For business owners, time is an especially precious commodity. That's why some are choosing not to spend those precious moments on the less rewarding details of daily life, like picking up after pooches, dropping off the dry cleaning, or toiling in the kitchen. Hiring someone else--or a whole team--to do it for you can be liberating, they say. Read on to learn how to staff up in your own home and what it will cost you.
Sometimes a personal assistant is all you need. Deb Weidenhamer, president of Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers in Phoenix, has a personal assistant who wears many hats. She picks up prescriptions, buys clothes, returns them to the store if they aren't right, picks up and drops off the dry cleaning, puts gas in the car, takes the clothes off the dry cleaner's hangers and puts them on regular hangers, handles grocery shopping, and does the prep work for dinner. Weidenhamer estimates this saves her about 20 hours a week. She thought she'd use the time to hang out with her husband and relax--instead, she's working on starting another business.
The price tag: A personal assistant typically commands a salary in the $30,000 to $45,000 range. A good one is hard to find. Weidenhamer found hers through referrals. If you don't think you can keep a personal assistant busy full time, consider outsourcing particular tasks. A new online bulletin board called DoMyStuff.com allows you to post a chore that needs doing--like, say, walking the dog--and then individuals or businesses in your area will bid on your proposal.
Drive time can be extremely productive when you turn the wheel over to someone else. Mike Faith, CEO of Headsets.com in San Francisco, has a driver who ferries him to work and anywhere else he needs to go during the day. Faith says he knocks off about 50 e-mails during his hourlong commute to work. Faith's driver doubles as a personal assistant when he's not behind the wheel, which is quite common. Many run errands--handling bank deposits, picking up and dropping off the dry cleaning, heading to your favorite warehouse store to get that great bargain on pickles--as well as do light office work.
The price tag: Figure on $45,000 a year and up, plus overtime. To find a driver, first try looking in your own organization--Faith's driver was already in his company but wanted a different kind of workday. If you don't want to use your own car, a good bet is to try a local car service. (Track one down at the National Limousine Association's search engine, NLAride.com.) If you have a car and just want a chauffeur, you could go through a personal staffing organization, such as Pavillion Agency (pavillionagency.com).
If spending hours in the kitchen isn't feasible and you're sick of takeout, you might want to engage either a private or personal chef. A private chef works only with one family, handling the shopping and preparing all of the meals for the household. A personal chef serves several clients and can prepare as little as a few meals a week. Sometimes personal chefs do the preparation in their own kitchens and you simply reheat. Either way, a chef will work with you to create meals that suit you and your family's taste and dietary requirements.
The price tag: A private chef is a salaried position, and the amount depends on the chef's reputation and your location, but figure on $50,000 to $100,000 a year. A personal chef's services vary widely depending on how much of his or her time you're engaging. Find one by contacting the career services department of a cooking school. The Culinary Institute of America, for instance, connects its alumni--recent and more experienced--with prospective employers at ciachef.edu.
If choosing which shirt goes with what pants is interfering with more important decisions--or you haven't updated your wardrobe this century--an image consultant might be the timesaver you need. These professionals coordinate outfits for you and help fill in any wardrobe gaps, from pajamas to tuxedos, by hitting the stores on your behalf. They'll handle alterations and can even help you find a hair stylist, makeup artist, or any other beauty technicians--even if you require house calls.
The price tag: This varies based on experience and location. At the higher end, Gwen Mazer, of Total Image Management in San Francisco, a former creative director of Esprit, charges $3,000 for a season's worth of wardrobe analysis and shopping trips. A less experienced consultant in another part of the country might charge as little as $75 an hour. Find one at the Association of Image Consultants International (aici.org).
A growing number of businesses offer at-home pet services. The franchise DoodyCalls, for instance, will come and pick up…doody…from your lawn. There are also mobile pet groomers with specially outfitted vans for bathing pets and trimming their nails. They drive the van to your home at your convenience--often offering early morning and evening appointments.
The price tag: DoodyCalls visits start at $10. Find a scooper in your area at doodycalls.com. For mobile pet grooming, expect to spend more than you would if you drove to the groomer. In Madison, Wisconsin, U Dirty Dog Mobile Pet Grooming Services charges $82 for an hour of grooming for dogs, and $90 for cats, which is about $20 to $30 higher than the going rate at retail groomers in town. Find a mobile groomer in your area by asking your veterinarian for a referral.
Just like the knowledgeable types you'd find in an upscale hotel lobby, concierge services for hire can help you land difficult dinner reservations or seats at a sold-out play. They can also tackle just about any task that requires research--like checking out cell phone plans or children's summer camps. You just call and make your request. LesConcierges, a firm that works with executives around the country, has done everything from planning a dinner party to tracking down hotels willing to take in a client's pet iguana.
The price tag: At the higher end of things, LesConcierges (lesconcierges.com) charges $3,540 for 100 requests a year. Smaller outfits like In the Nick of Time (sarasotainthenickoftime.com) in Sarasota, Florida, charge as little as $30 an hour. Find one by asking the benefits manager in your HR department--some concierge firms offer their services to corporations as well as individuals.