Adele Blair CEO and Founder of The Concierge Collective started her business in 2011 to solve the growing dilemma of people being time poor. Harnessing her 20 years of experience in corporate environments, Adele created a successful business model around executing tasks that clients don’t have time to do, don’t want to do or don’t know how to do. She is famed for taking on jobs that span from the simplest domestic chores to the most complex cross-global feats, and is an entertaining and informative speaker and lifestyle writer.
Adele Co-founded the Institute of Concierge and Lifestyle Managers (iCALM) supporting industry professionals. She is also a Certified Concierge Specialist (CCS) an Accredited Expert Professional Organiser and an Accredited Member of the National Concierge Association of the USA.
Adele was a 2011 Finalist in the Telstra Business Women Awards, Business Owner category.
How did the business idea for The Concierge Collective arise?
The Concierge Collective started in 2006 when I was looking for a new job opportunity. Having been an EA and Administration Manager for almost 20 years in Canberra, London, Sydney and Brisbane, nothing seemed to inspire me until I read an article about a Concierge company and *bingo*, that was it.
I was able to use my talent for organising (anyone and anything) and do it my way. Having seen the time pressures experienced by my bosses during my career, I knew that this service was desperately needed and could add valuable time to their lives.
The Concierge Collective also provides Residential Concierge Services, which is a relatively new concept in Australia. Tell us how you’ve grown this offering.
In world class cities like New York, Paris and London, a residential concierge is an expected service. That same expectation is being voiced by occupants and purchasers of luxury residential developments here in Australia.
With the increased prosperity and demand for a luxurious lifestyle, residents are looking to work and live in communities. Creating time to live is key in delivering a luxury lifestyle. The inclusion of a Residential Concierge helps delivers on that promise.
Purchasers of luxury apartments expect services that are beyond good infrastructure.
After 12 years in business, and the lessons you learned from your parents’ small business, what are your top tips for those thinking of starting their own business?
This is so cliche but you have to have passion and drive for what you bring to the market. This strong desire and belief might be the only thing that will get you through the tough times (because there will be plenty). Please don’t start a business to either copy someone else who you think has ‘made it’, or with the false belief that you can sell you company in three years for $30m. That just won’t happen to 99.9% of start ups.
Research the market you are about to enter and see how you can be different, what will bring customers to you instead of your competition. Things like quality of service and price won’t always cut the mustard. Consumers are savvy and they will (just like you) use the internet to look around. Don’t expect consumers to behave any differently to you, ‘cos they won’t.
Start small with a MVP (minimum viable product), test the market, refine and repeat. Don’t wait until everything is ‘perfect’ before you start, because it never will be. You should always be refining and adjusting your business. Just get going.
You’ve written passionately about gender equality in your Fairfax columns. What do you believe is needed to create gender equality?
WOW big question.
It can be difficult to change attitudes of some, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try with both men AND women. Whilst education is great, I believe that demonstration is even better. Don’t just talk or read about change, DO something. Having nay-sayers seeing might get them believing!
I’m also mindful of keeping the balance right and not swinging too far the other way. For example, I’m not totally on-board with set quotas on Boards for example, rather, hiring the best person for the role regardless of their gender. I fear that some Boards might simply put female “bums on seats” just to make the quota. This could have an adverse effect if the female placed in the role is not suitably qualified and then struggles, thus giving those opponents case of “I told you so”.
I think the greatest impact will come from the future generations, how our children are raised to not see any difference between gender, like the Norway Study.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Oh so many challenges! I have had rogue staff, an empty bank account, detractors and days I want to crawl under a rock!
I think my greatest and most consistent challenge is educating the market about what we do and also encouraging clients (but mainly women) to ‘let go’ and allow someone to help. Unfortunately many Australians feel guilty if they outsource or on the flip side love being super busy (yes that badge of honour again).
It’s ironic that we will happily ‘outsource’ the care of our precious children, but couldn’t possibly outsource the installation of a new washing machine! However, once clients start engaging our services they actually wonder how they managed without us! 12 years on and educating our market has not become that much easier #persistencepays.
What are you most proud of?
Put simply my resilience, persistence and adaptability. There are so many times I could have happily walked away. I’ve been offered wonderful high paying roles back in the corporate sector and I’ve turned them down. I knew that what I was doing was going to develop into something amazing and it really has and continues to.
Being a finalist in Telstra Business Woman of the Year back in 2011 (my business was only 5 years old) was a huge honour and something I’m quite proud of. Also when I was Director of iCALM (Institute of Concierge and Lifestyle Managers), I co-wrote the Diploma of Personal Concierge services which went onto be accredited by ASQA (Australian Skills Quality Authority), the only type of training of its type in the world.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Don’t let your gender govern your leadership style, do you.
You are the female economy. Whether you are a female consumer, business owner or a woman in the workforce, you can create gender equality by choosing female led brands.