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  • February 20, 2019 3:39 PM | Katharine Giovanni (Administrator)

    By Katharine Giovanni

    About 15 years ago, I was flying home from a training gig and arrived at the airport. Since I had been training people for two days, I was tired and ready to go home. I got into line at the gate to get onto the plane, and as I stood there, I found myself surrounded by a group of Japanese businessmen. Now when I say surrounded, I mean SURROUNDED. We were standing shoulder to shoulder with their arms and shoulders touching mine. Since I’m a typical American and like to have some personal space around me, this situation made me uncomfortable. So since I was in no hurry to board the plane, I stepped out of line and moved to the back.

    A little while later, I was sitting comfortably in an aisle seat on the airplane. After I got settled, I politely nodded to the businessman next to me. Since it was obvious that he didn’t speak English, I opened the book that I had brought with me and started to read. About thirty minutes later, he decided to visit the restroom. So he stood up, lifted his leg, and tried to crawl over my body. Since I generally don’t like people I don’t know crawling over my lap, I immediately stood and held my hand out indicating he should wait. I then politely motioned him to go by. I sat down and tried to go back to my book.

    I just knew he was going to do it again upon his return, so I was ready when he arrived a few minutes later.  However, before I had time to stand up, the leg came up a second time and he tried to crawl over me. I repeated the performance I gave a few minutes before and stood, held out my hand, and motioned him to go back to his seat.

    After it was all over, I quietly sat there and tried to breathe. I attempted to calm myself by reading my book, but after I read the same sentence four times, I knew that it was impossible. So I put my book down and glanced around the cabin. Imagine my surprise when I saw all the Japanese doing the exact same thing as my seat mate. My anger dissolved in a heartbeat. I immediately realized that a gesture they consider to be polite and normal in Japan, we consider rude here in the United States.

    How can you be mad at that?

    My journey into the world of international protocol began. I purchased a few books, visited websites, and made absolutely sure that I checked out the customs of my clients’ countries before I met with them. I’m not saying I always get it right, but I’m trying.

    This leads me to international gestures. Please be careful here because a gesture that is common in the United States might be terribly rude in another country. For example, if someone asks you for directions in the United States, you might raise your right hand and point with your finger. However, pointing is considered extremely rude in many countries. If you have to point, then I suggest that you point using an open hand with your thumb curled into the palm of your hand and your other four fingers locked together.

    Here are some examples that I pulled from the wonderful book Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands by Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conway. The book lists dozens of countries and protocols:

    Talking with your hands

    In the United Kingdom, it is considered impolite to talk with your hands in your pockets. Also, Brits keep their hands on the table when eating (as opposed to Americans who put their hands in their laps).


    In Japan, even the slightest gesture can mean something, so make sure you don’t make any expansive hand or arm gestures. Although pushing your way through a crowd is extremely impolite here in the U.S., it’s not in Japan. In fact, I’m told that it’s the only way you can get on the Japanese subways.

    Eye contact

    In the U.S., direct eye contact is a sign of honesty. However, in Latin America, prolonged eye contact is considered aggressive, so if clients are not looking directly at you when they are speaking, then they are being polite. In Japan, prolonged eye contact is considered rude, as is pointing.

    Respect their comfort zone

    Americans have a few odd quirks, and this is one of them. As I mentioned above, when we stand next to someone, we like to have a two- to three-foot comfort zone around our body at all times. If someone invades that personal space, many will take a step back to reestablish our personal comfort zone.

    Not everyone feels this way though. Latin Americans like to stand close when they’re speaking to you, which is hard for an American because we’ll instinctively want to step back to keep our distance from them, which the Latin American will find rude. Greeks are expressive and will stand close to you and might even kiss you when you first meet them.

    What other quirks do Americans have? We’ll talk about anything— our family, our kids, our career, even sex, just don’t ask us how much money we make. Americans hate to tell people how much money they earn. Many Europeans don’t care and will tell you their earnings in a heartbeat. Americans? Not so much.

    Heads and hands

    When someone from Germany shakes your hand, it’s often accompanied by a nod of the head. Germans find it insulting if you speak to them with your hands in your pockets.

    Left hands

    In the Muslim and Hindu world, your left hand is considered unclean. So use your right hand as much as possible.


    Feet are considered unclean in South Africa and India, so don’t touch anything with your feet. If you do, apologize immediately. In Singapore, you shouldn’t sit with your legs crossed because it shows the bottom of your feet, which is considered extremely rude.


    Be careful when you are giving gifts, especially when it comes to color. For example, the color for mourning is black in the United States, red in parts of Africa, and white in Asia. Never give anything made from cowhide to Hindus, as cows are considered sacred.

    I could go on and on, but I won’t, of course. This was just a small sample to give you a little taste of international protocol and how important it is. If you want to offer concierge-level service, then you must have a good working knowledge of other people’s customs around the world.

    One last thought. If you don’t understand the person because of his heavy accent, please don’t pretend that you do. Honesty is always the best policy. Smile and apologize, and then gently tell the person you’re having a hard time understanding him. Ask him to slow down a bit. The key here is to make the person realize that you are genuinely trying to understand and help him.

    For more information about international protocol, I suggest that you visit I actually have a copy of the book on my desk and will read the necessary chapter when I have an international client flying in so I know what to say and do. Another great protocol site that I use quite often is

    Copyright 2019 by Katharine Giovanni. All Rights Reserved.

    If you wish to reprint this article, please email us.

  • January 02, 2019 2:40 PM | Katharine Giovanni (Administrator)

    For anyone who follows me on social media, you know that I enjoy posting good news facts and articles to combat all the negativity. So, to start 2019 on a positive note, here are a few really great things that happened in 2018.

    1. Twelve boys who were stuck in a cave for 3 weeks in Thailand were successfully rescued.
    2. According to the United Nations, the ozone hole will be healed over the Arctic by 2030. 
    3. A man donated 200,000 air miles to several people so that they could fly home for the holidays.
    4. In the United States, more than 100 women were elected to the House.
    5. Researchers were able to reverse some damage to Alzheimer’s brain cells. It’s more complicated, but that is the gist of it. So exciting!

    Click here to read the rest of the article (originally posted in my LinkedIn blog)

  • November 14, 2018 10:45 AM | Katharine Giovanni (Administrator)

    By Narrin Schwartz

    I’m still recently a new member of The International Concierge & Lifestyle Management Network, based out of Wake Forest, North Carolina. Actually, I happen to be in my second year of membership within our web of concierge and lifestyle professionals. Currently, I am 1 of 105 lifestyle managers in this global network of independent concierge professionals of ICLMNET. I am proud to be part of a community of concierge services & personal assistants that help you live your best life possible.

    Click here to read the rest of Narrin's article

  • October 22, 2018 11:48 AM | Katharine Giovanni (Administrator)

    For me, customer service is a way of life. It’s not what you do; it’s who you are. It’s something that comes from deep inside of you. I can always pick out the people who practice this philosophy because they’re the ones who hold doors open for people, say crazy things like “please” and “thank you,” and pick up their garbage when they leave the movie theater. Plain and simple, they’re just nice people. They’re warm, friendly, approachable, easy to talk to, and are quite adept at turning lemons into lemonade.

    It’s a philosophy that we should all live by.

    Years ago when my eldest son played soccer, I remember walking off a soccer field after a game when I noticed a pile of empty water bottles on the side of the road. There were at least thirty of them, all piled on top of each other. Since no one was picking them up, and every parent was just walking by them, I decided to take a few minutes and dispose of them.

    Please click here to read the rest of the article

  • September 13, 2018 1:40 PM | Katharine Giovanni (Administrator)

    (For the purpose of this article we are going to use the word “employees”. If you have subcontract workers, this info still applies and in fact, applies even more strongly).

    In our last newsletter, we discussed how to find good employees. Hiring employees is a great thing! It means your company is growing and expanding. However, the biggest concern a business owner has is: How do I keep my employees from stealing my clients?

    You are right to be concerned. When I first started my lifestyle management company, I lost my best two clients to one of my employees who decided to start her own company after I showed her everything I know about business and customer service. And when I say ‘two best’ clients – I mean, they made up nearly all of my revenue.

    When this woman quit, she told unflattering stories about me to both clients. One of them believed her and gave me a tongue lashing. The other one called and said she knew the woman was lying but, because I had taught her so well and because she knew this client’s home, she wanted to stay with her.

    It was a dark day.

    But, rather than wallow in my misery or quit my business entirely, I sat down to figure out how I could prevent this from ever happening again.

    First of all, I revamped my hiring agreement. This is a legal document that states all the company legal mumbo jumbo including prohibiting employees from soliciting my clients or my other employees. It also stipulates quite a bit more (i.e. confidentiality and the like).

    Whether a hiring agreement is fully enforceable may be up for discussion but it is always better to have one because at least it gives you some bit of legal precedent and it shows that you have discussed important issues with the employee before they agree to work for you (and they sign it!).

    But having a hiring agreement is not enough and as it doesn’t apply to the day-to-day operations, I created a number of policies and procedures to make sure my employees don’t steal my clients. And you know what? We have not lost another client to an employee since!

    In order to keep your clients from hiring your employees directly or worse, your employee from trying to steal your clients; you must create the perception that you are a company and you are in charge – and you need to create this perception for every client and often.

    Here are the top four steps we implemented to create that perception and to prevent theft of clients:

    1. Establish yourself as the person in charge – It can be very easy for the client to get attached to the person working with them especially if they don’t have regular contact with you, the business owner.

    Therefore we separate the money from the employee. We don’t let our employees discuss pricing or quotes with our clients. All discussions of money are between me and the client.

    Furthermore, in order to firmly establish myself as ‘in charge’, I rarely do regular concierge work for my clients unless we’re short-handed. In other words, my clients know I am the owner of the company and don’t do employee work.

    It can be challenging for some owners to stop doing client work since they started out that way, but set a goal of running the company, not doing the client work. This will serve you in many ways, especially as your company grows.

    Besides, once you hire employees, you won’t have time for client work as you should be leading them, plus marketing and networking harder than ever before – you have to keep the employees working!

    2. Keep control of your company - The worst thing that can happen to a business owner is to be caught unaware (blind-sided). This says to a client that you are not in control of your company. Instead, make sure all employee-client conversations are documented not only to protect you but also keeps informed and first and foremost in the client’s mind.

    We make it mandatory that I am copied on all client communication. Every single email. If the employee has a phone or text conversation, we require them to follow up with an email the same day that starts out 'to confirm what we discussed on the phone’ (or in text) and then they reiterate the conversation.

    By doing this in your company, you are always in the loop fully aware of everything happening in your company. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of full documentation so you avoid any complications due to verbal communications.

    3. Create a team mentality – This is probably the most important of all. You need the client to view you as a company and not an individual.

    Here is one way to create a team mentality: NEVER use personal pronouns. Don't let your employees say 'I did this or I did that'. Always have them say 'we did this' or 'we will respond' or better, have them start emails and time posting with an action word (picked up groceries or created a filing system or set the alarm – no pronouns at all!).

    This creates a sense of the company and not the individual. You want a team mentality so the client gets attached to your company and not the employee. This will stop clients from trying to hire your employees directly or to want to stop using you when the employee changes.

    Now I have heard the argument saying ‘I’ is more personal. It is not. When you’re doing work for people, the use of ‘I’ is ego based. Subconsciously you want the client to know you’ve done something and to appreciate you for it.

    Unfortunately, you’re going to need to develop a sense of validation from within. Your clients pay your company for a service and it doesn’t matter whether they appreciate you or not. (although most of them do).

    Likewise, your employees may resist the lack of personal pronouns. We have had employees in years’ past who would get really upset because they needed the client to validate them personally.

    In these cases I would point out that the employee works for me, not the client; which means as long as I appreciate them, that’s all that matters.

    You want the client to appreciate your company and what you offer, not the individuals (including YOU). In fact, we have one whole procedure dedicated to how to communicate with clients. What words to use. What words not to use. And all my employees are trained to do it exactly alike. Which leads me to the last recommendation:

    4. Create a professional business – Once you start hiring employees, you’ve moved into a whole new arena as far as your business goes. Yes, I talk often about having policies and procedures but if you want to prevent your clients from being stolen then you need to have a strong foundation, consistent policies and procedures and adequate training.

    It is imperative that you educate your employees at initial orientation and consistently thereafter. This includes an understanding that this is your company, these are your clients and this is how each employee needs to operate and behave.

    That doesn’t mean you sit them down and say those exact words – it means you create that air of professionalism through training using the policies and procedures you’ve created.

    It is also imperative that your data collection is consistent and professional. Having your employees enter their own data and in a manner of your choosing establishes your credibility with the client as a professional business.

    Before you look at all this and think ‘holy moly, that’s a lot to process!’; let me offer you this to consider:

    Since we implemented these steps, we have not lost a single client to an employee. Nor has an employee taken off to start his or her own business of this type. These steps work!


    Leslie Spoor is a consultant, mentor and author helping small business owners around the globe. She is founder and CEO of two successful companies, Concierge Business Solutions® and Executive Errands®. Leslie also is the creator of a Concierge data collections software system, Essential Elements™ and a six lesson educational series, How to Start Your Own Business with Leslie Spoor©, available at To work with Leslie or for more information, please visit her website or contact her at

  • September 13, 2018 11:04 AM | Katharine Giovanni (Administrator)

    I was cleaning up my computer files today when I stumbled across an email I received from a good friend of mine. You see, years ago we didn’t have Facebook, so we emailed funny stories to each other during the course of our work day. Here’s what I found in the file…

    (The author is unknown)

    During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one:

    “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

    Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name?

    I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

    “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “hello.”

    I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

    Whenever I do a speaking gig, or plan a meeting somewhere, I always make it a point to thank everyone by name, and I mean everyone. This is why I still remember the name of the ladies’ room attendant at the old Capital City Club in Raleigh NC. Her name was Ophelia.

    I remember one meeting in particular. I was teaching a two-day workshop...

    Please click here to read the rest of the article:

  • August 13, 2018 3:17 PM | Katharine Giovanni (Administrator)

    By Katharine Giovanni

    Want to know the secret of growing your business? The REAL secret? Change your words.  I’m serious, change your words and you will change your life.  

    Let me give you an example …

    I got a call recently from a woman who wanted to know if she could make any money starting a concierge business. After speaking with her for a while I started to notice phrases like “I think I can” and “not sure if this will work or not” and “I’ve never owned a business before and I’m a bit scared.” 

    Let’s compare that phone call to another one I received. This time it was from a woman who was just laid off from her job. Unlike the first caller, I heard phrases like “I am going to be your next success story!” and “I know this is going to work.” During her coaching session she asked dozens of questions and greeted each answer with enthusiasm and some ideas of her own. By the end of the session, the confidence she had in herself and her abilities was clear and I knew without a doubt that her business would flourish. 

    Words are important. KNOW that you can do this and have absolutely no doubts about it. The first caller doubted her abilities and doubted that she could make money doing this. It stands to reason that if she doubts she’ll make money doing this then most likely she won’t.  The second caller had no doubts and simply knew that it would work.


  • July 06, 2018 11:37 AM | Katharine Giovanni (Administrator)

    Going to the grocery store used to be a social event. We knew all the clerks and regularly chatted with the butchers behind the cases. They knew our name and we knew theirs. Even when other grocery stores opened in our neighborhood, we kept going back because it felt like home to us.

    One day a few months ago, my husband and I walked into our favorite grocery store for our weekly shop and didn’t see any of their regular employees. When we asked what happened to everyone, we were told that corporate moved them all to other stores.

    New faces greeted us with smiles and a rehearsed greeting that had little warmth. You knew they didn’t care. The magic was gone. Indifference had replaced the warm and friendly attitude we had come to expect.

    Click here to read the rest of the article

  • June 26, 2018 3:59 PM | Katharine Giovanni (Administrator)

    by Katharine Giovanni

    Always leave people better than you found them.

    A few years ago I was in Las Vegas on my way home from teaching a seminar. When I got to the airport, I found out that my flight had been delayed which caused a bunch of us to miss our connecting flights. Ah well! I tend to be calm about these sorts of things because there really is no use getting mad about it. In fact, I was cracking jokes to the woman in back of me to lighten the mood a bit.

    The gentleman in front of me, however, was different. He was so mad that I could almost see steam coming out of his ears. He was yelling and screaming at this poor young girl behind the counter. It wasn’t her fault that our flight was delayed, but he didn’t seem to care about that. He spent about 10 minutes banging the counter with his hand and yelling at her in loud tones, and then stormed off. As I watched him go, I wondered why on earth would you yell at the person who has the power to get you home?

    Since I was next in line, I walked up to her counter and immediately noticed that she was doing everything in her power to stop herself from crying in front of me. She was so distraught that her hands were shaking! My heart melted. So I put my bags down and looked her right in the eyes. I then told her to take as much time as she needed to get herself together because I was sure her supervisor wasn’t going to let her go on a break. I then started to gently talk to her while she wiped her eyes and took a few deep breaths.

    We chatted about the man and his situation for a few minutes until she had calmed down. I got her to laugh about it and she was able to move forward. She then put me on a flight and I headed towards my gate. As I walked towards security, I looked down at the ticket and was stunned when I saw that she had given me a seat in first class! Plus there was a certificate that bought me dinner in the airport.

    As I’ve said many many times … what you put out in this world, you’ll get back. Treat people like you yourself would like to be treated. That’s the true key to it all.

  • May 30, 2018 3:12 PM | Katharine Giovanni (Administrator)

    The number 1 media tip you have to hear

    by Katharine Giovanni

    A few years ago, a reporter interviewed me for a story he was writing for the Associated Press. After the interview was over, we chatted for a few minutes and out of the blue he asked me the following question...

    "Mrs. Giovanni, I need your advice about something"

    Since reporters generally don't ask me that (combined with the fact that he had just told me he graduated from college the previous year and this was his first job) my radar was immediately up. So I answered "sure what's up?"

    He then told me a story...

    A few days before our interview, the young man interviewed a concierge and asked them what the strangest thing they have ever done for a client was. The concierge told them they owned a few limousines and could get their clients any recreational drug they wanted. They then told the reporter "of course that's off the record right?"

    "So I have a problem. Technically, if you want it off the record you have to say it before the sentence, not after. So I could use it if I wanted to. I already told my boss about the interview and he wants to run it. I really don't want to write it because it will hurt your industry. Plus, I really don't want to give that guy any free press because he doesn't deserve it. What should I do?"

    A reporter with ethics! I LOVED this kid!!!! He was warm, friendly and genuinely wanted to help. So we chatted for about 20 minutes and I advised him to go with his heart. Of course, I also agreed that it would seriously hurt our industry if he ran the story.

    For the next month I patiently waited for the story to come out. I went to their website and ran internet searches to see if his article had come out. 

    Nothing. I'm pleased to report that he stood his ground and never printed it.

    So the moral of the story? NOTHING is off the record! If you say it, there is a good chance they'll print it so be careful. I would also only provide services that are legal, moral and ethical.

    One more thing... many reporters will ask for your funniest story in the concierge industry. That's fine, just don't give your client's name. Just say "a celebrity client of mine once asked me to... " Confidentiality is the hallmark of the concierge industry and should never ever be broken.

    About the Author: Katharine Giovanni is one of the world’s leading corporate concierge, front desk and customer service trainers, and is considered by many to be one of the original founders of the independent concierge industry.

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