• Executive Concierges, National Post MAR. 2014
• LIFESTYLE article, Canadian Business DEC. 2013
• "The Sell" Toronto Life DEC. 2010
• Real Estate, DAVE LeBLANC, GLOBE and MAIL
• A Holiday From Heavy Lifting, GLOBE and MAIL
"I thought, 'There must be an independent quality organizer for your life, a lifestyle executive assistant of sorts.' In the old days, you hired a household manager and they usually lived on the property, like a butler, which is great, but that's more for a formal household," Ms. Davis says. "We have a more relaxed, private clientele. They don't like staff in their home."
As expected, her core group of clients is clustered in the city's most expensive neighbourhoods, such as Forest Hill, Yorkville, Bayview and Lorne Park. They own large homes that need substantial maintenance and care, and scheduling can be difficult when you're a surgeon or someone in a senior position in the financial sector who is rarely home.
To ensure not just any Joe Friday is installing the surround-sound or handling the art, Ms. Davis says each trade or "supplier partner," as she calls them, is screened. They are also required to sign policy and procedure guidelines (no smoking or swearing on the job site, and in some cases, no parking in the driveway) and they are never given keys to the houses.
"We have very high expectations — we're around a lot when the contractor is here. That's why things tend to go really well," Ms. Davis says, noting Zebrano's six-person team has its own talents, too. Ms. Vaillancourt of the dark nails is the vice-president of operations and comes from a design background, while Angela Penman, the household manager, spent 23 years at the Four Seasons Toronto in various hospitality roles including human resources and as a concierge. Ms. Davis's own staff maintains a doctor-confidentiality-like approach: "Outside the office, you don't speak a client's name or talk about a project," she says.
Think of Zebrano as a productive personal aide who knows more about your house than you do. Each house is assigned a binder, Ms. Davis explains, flipping through one to reveal a staggering amount of detail: the serial number for appliances (should the dishwasher go on the fritz), a layout of the irrigation system, information on smoke detectors, plumbing specs, the location of gas and water shutoffs. She even records the household cleansers the client prefers.
In her 14 years of service, Ms. Davis as seen it all. "We had a house that was hit by lightning, so that was interesting. It had fried the electrical system. Everything was shot — the alarm and irrigation system, computers — all gone. She's a long-standing client and wanted everything replaced quickly. We even worked with the insurance adjuster on the claim."
Not long ago, Ms. Vaillancourt had to whip up a caterer in 10 days for a busy professional who was hosting a big party for his daughter's 40th and had forgotten about the food.
"They're great at crisis management," says one of Ms. Davis's long-standing clients, a high-level professional in the brokerage industry who prefers to remain anonymous. She bought a package of 60 hours, using part of it recently for this move into her new 3,000-square-foot home. "I was in the house for two weeks when we had a heavy rainfall at 11 p.m. and I realized the skylights were leaking," she says. "They were very efficient in getting it tarped over and ordering the new skylights."
She's also used them to have large light fixtures moved, to source furniture and rugs, hang artwork and mirrors, seal the marble in her bathrooms, do exterior seasonable upkeep and other tasks.
This relationship, she explains, is out of necessity, not laziness or being clueless. "I have a pretty demanding job and my hours aren't flexible. I leave the house by 6:15 and don't get home until 6 or 7 at night," she says. "There's no one to deal with tradespeople or the standard four-hour window for a service call."
As for her Summerhill move, it went off beautifully. "I left for work Monday morning and I arrived back and my entire house was packed up and ready to go. The following day, the movers arrived at 8 a.m. and I was in my new house at 5 p.m.," she says, as though describing a day at the spa.
Now there's a description rarely associated with moving day.