We are often asked by both Assistants and clients whether we can recommend a particular supplier; whether it be a great restaurant, reliable chauffeur service or excellent florist. Most Assistants will have their own ‘Little Black Book’, just like we do – lists of trusted suppliers whom we know personally, have dealt with time and time again and can be trusted to get everything right first time. After all, if a supplier drops the ball, the Assistant will nearly always end up carrying the can!
But what if you’ve just embarked on a new career an an Assistant, or moved to a role in a new area or country? Who do you know who to trust?
One option is to use a curated listings site. These sites gather together pre-vetted suppliers, and are often able to negotiate bulk discounts for members. For the second of our Monday Meetings, we meet Lisa Boissel, of Miss Jones PA, one such website. Billed as ‘an inspiration guide for Personal Assistants’, Miss Jones PA is designed for those who are too busy to scroll through large listing sites and review based websites, and they claim to make it their mission to only recommend the best.
In the spirit of assisting our Assistants, Lisa agreed to have a chat with us and gave us her advice on the best way to build (or rebuild!) your Little Black Book, why it’s so important – and even divulge a couple of Little Black Book suppliers of her own!
In the age of the internet, when we can Google anything we need and find a new supplier in an instant, why do you think is it so important for an Assistant to build up their own Little Black Book’?
PAs and Assistants are constantly being bombarded with last-minute requests. The internet offers us instant access to so many suppliers but this can sometimes not necessarily be a good thing – often, you end up as simply yet another email enquiry coming in.
By having your own Little Black Book of contacts, you will have already built a rapport with the venue or supplier and they will therefore always go that extra mile for you. That is what is great about Miss Jones. For every one of our listings we have a designated point of contact there who will always look after our members.
What can be the pitfalls of an Assistant relying on a less-than-excellent supplier?
If an Assistant takes a chance and uses a supplier she or he has never used before, there is a much greater chance that something will go wrong. As an Assistant, it’s often a huge juggling act – and if one of your suppliers drops the ball, it will all fall on you. This is why we at Miss Jones are so careful about which suppliers we recommend; we know that our members rely on us to only recommend the best to ensure the results don’t jeopardise the PAs credibility.
Our Little Black book is very carefully handpicked. We trial and test everything and everyone we work with. We also get rid of suppliers if we think they are dated or the service level has gone down.
We run showcase events, which are a great opportunity for our members to gain first-hand experience of a supplier and their staff, so that they can feel completely confident when booking. It just makes the whole experience a lot more personal, so when that PA has a last minute request he or she can ring that supplier directly and know that they will take care of everything.
Where, in your opinion, is the best place for a new PA to start when trying to discern between good and bad suppliers?
A great place to start is by making a list of recommended suppliers from a site such as Miss Jones, and supplementing this by networking – speak to the other Assistants in your department, if there are any, or go to an online networking forum (Linked In is a great place for groups dedicated to EAs and PAs) and ask other Assistants who they recommend.
It is also always hugely beneficial to physically attend supplier networking events so that you are meeting the supplier in person, and meeting other Assistants in person who are always happy to give you advice. Networking is extremely powerful in the world of Assistants and, for building your Little Black Book, it’s absolutely crucial!
In your role, you must hear so many horror stories of suppliers letting down Assistants. Can you share any with us?
One incident which really stands out is an Assistant had booked a corporate hospitality box at The US Open, for her boss to entertain a group of important prospective clients. The catering and food was impeccable and everything was going extremely smoothly.
The Assistant had booked a car company who had assured her that they could drop off and collect her boss and his clients from right outside the entrance to the event, and had stressed repeatedly that they were the only car company allowed to do this.
The drop off went smoothly, but when it came to the end of the tournament the car company weren’t able to access the front of the venue to collect them. As a result, the whole party had to walk for about an hour trying to find the car. One of the clients they were trying to impress was in heels and needless to say was furious; apparently the relationship never recovered. It just shows that one tiny little thing at the end can ruin everything.
And finally – any insider tips from your own Little Black Book?
For a great restaurant on a lower budget I particularly love a restaurant called Pulia, located in Borough Market. The food and the staff are fabulous and will always look after you. If the budget is a little higher, then Sexy Fish, Kitty Fishers and Park Chinois are hot right now! My favourite Hotels at the moment are The Corinthia London – it is just gorgeous when you step in and it has everything you need and The Rosewood Hotel which is beautiful and where a lot of A-listers stay at the moment. Our chauffeur company EG Chauffeurs also have extremely competitive rates and they have never let me down.
We also have a deal with Appleyard Flowers who give our readers 20% off which I even find extremely handy as the flowers are beautiful and I am always sending flowers so having a discount is great!
What’s the Verdict?
We really like the idea; we’ve taken a look at the site and there are some great insider tips – and Lisa clearly knows what she’s talking about. We also feel that a supplier is much less likely to let you down in any way if they know that you’ve found the through a curated site like this – because if they don’t perform, that supplier will lose all the business from that site, not just yours!
You can browse Miss Jones’ Directory Listings here – why not give them a go?
Have a great week!
The Sidekicks Team