Household Management

The 1 thing every estate manager should do to earn the respect of household staff and vendors 

Building mutual respect amongst household staff and vendors takes time. Here's one thing you can do right now to accelerate the process.

By Kristin Twiford

“In the beginning, the people you’re overseeing assume you know nothing,” says seasoned estate manager Shelby Boudreau.  

Early on in her own estate management career, Shelby was leading teams of experts, working to learn the trade on the job. 

“Over time, you prove to them that you know something, and they should work with you,” she explains. 

But today, Shelby wants to help other estate managers speed up the process.  

Her tip: Learn enough to build conversational competency.

You don’t need to know everything about housekeeping to oversee a team of housekeepers, and you don’t have to know everything about plumbing to hire the best plumber. But you do have to know the basics — and if you learn them early on, you’ll be able to earn the trust and respect of the people around you, and excel in your ability to run a household or an estate.

Here are some areas where you should have a strong base: 

  • Housekeeping — what goes into cleaning a home and how long tasks should take 
  • Maintenance — how to recognize what needs to be maintained, who should be involved, and how to communicate with them 
  • Industry terms and tips and tricks of the trade in key areas of household management (like HVAC and electrical) 

When you express curiosity and acknowledge a teammate’s skill, talent, and education, you can bridge the gap between yourself and the staff and vendors you’re managing. With conversational competency in each person’s area of expertise, you can…

Communicate clearly with the experts 

Take something as basic as industry terms — understanding a few key terms can help you communicate clearly with an expert.  

Let’s say you’re vetting an HVAC vendor, and they’re throwing out a bunch of specific terms while giving you a quote. Knowing the lingo not only helps you follow along, it also helps you show the vendor that you understand and value their work. Now, you can see through any confusion, and you’re in a better position to negotiate. 

Knowing the basics allows you to feel like you’re on the same level as the experts around you, and accelerates your ability to earn their respect and their partnership. 

Lead teams and create structure 

When you have a basic understanding of key areas of household management, you can create a structure that works well for everyone involved.  

For example, if you’ve never worked as a housekeeper, but take the time to learn what goes into cleaning a home, how much time certain tasks should take, and how certain tasks should be done, you’ll be a better leader for your housekeeping team. Having a basic understanding not only makes you more empathetic, it also helps you create realistic expectations for the team. 

This has a powerful ripple effect, as it allows you to earn the trust of your staff members, motivate the team around you, and create a smoothly running household for your principals. 

Trust in your own instincts 

Perhaps the biggest benefit of gaining a solid base of understanding and bridging the knowledge gap is confidence. 

Without understanding the basics, you might hesitate to ask questions, because you don’t want to reveal your lack of knowledge — especially in front of an expert. You might assume that a vendor is giving you a fair quote, just because he knows more than you do about electrical systems. You might not feel like you can negotiate or share constructive feedback.  

But it doesn’t take much to change all that, and the ripple effect is invaluable. Armed with a few industry terms, tips and tricks, and a basic understanding, you can trust in your own ability to vet vendors, negotiate contracts, lead teams, and oversee every aspect of the household.  

Arm yourself with the right knowledge and the right tools 

We want to help you feel like you know enough to be the compass of your organization. Check out our 4 new on-demand workshops, designed to give you a deeper understanding of key areas of household management:

  • Housekeeping  
  • Maintenance  
  • Home Systems — Electrical & Lighting  
  • Home Systems — HVAC 

Each workshop will dig into a specific topic, so at the end of the semester, you walk away with the knowledge, tools and confidence you need to manage projects, maintenance, staff and vendors. 

You can watch the whole semester, or pick and choose workshops in the areas where you want to grow.

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