Cristina, assistant to millionaires: “We don’t judge what they ask of us. As long as it is legal and moral, we will do our best to resolve it”
Read this interesting interview with Cristina Martí about Alberta La Grup and The Lifestyle Institute at NIUS DIARIO!
· These professionals are dedicated to assisting “high net worth individuals” to ensure that they don’t need to worry about anything
· There services fall under at least 300 categories which are provided according to the clients’ needs
· They estimate taking care of around 5,600 tasks per family each year.
Their job is to always be one step ahead and to help their clients avoid worrying about trivial tasks such as buying birthday presents, sorting out boxes after a house move or looking for cleaning staff. They are know as personal assistants or, as they like to refer to themselves, personal angels as they consider themselves to be guardian angels for those whose lives they make easier.
Certainly, some of the tasks they have to take care of are challenges that would seemingly require some help from above, although they take care of them without batting an eyelid: picking up a forgotten teddy bear from a villa in the middle of the mountains, convincing the Little Mermaid herself to appear in the private pool at the birthday party of a little American girl in Spain, or taking a specific brand of bottled water from Geneva to Kazakhstan for clients who only like to drink that particular brand.
Cristina Martí (42) is one of them main protagonists when it comes to these achievements. She has been working as a personal assistant for high net worth clients for the last ten years and she talks about these challenges (that she faces on a daily basis) as though they were totally natural. As she explains, it is her job: the client makes their requests and she (and her team) make them happen.
For example, when she travelled to New York to decorate a hotel room for Halloween to surprise the family’s children, or when she had to pick up a car in Rome and drive it to Geneva so that the top executive she was assisting could arrive on time to his meeting without having to worry about his sports car. Of course, Cristina delivered it looking spotless and with a full tank of petrol.
These are the kinds of requests that arrive to Alberta La Grup Lifestyle Business, SL, the agency in which she works and where they carry out services in at least 300 categories such as home and family, care for the elderly, shopping, travel, family activities or taking care of properties.
The client chooses what kind of service and the amount of hours they want to contract and from there, the magic starts to happen. It could be anything from doing the shopping to what is called a ‘soft landing’ (one of the most requested services) which is simply helping with the ‘landing’ of someone who is getting set up in a new country.
“That was one of my first jobs and I remember it fondly. A client was moving to Spain and they hired us to handle to move. She needed to travel for a month in Europe so we got the house ready, we put away the clothes in the way she liked, and we filled the fridge with her favourite food. We got everything ready: the garden had been taken care of, her pet was at home, the housekeeping staff were hired, her children had a school ready. When she arrived, she found a home that was ready to be lived in”, she explains.
It’s the work of a fairy godmother that she has taken care of many times since she started. “We take care of everything, so that when they move that don’t miss their home country. We try to make sure that their arrival is not traumatic.”
That’s why among their clients (of whom they won’t give us any details) there are footballers who have recently moved from other countries, executives without much time on their hands and other people who prefer to pay and free themselves of their worries.
“The first thing we do is send them a survey that allows us to get to know them better. This way we know what their needs are, whether it will be just for that person or for the whole family, how many hours they need, what they are like and what their tastes and preferences are.”
Question: And from that point on do you offer personalized services?
A: We become their circle of trust, without being their friends. Everything they ask of us, we take care of it. We show them hairdressers, schools that meet the criteria they are looking for, we help the to do all the paperwork for the school, we find them a gym or a personal trainer. We also remind them when they have a doctor’s appointment or when their kids have extra-curricular activities. That’s why a lot of what we do involves anticipating their needs.
Question: So in addition to what they request, do you propose things too?
A: For example, we know when their partner’s birthday is so we can suggest that they go for dinner to a certain restaurant and we will have informed the restaurant beforehand so that they are aware and can put flowers on the table or take care of any special requests. Or perhaps the client has let us know that they love F1 and the Red Bull team so we might suggest that they go to the Red Bull paddock in Miami and we can take care of organizing the trip if they want us to.
Question: Are you available 24 hours?
Answer: There are many different situations: some clients only need assistance until 6pm, whereas others contract our services for 24h. That’s why we work as a team – this way, we know that they will never be without the assistance they need.
It’s very important that there is always someone available. A client may call to tell us that they have forgotten their medication and that they are travelling and therefore we would need to get on a plane and “take it to Dubai”. Or maybe the pipes in their mountain home burst in the middle of the night and we need to “put the family up in a hotel and 3am” and take care of resolving the issue with the insurance.
Question: Have you ever rejected any requests?
A: We are not here to judge what they request, as long as it is legal and moral we will do our best to resolve it. It’s a challenge for the team. A while ago, a client told us that their daughter was very sad because in the U.S. she had been a friend of the Little Mermaid who she had met at a birthday party and to whom she wrote letters. When she came to live in Spain, that relationship became complicated, so we looked for a Spanish Little Mermaid. We organized a pool party and the little girl found the new Little Mermaid their. The client and their daughter were delighted.
Q: It sounds like things never get boring!
A: Not everything is so exciting. We also deal with more simple requests. We take care of paying fines, sending a taxi with a phone charger when the client forgets it, taking the children to their basketball practice or helping to organize a dinner with friends. But of course, we do have very exciting requests. Right now we are taking care of a trip to Disney for a family and not only do we need to take care of flights, arrival, accommodation, etc. The planning starts before all this: who will take care of the house, the pets, the garden, who to call in case the alarm goes off, who will take them to the airport, etc.
Q: Have you ever failed to resolve a request?
A: We try our best not to. We have a great deal of the work already done and we take good care of our relationships with suppliers. If the client needs a reservation in an exclusive restaurant, the staff there already know who we are. If they urgently need their suit dry-cleaned, we already know where to take it. When we don’t find what they need, we can adapt. It could be a case in which the client likes their household staff, but they don’t know how to cook what they want or they don’t know how to iron their shirt the way they like it, in this case we would show them how.
Q: Have you ever rejected a client for being rude or inappropriate?
A: Our clients know who we are and we understand them well. If some of them don’t ask for things in a polite way, we know that it’s nothing personal and we always work in a professional manner, unless it was somebody who was constantly disrespectful. We have said ‘no’ to many people.
Q: What are the requirements to become a personal assistant?
A: We once got together to count them and there were 137 skills that were required as an assistant, but basically we can summarize it as showing willing or excitement to do this job because it is a vocation, and a demanding one at that. Furthermore, you need to have professional ethics, good time management skills, know how to handle your emotions, politeness, languages, know how and be multi-talented. One day you might be organizing a top itinerary, and the next running to pick up a bag from the gym.
It is a job that, according to what Lourdes Carbó, the CEO of the agency in Barcelona told NIUS, is very well compensated. “We take in at least 60,000 euros a year, but it all depends on the family we are working with”, she says. What is certain is that it is well earned. According to their calculations, throughout the year they carry out on average 5,600 tasks per family.