list of “crimes” is a long one. Recruiters, we are told, are rude and disrespectful. They are dishonest and rarely share interview feedback with Candidates. They only call Candidates when they need something. They do not return calls. They hide important details about a position. They pretend a household is a happy environment when it actually is a revolving door of used employees. Gosh, the list could go on, and then on some more..."
You've Sourced The Perfect Domestic Team: Now, How Do You Keep Them? (published in Estate and Manor Magazine)
"So you have assembled the team of your dreams. It took time, money and patience to source the calibre of Employee that other Employers dream of. What is more, you have trained your staff collective to the specific standards of your household. Your domestic staff is trustworthy, reliable and bring a standard of professionalism to your household. You can now sit back and enjoy the benefits of your hard labour, except…"
"I always tell people that I start my relationships with Trust. I tell them to think of Trust as residing in a kind of Vault… Let’s call it a 'Vault of Goodwill.' Like any Vault, individuals can make deposits or withdrawals..."
"Some people think Cover Letters are going the way of the Dodo. These days most people rely on a short, poorly-written email introduction for a resumé or a few words on a job application web portal. Both are poor reflections, in my opinion, on the person seeking work..."
"Writing a resumé can be an intimidating task for many of us. The objective of this article is to minimize the intimidation factor and assist people to start the process of putting pen to paper..."
Best Practices for Working With Recruiters (published in Estate and Manor Magazine)
"For most people looking for employment, it is absolutely one of the more stressful experiences life can throw at us. Some individuals are pros at finding work. They know exactly how to prepare a resumé and cover letter. They know precisely the kind of tone they should adopt during an interview. They are experts at negotiating a job offer. Best of all, some have amazing networks they have cultivated over the years that they can call on to help them find that perfect job..."
The Honourable House Manager: An Interview (published in Estate and Manor Magazine)
"I recall when I first spoke with 'Sam.' [I am using a pseudonym for the purposes of discretion and maintaining the privacy of the individuals involved in 'Sam’s' story] At the time, over 12 years ago, I was working for my previous employer and interviewing House Managers for an important client. We were having to dig deep to find qualified candidates. I can say it today, but we were struggling to find that perfect fit..." Read More
Interview With A Caregiver (published in Estate and Manor Magazine)
"I met 'C' about a decade ago. He came to the office I was working in at the time with a charming lady for whom he was caregiving. There are a few things I recall from our meeting. The first is that I was struck by a male working in a field usually thought as intended for women. C was a man providing caregiving for a woman. The dynamic almost invites challenges, questions and obstacles. It is one of the horrible myths of our culture that men are not thought of as caring..."
(published in Estate and Manor Magazine)
"I recall the hopeful era of Household Management technology. There were numerous companies developing all-in-one software intended to resolve all the managerial aches and pains of luxury households. For the individuals tasked with the management of those homes, each software package was touted by marketers as a Holy Grail that would fulfil all of a luxury household’s needs. While some companies were in the midst of developing Household Management Software, others had already gone to market with their versions and were desperately trying to sell their product to curious homeowners..."
Household Staff Meetings: Keeping Them Effective (published in Estate and Manor Magazine)
"The number of homes who hire domestic staff, such as a House Manager, team of housekeepers, a gardener, a private chef, etc. that do not conduct regular staff meetings always amazes me. Yes, yes I know that time is precious and that staff is hard-pressed to get their daily jobs done. I understand that. I also understand that in a busy household there is almost never the right time for a staff meeting..."
Why Become a Household Manager? (published in Estate and Manor Magazine)
"Let’s face it, Private Service is not necessarily on top of every young kid’s list when they are asked by Uncle John what they want to become when they grow up. Sadly, if little John Jr. or little Mary were to answer “I want to be a Household Manager,” Uncle John would probably have a quizzical look on his face. That quizzical look is unfortunate because Household Management is a profession with a long and distinguished pedigree and presents fantastic opportunities for those who pursue it..."
"Who doesn’t want to believe that they are indispensable at work? Putting aside matters of dispensability, hearing words like 'where would I be without you' from your employer is very affirming. It provides a feeling of security and a sense of value..."
"Jobs that are dream-filled, promising a lifetime of happiness are the stuff of fantasy, bubblegum ice cream and pink balloons. They simply do not exist..."
"If there is truth to the saying that there is no such thing as a stupid question, why do so many of us feel the opposite in our jobs and prefer the murk of unknowing to the risk of asking and perhaps being exposed as a fraud? The question prompts two thoughts in me. The first is if you have represented yourself honestly through the hiring process, you should never fear being “exposed as a fraud.” It is the second thought, however, that constitutes the crux of this article..."
"Hiring a new domestic staff member is never an easy thing. There’s the adjustment of the new. There’s that odd feeling of inviting a new face into your home who you will likely see on an almost daily basis. There are the pitfalls of misunderstanding if the hiring process hasn’t been transparent or correctly managed. And then there is that feeling that s/he isn’t “getting it” because they aren’t doing things the way they have always been done in your home. It feels like the new staff member is making mistakes - sometimes one mistake after another. More often than not, these feelings result in throwing of arms into the air and concluding 'it’s not working.'"
"Human beings are an unpredictable lot. There is one area they predictably excel, however, and that is conflict. Place a group of people into a stressful environment and several things will usually occur, one of them being conflict that can range from petty squabbles to physical aggression. As a House Manager, you should expect it to occur, but you will also need tools to manage your way successfully through it..." Read More
"There is a school of thought within the Household Management profession that argues at some point theft by domestic staff will occur. The argument is based on multiple factors that include..."
"Households trying to minimize their reliance on commercial cleaning products that contain all sorts of harmful chemicals is a welcome trend. Featured along with the benefits of baking soda, ph-neutral dish soap, Castile Soap is that good, old, household staple - white vinegar..."
"Last week I wrote about preventive measures employers should take to minimize the potential for theft in their household. This week I am addressing what an employer should do in the event that theft has occurred or there is suspicion thereof. I think this last item is important. Very few employers will have the comfort of certainty when it comes to knowing who stole from them. Usually the culprit(s) are under a miasma of suspicion, which underscores the importance of how an employer approaches the matter..."
"It dawned on me after completing last week’s article on what to do if a staff member has stolen from your household, that someone who does not know me would conclude that I am a cynic where Private Service Professionals (PSPs) are concerned. This thought has been gnawing at me over the last week since it in no way represents how I feel about the profession’s practitioners..."
"A House Manager’s relationships with vendors can be a “make or break” deal in their employment. Getting the best from a vendor is predicated on grasping the nature of the relationship and applying the principles of effective communication at all times. It does not matter if the vendor is a pool company, event planner or florist. It does not matter if the project is small or large. In all cases, there are things that every successful House Manager keeps in mind..."
Positions We Place
Butlers (Household & Corporate)
Corporate Flight Attendants
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