The truth about domestic ‘staff’ and why home can be the trickiest work environment
Cleaners, tutors, gardeners, nannies… the domestic help business is booming, but managing those relationships can be a challenge.
Julian Axe, retired doctor:
Chris Gilbey was recommended to me by a local friend in Kensington. He made a good first impression when I asked him to quote to fix a leak in our roof and he returned the following day in his overalls. I’ve used him for numerous jobs over the past 10 years; painting and decorating, mending a basement door, carpentry jobs, plastering, fixing trellis.
That said, I don’t use him for everything. He’s very honest when a job isn’t for him; I once asked him to do some work on our roof terrace and he said, “I’m not your best chap for this”. He’s become more expensive as his business has grown but he’s still excellent value in my mind because he’s reliable, tidy and his staff are super. Some DIY jobs I could probably do myself, but my wife always says, “Come on, get Chris Gilbey”.
Chris Gilbey, left, with Julian Axe CREDIT: Paul Grover
Chris Gilbey, founder, Bits, Bobs and Odd Jobs:
I’ll always be indebted to early clients like Julian who hired me when I was still working out of my car. I’d tried university but that hadn’t worked and then I thought I’d be a rock star but that didn’t work either, so I ended up working as a plumber and doing odd jobs for my friends in the evenings.
I quickly realised I could do all the internal DIY stuff, so I put myself in the yellow pages and relied on friends to spread the word about my new business. I was very anxious when I was first hired by Julian as he is a very nice guy with a lovely house; I wanted to make sure I did a good job and left the place tidy. The company is bigger now and I have a team of skilled staff, but I still suffer the same nerves with every job – I guess a bigger business just means bigger problems.
Over the years Julian has tried out every member of our team; he always gives clear instructions and trusts us implicitly. We like to get jobs done well and he likes to cross things off his list – so it’s a great working relationship.
2 February 2020 • 6:00am