By: Brooke Chenoweth
Problem solver Caroline B is more than a concierge service, providing personal management of your life to keep your office or home problem-free. Caroline Basham started her career in Hong Kong as an investment banker, yet after being made redundant in 2009, found a new niche for herself. She created the personal management service Caroline B after helping out a friend with personal admin. Caroline’s unique approach to this practical, detail-orientated, and motivated service helps to find solutions to problems, getting through a daily to-do list – while keeping Hong Kongers organised. We chatted with Caroline recently about what she offers and who she helps.
What is personal management?
The best way to describe personal management is like a concierge service, but much more personal and customised. We aren’t driven by a commercial model to sell other’s services or products – we’re independent, acting in the client’s best interests. Clients are often surprised at the range of things we can do, big and small. At one end, we can help navigate a client through the whole process of selecting the right international school, to visa and passport applications, to simply sorting and scanning the mail while they’re away.
What we do is often very “hands on” and the service is tailored to your needs, no matter how small. Just a few examples of things we do: running around Hong Kong fetching and carrying between storage centres, shops, homes and offices; managing home repairs; managing appointments and bookings; making travel arrangements; processing expenses and other book-keeping matters; helping manage domestic helpers, before, during and after signing a contract.
The archiving of documents and creation of digital photo libraries are also popular services, and we do a lot of work on home internet, Wi-Fi and audio-visual issues. More and more people are asking us about how to make all their digital devices work together, from smart TVs to smart phones. Our technical manager loves this sort of challenge!
A recent trend is enquiries from expats renting out their properties on a short-term basis through sites like Airbnb. We can help with some of the associated tasks when owners are not in Hong Kong.
How does it all work?
Our clients are either individuals or small businesses, and we work with them on a retainer basis. At any one time, we have between 12 and 15 active clients. With Caroline B, you access a close-knit team with five levels of staff with different skills and charge rates to match; we have an assistant, administrator, senior administrator, manager, tech manager and director. The manager is your daily point of contact who then delegates to more junior team members as far as practically possible. I keep close oversight of all accounts, check work and undertake some of the more complex tasks.
What are some of the more unusual jobs you’ve been asked to do?
We’ve done a lot of interesting things over the years, like shipping pedigree cats without the correct identity chips to London, creating typhoon protection netting for a vertical green wall, and sourcing fresh kimchi direct from Korea!
As a busy businesswoman yourself, managing the lives of your clients, how do you stay on top of everything you need to do?
Thankfully, we’re not a 24/7 operation so I do get most evenings off! That said, if we grow much further I will need to find another me, or rather someone with skills that complement mine. I think that is the next challenge.
Who are Caroline B’s typical clients?
Caroline B clients are organised, good at delegating and understand the value of their time. They value our local language advantage, Hong Kong know-how, and experience of how to get things done effectively.
Our small business clients are entrepreneurial and need to stay productive and focused on developing their businesses. So Caroline B becomes their back office. The main attraction of using us is they get the continuity and scope of service required and which might prove impossible with a single PA – and clients value the confidentiality and privacy that we offer.
Ultimately it is about trust – building that relationship with a client where they trust you to do the right thing