This week's featured service industry professional is with Ms. Natalie Asper Hudson, a true professional with a plethora of experience working with VIPs and high-net-worth families.
You've had a storied career: Professional Nanny, Personal Assistant, Butler, and Estate Manager. How did you get started in the industry and what does it take to be successful in each of these roles?
I began my career in Private Service as a live-in Nanny. One of my strongest assets as a nanny was my ability to notice an issue and jump in whenever I was needed, but then be invisible when families needed some “alone time".
I also learned very quickly that there is no right or wrong way to accomplish a task - what really matters is that the task is completed to the needs and expectations of my principal/employer (which may differ from my last job, or even from last week’s assignment).
As a Personal Assistant and Butler, my strongest asset was understanding how to read my principal/employer to learn how they would react in any given situation - and implement their preferred process. This application of their perspective maximizes favorable outcomes in some of the most challenging situations.
As an Estate Manager, my strongest asset was the ability to juggle multiple projects, directives, and assignments simultaneously, without losing perspective or leaving details unfinished.
You have a very specialized credential: A BA degree in Luxury Lifestyle Management. Could you tell us a bit about what you studied and how it can help you manage day-to-day operations at a large estate?
A professor friend recommended a program at a local university through the Individual Studies Department. As an Individual Studies student, I was required to curate my degree plan and area of focus. I chose Luxury Lifestyle Management.
Once academically approved, I was able to select key courses that are usually locked within a particular field of study and apply them to my focus. For example, I took classes in Accounting, Cybersecurity, Museums & Galleries, Project Management, and Supervisory Management.
Another perk of an Individual Studies Program is the ability to earn college credit for previous experience through a lengthy process called Prior Learning Assessments. I received credit for my volunteer work as Virtual Chapter President of *The Domestic Estate Management Association (*who ceased operation in January 2020) that fulfilled core public speaking coursework requirements.
I also earned college credit through Prior Learning Assessments that drew from specific aspects of my Private Service experience. Through a designated process, I wrote course overviews, descriptions, objectives, and learning outcomes that became courses only I would “attend” and eventually be tested on through an assigned proctor holding a moderate level of Private Service industry knowledge.
Examples of those courses were titled Luxury Estate Management; The Modern English Butler; Risk Management and Security Planning within Private Service; Systems Management within Private Service; Rare & Antique Artifacts; Projects, Logistics, and Contracts within Private Service; Concierge & Luxury Travel Logistics; Event Planning within Private Service; and Protocol & Etiquette within Private Service.
With great determination and tenacity, I completed a four-year college program in just two years, while earning a spot on the Dean’s list and graduating Sumo Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA.
The culmination of my particular mix of coursework has formalized my knowledge base while proving that my 25 years of experience in Private Service is collegiate level theory and proficiency.
What is the most misunderstood concept when working with high-net-worth families?
I have found that the most misunderstood concept about working with HNW families from an outsider’s perspective is that they are REAL people with REAL problems. Celebrities, C-Suite Executives, and Legacy families all deal with the same things middle-income families deal with - but on a larger scale, with more moving parts, and more resources.
Wealthy people still need to eat, sleep, and get dressed. They have to go to school, work, and they need vacations when they get stressed out. They get sick, break bones, and eventually die. They have friends, family, and even enemies. They get scared, nervous, depressed, and upset. The most significant difference between working class and HNW households is that they employ people to protect them and their privacy.
You must have seen some amazing things during your career. Any stand-out situations you can share?
I spent one summer as a Nanny for the sons of a world-renowned singer- songwriter. The middle-school boys taught me how to invest in Penny Stocks. We were each provided $1 each week to invest. There were weekly and monthly competitions between the three of us for the top investor, and a silly prize for the biggest loser.
One night, at 3am, I received a call from my Principal. He needed to get across the country, as quickly as possible, for a family emergency. With money as no object, I dialed a charter jet service from my pillow. Once confirmed, I sent a car to pick up my Principal and had him in the air within 30 minutes. This was his first flight on private aircraft - and he never flew commercial again.
One spring, my Principal and his family were traveling for three weeks. In the months leading up to their departure, I had planned for several projects to be executed and finished within their three-week absence.
These projects included the replacement of 48 windows and 18 doors, a new security system, an outdoor pool with a cabana, and a fresh coat of paint for all of the rooms on the main level. When the date rolled around for the family to depart and the projects began, the weather forecast for Minneapolis was -20° F with wind chills as low as -60°.
Since replacing windows and doors repeatedly exposed the inside of the house to outside temps, I had to make several accommodations to protect many precious items. First, I ordered several electric blankets to wrap around their large aquarium of tropical fish. Next, I sent the family hamster to a pet sitter.
I then moved vulnerable paintings and antiques to the furnace room. Lastly, painters were rescheduled from the planned day-shift schedule to overnights, which allowed time for the house to warm up, and the paint to dry before it froze to the walls. I spent most of my time overseeing this project wearing a ski jacket, gloves, and ski pants to keep warm.
If someone were thinking about getting into this business, what's the best piece of advice you could give them?
You will probably have to start at the bottom and work your way up through various Private Service industry roles. Never stop learning. Each position with each family brings a host of new experiences and opportunities for growth and development. It is the Nannies, Housekeepers, and Chauffeurs that stay the course and continue to add new skills, that become the Head of Security, Estate Manager, or Chief of Staff.
If you are intimidated by wealth or different lifestyles or ’star struck’ when famous people walk into the room – it would probably be best to choose another career path.
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Written for assistants and estate managers working for celebrities, CEOs, UHNW families, billionaires and royalty