Household Management

How to master estate management projects

Major projects present an exciting opportunity for estate managers to shine in their roles. See what goes into mastering projects — and how you can level up your skills.

By Kristin Twiford

Every estate manager aspires to take on bigger, more challenging projects.

“Projects are where you get creative, problem solve, learn new things, challenge your mind, and bring the best out of other people,” explains seasoned Estate Manager Shelby Boudreau. “When your principal trusts you to run projects worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, they’re really trusting you.” 

Whether you’re building a home on a 200-acre ranch, renovating a historical house, overhauling lighting or installing a green roof, projects big and small can be an incredible opportunity to grow in your estate management career.

So, how do you stretch beyond everyday household operations and manage projects in a way that helps you — and everyone on your team — shine? Check out the key steps below, and enroll in our new workshop, Mastering Estate Projects, led by Shelby Boudreau.

Defining the vision

To manage major projects, you have to know what your principals want and the intricacies of how they operate. What are your principals’ expectations, what are their plans for the year ahead, and what are their dreams for the future?

“As an estate manager, you are the missing puzzle piece between principals and staff,” Shelby explains.

The success of any project depends on your ability to understand your principal’s vision, and to translate that to a practical plan for staff and contractors.

“Getting it wrong is not acceptable in this industry,” says Shelby, “so you have to make sure you’re clear about what your principals want.”

Starting with strong foundation

Projects are an exciting opportunity for everyone on your team to shine. They require everyone to perform at their best, and they offer you a chance to celebrate each staff member’s unique skillset.

“Whether you’re managing projects that have to be done or dreamcatcher projects, you can’t do them by yourself,” says Shelby.

But to bring the best out of your team when it counts, you have to start with a solid foundation.

Are you managing the basics at a high level? Take a moment to review the way you manage:

  • Task lists
  • Standards and expectations
  • Performance and pay reviews
  • Team communications

With professional people management, clear expectations and strong systems of communication, you have the foundation you need to create a culture where everyone works together at a high level — which is critical for managing projects.

Scheduling and budgeting

Managing a project from start to finish requires an understanding of everything that will go into the project, who’s responsible for each task, when the work can take place, and any dependencies (for example, your principal may want certain work completed only when they are not on property).

It’s also important to know how to balance projects with your everyday household operations. Does your team have time to take on the project, or do you need extra resources?

Understanding the moving pieces will help you budget your time, and budget for the project cost.

Projects are a great opportunity to get experience with budgeting. You’ll want to budget not only for materials and vendors, but also for the inevitable unexpected expenses that will pop up along the way.


As you move through a project, you’ll need to keep your principals in the loop. But each principal — even within the same family — can have different preferences when it comes to reporting and communications.

Before you start a project, ask your principals what information they want to know, and when and how they want to hear from you. Document each person’s preferences so you can cover your bases at every stage of the project.

Most importantly, set realistic expectations around the work, the timing and the cost up front.

An exciting opportunity for estate managers

Whether you’re overseeing a new build for the first time, renovating a historical home, or getting to work with specialty craftsman, like tile experts or mural artists, projects are a fantastic learning opportunity — even for the most seasoned private service professionals.

“This is the fun stuff when you get to work on projects,” says Shelby. “My old principal used to say, ‘this is the dreamfinder zone’ — and when their dreams come true, sometimes ours do too.”

Want to approach projects with confidence? Check out Mastering Estate Projects, a workshop that will dig into how to keep track of the moving pieces, from deadlines to budgets, how to report on progress and communicate effectively with your principals, and how to bring the best out of your staff and vendors. Enroll now, and walk away feeling ready to turn any big vision into a reality.