LifeStyles

Staffing Your Estate: Part III

The final installment in our three-part series: party planners, personal trainers, private pilots, yacht captains, dog walkers

Hiring a personal staff for consistent white glove service

The final installment in our three-part series: party planners, personal trainers, private pilots, yacht captains, dog walkers

For any luxury homeowner, keeping up an expansive estate can be an overwhelming task. San Diego Premier’s three-part series will help you build a staff of Private Service Professionals that will keep your estate running effortlessly, whether you are at home or away.

Party Planners

Parties, especially large ones, tend to be more stressful than enjoyable for even the most efficient host. By hiring a party planner to keep track of all the small details, your next event can be a relaxed and enjoyable affair.

Professional party planners, also called event coordinators, are organized professionals who take all of the guess work out of hosting a social gathering. The best party planners have intimate ties to the area’s top florists, caterers, stagers, and entertainment, and can usually work out better rates than a customer without previously established relationships with these retailers.

Hiring a party planner should make the host’s responsibilities less burdensome, not more so. Many party planners have experience in a vast array of events, from small business dinners to large extravagant affairs. If going with a well-rounded event coordinator, choose one whose style you admire. Mary Infantino, Principal Consultant & CEO of Mary Nicole At Work/At Home, notes that many of her new clients come to her through referrals. Recognizing her classy yet fun style at a previously planned event, these new clients already feel confident in Infantino’s party planning prowess.

Some party planners stay within a smaller niche to maximize the benefit to their clients. Wedding planners are a perfect example of a niche in the market of event coordination. Not arguably one of the most important days in a couple’s lives, planning a wedding tends to be more stressful than enjoyable for everyone involved. Relying on a wedding planner, then, can alleviate a lot of the stress and worry of the big day.

For any kind of party, an event coordinator will take on all of the small background burdens so that the host can enjoy their own event. These professionals can field phone calls from caterers and rental companies, set up a photographer’s schedule, queue each event throughout the party such as speech times and cake presentations, as well as trouble-shoot during the actual event.

Choosing a party planner is the first big step in throwing a successful party. Once hired, your coordinator will sit down with you to discuss the look and feel of your event. Whether casual, elegant, simple or over-the-top, the look and feel of your party will set the tone for a myriad of smaller event details.

As many event planners stress, it’s all about “location, location, location.” After determining the look and feel of your party, the second item on your list is to choose a venue. Obviously, the location of your event needs to appropriately fit the look and feel of your party. Infantino, who is a Del Mar-based event coordinator, notes that many estates in North County have beautiful grounds that can provide the perfect fit for an outdoor party. If, however, you are planning a black-tie affair, a ballroom may be a more appropriate setting for your soiree.

Once the event venue is chosen, your party planner can get started on maximizing its potential according to your budget. Infantino notes that a professional party planner can help “paint the picture of how an event will work in the chosen space,” a task not easy for the untrained eye.

Setting a budget for your event planner, your third task, will give them a flexible array of choices when deciding upon the finishing touches for your party. Your party budget should include allowances for food and beverages (priced per guest), entertainment, rental equipment such as tables, chairs and linens, as well as extras such as flowers and favors.

Depending upon the hire, an event coordinator can charge either a flat fee for an event, or charge by the hour. Because each event is customized by the hired event coordinator, his or her fee can range from $1,000 for an intimate party to well over $100,000 for a fully staffed wedding. Therefore, a client should include the event coordinator’s fees into their overall party budget.

Once all of the details are discussed and agreed upon by you and your event planner, you can sit back and relax. Come the day of the event, you can play the gracious host and enjoy your party … while your event coordinator does all of the heavy lifting.

Personal Trainers

Every neighborhood gym staffs a plentitude of personal trainers ready and willing to work out with you, for a fee. Every personal trainer has different expertise, knowledge, and training regimens that can be custom-fit for their clients. Word-of-mouth referrals are not always the best way to search for the perfect personal trainer because everyone’s idea of a good workout is different. So how do you choose someone who is qualified to get you into shape?

Most trainers will boast that they can train anyone at any time, but it is the experience and hours put in with a certain type of cliental that matters the most. Weight loss, strength building, speed and agility training for athletes – clients looking for each of these types of workouts will require very different training programs to achieve the desired results. Charles Johnson, a La Jolla Strength and Conditioning Coach, cautions, “Look for a trainer that has proven experience with training the type of client you are.” For example, if you are an athlete looking to increase your performance, you will need a trainer who has experience working with your specific sport. “Experience – as it relates to hours put in for a specific type of training – is most important,” says Johnson.

Unfortunately in personal training, years of experience do not always equate to the best fit between client and trainer. “You could be a bad trainer and still do it for 20 years!” exclaims Johnson. To safeguard yourself against wasted time and money, always ask to observe a training session of a potential hire. If a trainer is hesitant to show you their workout in action, walk away. Good trainers will know which of their clients won’t mind a shadowed session, and satisfied customers should always be willing to build up their trainer’s clientele.

When watching your potential trainer’s session with another client, you will be able to see them in action. This will allow you to quickly be able to tell if they are the type of trainer that you would be comfortable and confident working with. By doing your research and watching some training sessions with any potential hire, you will ensure a long and healthy relationship with your new workout partner.

Everyone in the fitness field recognizes the importance of proper nutrition to sustain physical health. So many personal trainers are also becoming licensed nutritionists to give their clients a full range of health benefits. However, Johnson warns not to just look for a personal trainer with the most certifications. The resume of your trainer or nutritionist should serve to compliment and strengthen their hands-on experience – still be the most important aspect when choosing whom to hire.

Personal trainers generally charge anywhere from $50-$200/hour, although fees vary drastically depending upon your frequency of workouts, specialized athletic training, nutritional guidance, and group sessions.

Private Pilots

For those fortunate San Diegans who own their own plane or boat, taking to the sea or skies is definitely more convenient. Unfortunately, hiring the wrong pilot or captain for your vessel can turn your next dream trip into a nightmare.

Hiring a personal pilot is an incredibly important decision that can ensure a safe and comfortable trip in your private plane. Since the majority of in-flight accidents are caused by pilot error, hiring the right staff for your airplane is of utmost importance. Many owners choose to staff a two-man crew consisting of a lead pilot and backup pilot. The lead pilot will be responsible for the safety, service, and management of your airplane, and should have the management capabilities befitting his or her position. A lead pilot’s duties can include arranging ground transportation at your destination, organizing in-flight catering, managing the economics of your flight plans, and numerous other business details.

The best private pilots have extensive aviation experience and are calm under pressure. Many retired military pilots choose to enter into the private service arena, and hiring one of these professionals guarantees top notch training. However, many military pilots are surprised to find out how many details go into being a quality business pilot, above and beyond simply flying the plane. The best private pilots understand that they are in a service industry and will work to accommodate the utmost comfort and convenience for their passengers.

When looking for a private pilot, be sure to define strict criteria for your potential hire. Because your pilot will ultimately be responsible for the safety of you and your passengers, set your standards high. Check for things like a four-year degree, an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, more than 10 years experience (5,000+ hours of flying), and more than 500 hours experience flying your type of aircraft. Also look for experience specific to your requested routes – international, oceanic crossings, mountain crossings, etc.

Finding the perfect candidate may be as easy as talking with friends or colleagues who own private planes. Hitting the local airstrip may also prove a positive recruiting experience, but be sure to ask around about any potential hire. Compare a couple of different candidates, always checking their references and talking with their previous employers before finalizing a hire.

Verifying flight records with someone who has intimate industry knowledge is also key as these documents can be easily forged. Finally, hire a check pilot to conduct a practical examination of your potential hire. Because the best pilots will be looking for a satisfying career opportunity, be sure to reward your eventual hire with a positive working environment.

Yacht Captains

San Diego’s relationship with the sea means that many of the city’s residents own luxury yachts. Whether you want to take some friends on a weekend cruise or go on a lengthy adventure out to sea, hiring a yacht captain will ensure that your journey stays in calm waters.

Full-time yacht captains are the CEO of your ship, managing your entire crew while your ship is docked or out to sea. Yacht crews not only navigate and drive your boat, but oftentimes they will provide security for your vessel around the clock. Yacht captains have oftentimes worked their way up the chain of command, and therefore have been around boats for most of their lives. This comes in handy on smaller boats when a captain needs to be a Jack-of-all-trades. He or she will need to work as an engineer, mate, steward and sometimes even chef – a well-rounded crew of one.

On a larger ship, captains will maintain a more managerial and personnel supervisory role. A yacht captain needs to be personable – someone who is able to get along with other members of the crew as well as any company aboard the boat. The captain also needs to be an effective liaison between the ship and the outside world, especially when encountering shipyard personnel and port authorities.

According to ProCAPTAINS, a captain must have intimate knowledge of every aspect of the vessel under his or her command. The captain is truly the head of a ship, and as such is oftentimes in charge of the accounting for a ship’s operating costs. For larger vessels, these costs can exceed $1 million per year.

When hiring a yacht captain, experience at sea is obviously a must. Safety precautions, proper paperwork and logs, and a working knowledge of maritime laws are all a part of a captain’s responsibilities. Emergency management is oftentimes the sole responsibility of the captain, so he or she needs to be prepared in any situation. A yacht captain will also need proper licensing with the U.S. Coast Guard and/or Royal Yachting Association (R.Y.A).

Dog Walkers

It’s “reigning” cats and dogs and all other pets in this country according to the latest statistics from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA). New figures just released from APPMA’s 2005-2006 National Pet Owners Survey (NPOS) show pet ownership is currently at its highest level, with 63 percent of all U.S. households owning a pet, which equates to more than 69 million households.

When staffing your estate it stands to reason that caring for your 4-legged family members is also of the utmost importance. Whether your dog needs a walk, wants to go outside to potty, or needs to be fed and watered, dog walkers have become a must have in the United States. And walking Fido is only the tip of the iceberg of the many services a personal dog walker can provide. With such busy schedules it can be hard to fit in a good run with your pet and dog walkers can run your dog, take them to the park or the beach or play a good game of fetch so your dog remains properly exercised and in prime health. On top of this they can take your pet to their weekly grooming appointment, take them to the vet for their shots, or administer any medications your pet may be on. And best of all professional dog walkers provide the most important service, a hug and cuddle for your pet during the hours that you have to be away from your beloved companion. sdp

By Kelly Cochran

San Diego Premier Vol 16 October 2007

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