Personal Assistant Tips: Working with the Royal Saudi Family


. Writing this chapter really brings back a lot of fond memories.  I want you to close your eyes and picture what it would be like to be flying around on private jets, driving Ferraris, and being in a new country every week.
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Years and years of very hard work were finally parlayed into the wildest ride of my life, working for The Royal Saudi Family (RSF). I lived the kind of fantasy that many multi-millionaires would be envious of.
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I guess the best part of being a personal assistant is that I get the perks without having to pay the price, monetarily speaking.  A private jet, mega-mansion, super-yacht, and a fleet of exotic cars can set someone back more than $100 million.  But as an assistant, I get to ride the wave without going into debt.  Not a bad deal!
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Working with the RSF started off as a trial run, which is not uncommon in my business.  Sometimes employers want to try someone for a week or month to see if there is a fit.  Because of my solid reputation, I was given the chance.
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Taking the Ferrari to run errands

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. It started like this: I was awoken by a phone call in the dead of night.  Rubbing the sandman from my eyes, I answered in a groggy whisper.  The voice on the other end was a familiar one, a contact of mine on the other side of the world.  “Get dressed,” he screamed, “you’re working for the RSF in a six hours.”  “I am?” I exclaimed in a dreamlike state.  This, my friends, is how the roller-coaster ride started.
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As it turns out, my future RSF boss was arriving in Los Angeles and was without his assistant in tow.  My secret contact, who shall remain nameless, had presented me as the Maverick-Top-Gun of all personal assistants in Los Angeles.  A lifetime of hard work, I thought, led me up to this moment.  Now it was going to be my job to prove to myself, and my future boss, that it was not all in vain.
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The Saudi royals travel in very large entourages

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I had to meet my boss at a private air strip at Los Angeles airport at 10 o’clock that morning.  My favorite suit was wrinkled, so I had to rush to the one-hour drycleaners to get it pressed.  It goes without saying that it is never done in one-hour, even though that’s what they advertise.   They opened at nine, so I delivered my suit and an extra $20 bill with the stipulation it be done in thirty minutes, which it was.
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At 9:30 (from West Hollywood) I needed to be at the airport, which is forty minutes away and possibly more with heavy traffic. Have no fear, I brought my motorcycle.  One of the most valuable assets I have ever owned in Los Angeles was a motorcycle.  Because the traffic can be so horrendous, a motorcycle has always allowed me to get from one place to another in record time.  It is legal in California for a motorcycle to drive in-between traffic (after being hired on with the Royal Saudis, my motorcycle was upgraded to a helicopter – so I go to fly over traffic!)
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Los Angeles, after all, has become one giant gridlock with bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Anyone who lives in Los Angeles knows everyone measures distance in “minutes,” not miles.  For example, if a person wants to go from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica Beach, we tell them it takes thirty minutes, even though it’s only about ten miles away.  That’s how bad the traffic is!
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. I arrived to the private air strip with a few minutes to spare.  In the lobby: Mariah Carey and her entourage, who created a sort of force-field around the artist.  At that moment, I began to realize that I was about to step into a world that would change my life forever. .
. Rushing to the front desk area, I asked the six-foot-tall model-like receptionist if the plane for the RSF had arrived yet.  She then asked for the tail number.  The “tail number,” I thought.  What on Earth is she talking about?  Easing my discomfort with a million-dollar smile, “The tail number is how we track private jets,” she said while batting her eyelashes.  I gulped, hard.  Man, I was unprepared for this whole new world.  “I don’t know it,” I said with a grimace.
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Quickly, I typed a text message to my overseas contact to try and get the information I needed.  As I hit send, I realized he was likely in bed because it was the opposite time on the other side of the world (If you even need to know what time it is in any city worldwide, go to www.timeanddate.com).
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Suddenly, I heard the sound of a landing jet.  Looking outside, I saw that a chauffeur-driven Phantom Rolls Royce was already on the tarmac waiting to receive my future boss.  I burst from the lobby like a ballistic missile and hustled over to the driver and introduced myself.  “Are you here to meet the Royal Saudi Family?” I asked. “Yes,” he said, “You must be Brian.” We quickly exchanged cell phone numbers as the door to the shiny new plane opened.   Out came a sophisticated and well-groomed man, who we’ll call Adam.
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The driver quickly rushed by me to shake Adam’s hand.  I had just learned my first valuable lesson about working around billionaires: everyone surrounding them wants to be in their good graces and people are constantly trying to outshine each other to get the boss’ attention.

 

With a stoic nod, Adam shook the driver’s hand and then approached me.  “Brian,” he said with a smile.  “Yes,” I said, not quite knowing how to address him.  Whoops, I forgot to ask my contact about this important point.  Before I even had time to beat myself up about it, the driver had the back door to the Rolls open and Adam jumped in.  He then signaled for me to get in back with him.

 

I can’t say that I had ever been in the back of a Phantom before that point, but they have “suicide doors,” which means they open the opposite way of other car doors.  Closing them is problematic because you have to reach way outside the car to grab the door’s handle, which I tried to do.  “No,” Adam said with a smirk, “just use the switch.”  He then pressed a nondescript button, which automatically closed the door as if an invisible ghost butler had been waiting outside the car (Phantom Rolls Royce demo video with all the car’s amazing features).

 

That first week I spent a lot of time with Adam.  I found him to be very intelligent and easy to talk to.  During this “honeymoon period” we had time to assess whether or not we were going to be a fit for each other.  The one main ingredient above and beyond experience that high net worth individuals look for is a match made in heaven (or as close as possible).  Being a personal assistant, absolutely, is like a marriage.  After all, you spend up to 14 hours a day with your boss, so you’re going to have to get along.

 

Because Adam was staying in one of the five-star hotels in Beverly Hills, it was like a second home to me.  I knew the systems back-to-front.  This is where my direct past experience really allowed me to impress him time and again.  When situations arose, for example, I knew who to call and it saved a lot of time.  The name of the game in the PA business is to solve problems quickly and efficiently.

 

Also, I felt at home in the high-end hotel environment and it showed.  One thing a VIP employer looks for is a candidate’s comfort level while on the job, especially when you’re in a trial situation.  Even if an aspiring assistant is intelligent and capable, but too out of their element for an upper-echelon venue, it can be an obstacle to getting hired or keeping your job.  Because of this, I always tell my consulting clients to hang out in fancy restaurants and hotels so that they can see how things work.  You don’t have to spend a bunch of money, just go to the bar and have a drink.  If you open your eyes and observe, you’ll be surprised what you can pick up.

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My familiarity with the trendy restaurants in the city also proved to be invaluable for my trial run with the RSF.  We ate out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I did not know it was even possible to spend $200 on breakfast, but in the five-star arena it’s not a problem at all.

 

Shopping on Rodeo Drive proved to be mind-blowing as well.  Thousand-dollar shoes, no problem.  Blue jeans for $250,000, no problem.  How about a necklace at Tiffany’s that costs more than a Mercedes?  Adam even bought a leather jacket for $5,000 and he only wore it once.  How do I know?  Because he gave to me and said he didn’t like the way it “felt” on him.  I didn’t complain (Here is the Rodeo Drive scene from the Julia Roberts movie “Pretty Woman”).

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. At the end of the week my head was spinning.  I had already decided that I was going to keep both feet on the ground and not let it all go to my head.  Why?  Because if I didn’t get the job I didn’t want to be too let down by it.  Over breakfast on the last day, Adam looked me straight in the eye and asked if he could trust me.  “Of course,” I said confidently.  He asked again, even more serious.  I knew at that very moment I was going to get the job on the spot, or be let go – all based on my answer.
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I took a deep breath and articulated to him that my reputation as a business professional has always been a priority.  Moreover, I explained, my plan was to work with him long-term.  After a long glance, he smiled and said “Welcome aboard.”  I almost passed out. I want to describe for you what my first day was like (after officially being hired) because it’s right out of a fairy tale.  To be clear, I’m not bragging.  I want to share this incredible story with you because I want to motivate and inspire you to make it happen for yourself. Anyway, back to the topic at hand…  Adam had to leave Los Angeles for a week to handle a family issue, and that gave me some time to get myself together for my whirlwind tour. Luckily, I didn’t have any pets or a significant other at the time.  Certainly, one issue that is often a deal-breaker for aspiring assistants.
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The greatest benefit, travel, is often the matter that prevents a PA from ever taking a great job.  Being on the road all the time is something you have to really enjoy, but it can also be very lonely at times. The VIP you work for, whoever that may be, will often have other friends or family on trips.  The assistant has nobody.  So, for that reason, you have to find ways of keeping yourself occupied when not working.  The big Catch-22 is that an assistant can’t always find the time to enjoy being in places like Paris or London because there is too much work on your plate to enjoy any sightseeing (Here you can see the famous 5-star coffee shop inside Harrods Department Store in London). After getting all my personal belongings into storage, I had to fly from Los Angeles to Chicago to meet up with Adam.  After landing at O’Hare Airport, I finally met up with him and the Alice in Wonderland-like adventure began.
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We hopped on a plane bound for Paris.  Now, forget about any idea of what first-class seating is like in the United States.  Overseas flights through international carriers makes U.S. first-class look like a cockroach infested, flea-bag motel in the boon docks.  We had giant Lazy Boy-like recliner chairs with our own televisions, wet bar, and snacks.  This set-up was so opulent, it was like we had our own high-end hotel suite.  Additionally, we were brought food menus that you’d see in a 5-star restaurant.  In short, we had several choices of six-course meals to choose from.  Wow!  I got the filet mignon and lobster, of course (click HERE to see video of an A380 Airbus Suite).
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I remember looking at the receipt for the tickets and they were $20,000 – EACH!  It was at that point I stopped pinching myself and thought, “This is for real and you deserve it because you paid your dues and went the extra mile for each and every employer you ever worked for.”
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Now, you may be asking yourself, and I was too, “Why happened to the private jet?”  Hold your horses, I’m getting there.  It goes without saying that the members of the RSF have many private jets, large and small.  Adam liked to travel first-class on international carriers because it was much easier for his particular lifestyle.
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To own and private jet, pay for the docking and gas, plus have a crew on standby all the time (wherever you go) is outrageously expensive and terribly inconvenient at times.  I was often in situations, for example, where I would be in Miami – let’s say – with Adam and he would just surprise me and say he wanted to go to Spain.  So I would have to drop everything I was doing and make it happen, yesterday.
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To make a long story short, I had to plan a trip that would normally takes weeks of time and make it happen in hours.  Being able to jump on the next flight out was actually faster than scrambling together a private flight crew and “fueling up the jet.”  Not to mention, my boss really loved food and no private jet is going to be able to serve the kind of five-star meal that I described above – unless you’re on Air Force One, and even still, maybe!

 

Having this kind of pressure at work is where the average person completely caves in.  I cannot describe to you what the anxiety is like.  It’s unreal.  As you’re reading this you may be laughing and wondering how flying on private jets and being in some exotic location like Casablanca is pressure.  Believe me, it is.  While working for the RSF, I was pulling 12 to 14 hour shifts, 7 days a week, for months at a time.  The work never ended.  I had several subordinate assistants just to help me out because the workload was so enormous.

 

Let me give you an example of just one logistical problem that needs a monumental action plan.  When Adam was traveling with, let’s say, 6 family members, each one of them had 10 to 15 bags.  One very-well-taken-care-of man had 30 bags and trunks, I remember.  Start doing some math.  I had to hire a team of people just to be in charge of the luggage whenever we went somewhere.  Each place we went, I had to buy an extra hotel suite at $1,500 a night just to hold all the luggage.  Then we had to have maids unpack and iron all the cloths and figure out which rooms the clothes went to.  I challenge any MIT graduate to equal my skill when it came to managing an entire family: kids, nannies, security, cars, planes, drivers, maids, cloths, yachts, etc.  The list is virtually endless.

 

This is why it is critical for you as an aspiring Executive Personal Assistant to know what you are going to have to face when working for high-profile families.  As hard as it is to get the job, it’s even harder to keep the job.  Why?  Because so many things can go wrong each and every day.  Most employers don’t have the patience to give second or third chances.  If you mess up, you’re gone!

 

The fact that I was able to keep the job as long as I did is a testimony to the amount of preparation and training I went through ahead of time.  I studied, practiced, and went through the motions so many times that I knew I would shine when it was for real.  I want every person reading this to have that kind of discipline because you’re going to need it.  If you want a job that may pay you more than some lawyers make, then you are going to have to work your fanny off.

 

I would also like to point out – so that I may inspire you again – that all my “perks” received while working for the RSF are estimated to be in the many hundreds of thousands of dollars: first-class travel, miscellaneous gifts, cash bonuses, jewelry, clothes, etc.  So the job is not just about the paycheck, it’s everything that goes along with it.  Not to mention, things no amount of money can buy, like being inside royal palaces and meeting princes and princesses.  In fact, I saw A-list celebrities kowtowing to some of the princes because they are so influential in American industry, including the TV and movie business.  Let’s face it, billionaires have a lot of powerful friends (Click HERE to see Michael Jackson with the Royal Family).

While working for the RSF, I traveled extensively throughout the United States, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.  Each city I arrived in, domestically or internationally, posed its own set of unique problems.  For example, we almost always traveled with armed security (usually off-duty police officers or retired Secret Service).  Each officer is only allowed to use his concealed weapons permit in a specific city.  So every time we took off again I had to arrange new security, cars, drivers, and hotel rooms – all on a moment’s notice!  Are you starting to see why some assistants get ulcers, lose their hair, or have nervous breakdowns?
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If you remember the movie “The Bodyguard” with Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, that inside look at the logistics and security issues for celebrities is nothing in comparison to what I experienced.  I would have loved to work in that kind of Bodyguard situation because it would have been like a relaxing vacation to me.  That movie is also a very good example of the back-biting that goes on while working for stars..

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