Fifteen minutes with the Square Mile stalwarts of which every City sybarite should be aware…
After four years as head concierge at Tower 42, Terry Burns set up City Concierge in 2002, after enquiries for the supply of his services started to spread from the old NatWest Tower to other buildings and institutions in the City. Thanks to a high-quality network of suppliers of products and services, Terry is able to offer clients everything from VIP access to sold out concerts and exclusive nightclub events, to luxury sports car hire and the lease of private jets.
What is the key to running a successful concierge?
The key is ‘passion’. Passion for helping people and having the right services and contacts at your fingertips to give a first-class service.
Which tickets are the hardest to come by?
Most tickets are obtainable but often at a premium price.
What’s the strangest request you’ve ever had?
One of my clients, who was expecting her first child, asked me to arrange a three-course meal of ice-cream only. Needless to say, her wish was my command.
Biggest risk you’ve ever taken in business?
I invested in a property for the long term and financial gain; which sadly, it went tits up. I lost a lot of money.
The thing you are most scared of is…
Confined spaces; so the thought of being in a tunnel on an underground train, which has stopped for more than one or two minutes, terrifies me.
What would you do as a Mayor of London?
If I was the Mayor, I would revolutionise working hours to lessen the impact of rush-hour commuting. I would encourage work-at-home for employees three out of five days a week. I would also encourage wellbeing interventions at the workplace to relieve the everyday stress of working in the City.
Three historic or living figures you’d like to have dinner with?
Bill Clinton, Jackie Onassis and the Queen.
The person you’d most like to punch in the face?
My ideal person would be an ex-friend whom I had purchased a property with.
Biggest ever indulgence…
In 2015 you are going to…
Travel, restructure some of the exclusive events I have at my fingertips, contact a lot of very high-end individuals and keep Tower 42 as the Best Place to work in the City.
When I was a youngster, my mother used to say “Terry, you can’t be in two places at once”. Until quite recently, I believed that was true. So what happened quite recently? I set up City Concierge Ltd. and with every passing month, I’m in the lobbies of an increasing number of office buildings, clubs, banks, building societies, insurance companies…..all at the same time!
After all these years of being a concierge, I’ve become a “virtual concierge”. Members, tenants, employees in all our clients’ premises just pick up the phone or send an e-mail and within seconds they have access to all my knowledge and contacts. I only wish I could tell my mother “You’re wrong, Mum. Thanks to modern technology, I’m all over the place”.
This month, to all the people I’m looking after, there are two things I’m promoting:
How many people do you think visit the UK every year to do business? You’re sitting in a meeting with a man from China, a woman from Brazil. You think you understand what they’re telling you. They think they understand what you’re telling them. Turns out you’re both wrong, but only after a lot of wasted time. How much cheaper is it to hire one of our interpreters for a few hours and communicate effectively?
You’re back from holiday and suddenly its 17 weeks to Christmas. You could solve all your corporate gift problems in one click. We’ve got a mouth-watering selection of hampers this year – I put on 3lbs just looking at the web page.
I must dash – it’s not easy being everywhere at once.
Did you see it….The Apprentice final? A bit of a twist in the tail, wasn’t it? Just when you thought you knew what was going to happen, the two leading horses suddenly stopped to chew some grass and the third runner squeezed in between them to win. What interested me most was why Helen lost.
She came up with a brilliant business idea – why not set up as a Virtual Concierge? (Now why didn’t I think of that?) Everything was going well until the interviewer said “where’s your book of contacts?” The blank expression on her face said it all. “I don’t have a book of contacts; I hadn’t thought about it and I don’t know how to get one.” So the interviewer said “could you get me a table at the Ivy restaurant tonight?” The penny dropped and she told him she’d have to set about getting some contacts.
You can’t do that! You can’t wake up one morning and say “starting today I’m an architect….or an orthodontist….or a High Court Judge. You have to spend years and years gaining the necessary knowledge. I know that, Lord Sugar knew it but she didn’t, so she threw away an almost certain victory.
It’s taken me all those years and years to build up my “book of contacts”. I don’t mean just a list of names and phone numbers I could have found in Yellow Pages. I’m talking about flesh-and-blood people I’ve known forever. People I can phone up at 10 o’clock on Sunday night and say “I need a favour”. I can do that because we’ve always done each other favours, passed business each other’s way. That’s how it works and that’s why City Concierge works – we’ve spent a long time doing our homework.
Oh and yes, before you ask, I can get you a table at the Ivy. Just a few weeks ago, some high-level American businessmen wanted a table for six – same day! Their P.A. couldn’t get them in…..but I could.
So my advice to Helen and all the other Helens is this: stick to what you know; leave the “expert” businesses to the experts….like City Concierge.
Summer has arrived and if anywhere genuinely suits summer, it’s the City. All those beautiful buildings sparkle and shine and the leaves on the trees set them off nicely, but it’s not just the way it all looks. The people are different too. Everyone somehow seems to be in a better mood; cheerful and polite. The City Concierge is always cheerful and polite – it goes with the job, but it really brightens up the day when everyone else is too.
Summer is also good for business. The football season is over and suddenly all the focus is on the familiar summer sporting events – special emphasis every summer on debenture corporate hospitality at Wimbledon. I am keeping very busy at the moment, finding the best seats. There is also a tremendous increase in demand for hotel accommodation. We have amazing 60-70%discounts to offer clients, which makes our services even more attractive. More commercial visitors bring their wives/husbands at this time of the year. This means they stay longer, book more sight-seeing tours with me and very often hire cars and travel around to other parts of the country. I am arranging plenty of personal shoppers for wives and partners, who don’t know their way around, and want to exploit the shopping opportunity to the max.
The one area where I am really seeing an increase is interpreters. There have always been huge numbers of foreign visitors coming to London on business and most of them speak English – to an extent! It seems that it has finally dawned on them that they may be losing chalks in business meetings if they fail to catch every word or to understand English expressions (like “losing chalks”, for example).
Meanwhile, I’m doing a roaring trade in attractive summer weight bespoke suits at amazing prices.
So, have a good summer and if there’s anything you need, visit the website –
My preparations for the day actually start the evening before. I clean my shoes. This is a ritual I have been carrying out for nearly 30 years. I get my various compounds and specialist cloths spread out on the table and then I start. The whole process takes just over an hour. By the time I finish I am both focused and relaxed and you could use my shoes as a shaving mirror.
I rarely go out to buy shoes – they come to me. Every 8-12 weeks Caroline arrives in an estate car loaded with the merchandise. Caroline is the smiley face of Thomas Dainty Shoes. She gets to us early in the morning to set up her display on the mezzanine just under the window.
Thirty years ago Northamptonshire was still the home of British shoes. It seemed that every town and village in the County had its own factories churning them out. Now that business has all gone to the Far East with a few notable exceptions.
Caroline brings her shoes straight from the factory in the small town of Earls Barton. Each pair is lovingly hand finished by the last of the remaining English craftsmen.
In case you hadn’t guessed I am a man who sets great importance on his footwear. It has to look good; and it has to feel good. I spend all day on my feet and I have to be luxuriously comfortable. That’s why Caroline gets invited back so regularly.