What do you call someone who is part salesman, part showman, part handyman, and all gentleman? Leland Stone is a trained butler who carries on the business started by his great-great-grandfather, Joseph Deutz: the sale of fixtures and fittings. However, the innovative route Stone has taken to continue the family legacy is a remarkable story of reinvention with valuable lessons for any entrepreneur.
From working with homeowners to architects, organizing, delegating, collaborating, and masterminding projects on both a large and small scale, Stone is always up for the task. He refers to himself as a problem solver who is particularly interested in making life run smoothly.
Stone graduated from the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University and followed up with additional butler training. In the process, he was offered a teaching position at the butler school, which he politely declined. Overseeing homes and upscale properties of wealthy families throughout the years, his business has evolved. It is now a combination of his roots in the hardware business and his continued interest in addressing the nuances of fine living. Although his clients have some degree of discretionary income, he's not in the trade of catering only to the elite.
He recently purchased and renovated the historic Roosevelt Library (circa 1929) back to its original grandeur. The restored library (which was previously in use as an office building) not only serves as a design center but also as an event space. Within its walls, Leland has also set up an English gentleman's barbershop, a bespoke tailor shop, and an in-house stationer featuring fine stationery and gifts.
He offers semi-monthly culinary feasts through a recently initiated social club. People gather to enjoy dinner, music, and culture. It's a place where art, music, friendship, and networking converge in a comfortable social environment. While there is no formal dress code (with the exception of no flip-flops or shorts), everyone dresses as if they are going to a much-anticipated event. And the monthly fee is a fraction of the traditional country club expense, although many see it as an even more elegant experience. A Steinway piano is a constant guest.
What can other entrepreneurs learn from a fifth-generation hardware salesman-turned butler-turned lifestyle specialist and event planner? Every customer wants to be wowed. Whether he's meticulously setting his 20-foot table for a party or inventing a way to solve a design dilemma for one of his clients, no job is off limits for this rising entrepreneur to tackle.
The key to his success: Stone has an uncanny knack for making people feel they can't live without his services. He creates an experience that his customers share with their clients and friends. There is no better advertising than word-of-mouth accolades.
The secrets to white glove service:
To shamelessly play off his company name, a "Stone Standard" is his staunch belief in the value of follow-through. He readily admits that what he hates the most is someone who doesn't do what they say they are going to do. It shows a lack of respect for another person and is an indicator of their true character.
Putting others at ease in a myriad of social environments is the secret to being a great host. When you visit someone's home, company, or showroom, it's up to you to make them feel welcome and relaxed. Leland understands the importance of a positive impression and giving his guests the ultimate experience keeps them coming back again and again.
It's not often that someone puts such imaginative thought into how to sell their product or service. Stone once hosted a book signing and filled a cast iron English bathtub (one of his products available for purchase) with bottles of champagne. It was hard to ignore the unique display, with the beautiful bottles of bubbly featured in an unlikely but strikingly brilliant life-size ice bucket.
Stone knows success is fleeting without integrity to accompany the intrigue of his many ventures. He understands the value of giving back to a community that supports him and not losing sight of where his roots are derived. He respects hard work and treats every customer fairly, respectfully, and with a kid glove. Stone, always perfectly manicured, remains a well-trained butler at heart.