The gift of writing is an exercise in emotional intelligence that I don’t take lightly. Being able to revisit an arduous journey brings a sense of peace and fulfillment few words can match. Although I have had many benefits being a second generation Estate Manager, from the outset, I have created my own course of action. My Grandfather began his Estate Management journey in 1943 earning one dollar per day.
Much like myself, he found purpose and fulfillment through hard work that brought peace and a level of certainty. What I hope you will gain in reading my story is being able to draw similar parallels to your own journey. This narrow and often chaos filled passage became the service gateway making my career serving the UHNW world possible.
Until 1993, I had experienced few opportunities outside of my Grandfather providing service in HNW households as a service professional. What grew my opportunities were in taking on ambiguous responsibilities and relentlessly executing to the best of my ability. This service framework allowed me to build a reputation as someone who would become sought after to free up a Principals time in the household management space. It was 1993 and I was living in the Washington, DC area about to began my electrical apprenticeship.
During the outset of my apprenticeship, I was provided with three options of where I could serve. I chose the path of becoming a retrofit specialist working in large estates. Whether installing vintage crystal chandeliers, troubleshooting knob and tube wiring, or installing driveway-heating systems on the Potomac River, I made my own way. On March 31, 1786, George Washington argued for a professional man to supply technical guidance to The Potomac Company, which made the Potomac River navigable above the falls in this area of the US.
I took great pride in my work serving estates in this esteemed region and enjoyed a growing reputation as a young technician aiming to please. It wasn’t until I began working on the low-voltage side of electricity that things began clicking for me. Personal branding was not an actual marketing term yet, but I was building a private service value proposition, reputation, and unique offering that would allow me to become sought out as an independent service professional.
In the early-to-mid 1990’s, many US custom home interior trim packages were being installed utilizing compressed air and nail guns. Being able to work in an existing environment and update the core-wiring infrastructure with an understanding of what the framing consisted of behind drywall provided me with a tremendous advantage as a technology retrofit specialist. While working as an electrical apprentice, I watched the man who was to teach me the electrical ropes cut into custom painted drywall notching either side of a wall stud to fish a wire horizontally.
He repeated this aesthetic demolition every 14 inches until reaching what appeared to resemble a 56-70-gate giant slalom course careening down the hallway in horror. I built up the courage after that first retrofit experience, to ask if I could apply gentle pressure with my razor knife cutting the caulk joint along the baseboard on the next circuit, and then utilize a small flat bar to remove the baseboard trim. I explained that the benefit in this approach is that we would have approximately 2 inches of space above the base wall stud up to the existing caulk line to openly remove sections of drywall allowing us to fasten a wire in the notched groove.
I further emphasized the ease of installation and higher perceived value to the estate owner not having to experience a disruptive event resembling their Alpine vacation memories. The time and financial expense of further repairs requiring drywall and paint crews to restore our work area to order was mind numbing to me. Simply refastening the baseboard with liquid nails, resealing the caulk joint and it would be unnoticed that we accessed the area in the first place was the expedited approach in my mind.
His new understanding that wall finishes are not easily touched up, and in recognizing his barbaric assault into an estate home, he reluctantly gave me the freedom to adjust course delegating the leadership role on my first day of work. The example I provided also outlines how difficult things were for me early on seeing a better way but being shy or insecure about speaking the truth of basic practicality slowed my passage. Being given the freedom to teach staff and the joy it produces for me, stems from the many years I struggled while finding my way.
This small example above shares the reasons why I developed a mindset of optimization early on serving the HNW & UHNW communities. My Grandfather used to say, “Lucien, I can either give it to you, or I can teach you to fish for it; Grab your pole and let’s go.” Regardless of economic status in where I serve, I have adhered to the simple truth that a man’s home is his castle.
Sir Edward Coke, a 17th Century English jurist and politician during arguments for the supremacy of common law is credited with uttering the phrase, “For a man’s home is his castle” in his desire to emphatically declare that every individual had the human right to enjoy their privacy. Sir Edward adopted the idea from the Pandects, the 6th Century digest of Roman Civil Law. The paradigm I have drawn from in this proverb is that the Mr. & Mrs. of an estate should be treated with a sense of royalty in their care.
In 1997, I relocated from Washington, DC to Nashville, Tennessee and began serving as a Design and Installation Manager of smart home technology systems. I created concierge-level technology based system infrastructures for brands such as Crestron & Lutron in large estates. My sole focus was in enhancing the experiences of Mr. & Mrs. while deterring their threats. Much in the same capacity of how I began serving as an apprentice electrician, the complex network of wiring and entertainment accoutrements required the care and understanding of how to navigate multiple floors of an estate creating a connection back to a central location referred to as the system head-end.
I once was delegated building a large infrastructure navigating 5k sq feet of plaster walls with the expectation that I would operate with the same precision as a surgeon. Regardless of the absurdity I faced at many points in the journey, I knew if executed well, I would gain valuable trust and grow my reputation of taking on difficult projects and seeing them through. The relevance in sharing my journey from 1993 through 2006 emphasizes one simple point…it matters not where you begin in your domestic service career, as every step leads to the next level.
In 2007, I operated as an independent Estate Management Consultant providing private client service in Nashville, TN. Over the last 11 years, I have served hundreds of HNW & UHNW estate owners in various capacities. The independent approach that I took was to simply look at the top priorities of what I was being delegated and reassemble all pieces to the project without looking at another person‘s perspective of how they fit.
We all have a unique vantage point allowing us to create art whether being an accountant or domestic service professional. Yes there are industry guidelines, but at the end of the day, the opportunity to create a wow experience demands that we deliver our best according to how we interpret the required course of action. As an Estate Manager, my opportunities provide that I operate in part Human Relations Manager, part Household Manager, and part orchestra Maestro bringing everything together onto one course of action.
In 2011, I began serving a HNW real estate professional who developed the first high rise complex in his city. While caring for this Principal, I was free to demonstrate my Estate Management strengths in the care of his primary yacht-inspired penthouse residence, as well as other residences such as an 1867 Italian Renaissance compound. The opportunity to serve the estate owner, family office, and supporting staff through setting courses of action provided active support to this Principal.
Being called on to motivate and lead within an existing culture, provided the opportunity in staying responsive to the ever changing needs of day-to-day operations. I have a true fulfillment in being able to identify, analyze, and communicate all relevant information as it pertains to risks surrounding unique estate properties. If I did not have my experiences working in smaller households or in smaller roles, I would not have the wisdom that I do today to manage upwards of 20 staff, and much larger responsibilities.
Whether you are a Butler, Groundskeeper, Nanny, or Personal Assistant, look for the opportunity every day to add great amounts of differentiating value where you are currently planted. The ability to serve is a true honor, but the ability to add your personal touches of service make it special. Being able to remain aligned within your strengths and desires are key to being able to consistently deliver your best service. Members of the HNW & UHNW world have a propensity to appreciate resourcefulness.
By growing in an understanding of how to choose the actions of making the best or most effective use of a situation or resource, you are creating a personal brand that firmly rests in the mind of the decision maker whether it be an Estate Manager or estate Principal. Over time, when an opportunity presents itself needing a resourceful approach, you will be called on to provide that solution and organically grow your influence, again and again.
My journey has been exhausting in every facet of the word. I have had to terminate relations with a Principal who took an unwelcome liking to my wife while serving in a consulting capacity, and have forged my own opportunities learning to trust the process. I have rarely had the levels of financial security I desired when considering retirement or college planning for my now teenage children.
By trusting the process and staying the course, I have watched the concerns I previously had as a provider create their own solutions. I now have financial peace, clarity in mind, and certainty that the long view walked daily with sharp critical thinking has paved the way to my golden dream realized as a second generation Estate Manager.
If I can be an encouragement to you please do not hesitate to connect with me on Linked-in.
May your journey also create a level of fulfillment for the next generation coming behind you.
Written by concierge estate management professional, Lucien E. Boivin.