How a concierge service can help you at home — and at work Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2010
Carolyn J. Harbert, president, OHMISS Concierge Carolyn J. Harbert, president, OHMISS Concierge

For most of the country we are headed in to the time labeled the lazy, hazy days of summer. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

Perhaps you're planning a little get-away time, just get a break from the every day routine. A change of scenery can, quite frankly, do us all some good. We can clear out our brains from the everyday work load. We can come back to the workplace rejuvenated and refreshed.

However, the most difficult part of the get-away these days is being able to put the computer away. With all of our new electronics, we can change the lights in our home while we are away, and we can constantly check our voicemail and our e-mail. Are you really brave enough to be disconnected for a few days?

Smart Business spoke with Carolyn J. Harbert, the president of OHMISS Concierge, about disconnecting from the grind and how a concierge service can help you manage your personal life while you're away and your business life when you're back at work.

Peace of mind

One of the services that most concierge services can provide is a feeling of security or peace of mind while you are away. Whether you prefer to have house sitter or someone who just stops by every couple of days, it's always a good idea to have someone keeping an eye on your home. I can not tell you how many people I have known that have been called while away on holiday about a water heater that failed or a dishwasher that had a pipe break or an ice maker that sprung a leak — all of which can flood your home. That is not what you want to deal with when you return. Because of this, it's a good idea to have a trusted concierge service on your side.

But, concierge services can offer so much more. This is the time of year when corporate strategic planning and budgeting is under review. In my time in the corporate world, this was one of the most dreaded parts of the year. You had to review where you stood with the current budget, project out the remaining quarter, and then go forward to the coming year. If we had not used our budget allotment to date, we needed to do something to justify the difference. It was the use it or lose it game. We didn’t want to lose it so we had to figure out how to use it. Then came employee benefits, and with health insurance, 401(k)s and paid vacation days, it is a handful. Add to the equation personal or sick days, and your budget can definitely be thrown out of alignment.

As a concierge service, we are seeing more companies offer their employees the use of our services as part of the cafeteria style of benefits. In our larger organizations and buildings, we are seeing the benefits of having what one would call a lobby concierge. These are people that can help the employees with travel arrangements, restaurant reservations and theatre tickets, and also assist with preferred vendors so that the employee is not spending his or her time on the clock doing personal tasks. A concierge service can also assist with the needs of a newly relocated employee or executive, helping him or her get situated in a new town. A concierge service can provide a person to take care of errands or wait for the deliveries and installations at the new residence. A good concierge service will also have, either on staff or as a vendor, someone to pick up and drop off dry cleaning, for instance. I don’t know about your family, but in mine there have been several times where the road must have changed from time of drop off to the time of pick up. Wouldn’t if be nice not to have that discussion?

A helping hand

In this time of what seems to be constant upheaval in the job sector, employees are feeling stressed out and pushed to their limit with layoffs and additional duties thrown their way. Wages are not going up. Companies are being tested to come up with the best benefits for the best price. If they

could afford even a small raise for employees, how long will the employees remember it? Six months from now it is just part of the paycheck or, worse, it elevated the employee to a higher tax bracket. Thanks a lot, boss. However, if you provide the employees an opportunity to have some of their everyday chores taken off their plate, that is something that they will remember. It will also allow them to be more focused on company time.

If you have a sales team that travels most of the time or an employee that is on a special assignment for weeks at a time, one of the nicest things you could do for that employee is have him or her come home to a clean house, with staples in the refrigerator, a freshly-made bed and the dry cleaning hung in the closet. Trust me, it will be money well spent.

As an executive, having a person that can assist you with personal shopping and keeping a record of birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, along with what gifts were purchased for whom and when, is one less headache. That person gets to know you and your style, while allowing you to reap the credit for a job well done. They can also assist your executive assistant so that person can concentrate on the items that need greater attention. After all, a concierge today is not the same as it was even just 20 years ago when most of the time you only saw them in a more lavish hotel setting. Today’s concierge service is your extra pair of hands, feet, eyes and ears. They can be a valuable asset to the company. The return on investment will be seen in the attitude of the work force from the bottom up. Wouldn’t it be great if your employees came to work on Monday saying: “Isn’t it great that it's Monday?”

Carolyn J. Harbert is the president of OHMISS Concierge. Reach her at (813) 636-9700 or