Q&A with Don Lancaster of Carolina Concierge & Courier
What is a concierge and what do you do?
The original origin of the word concierge is French and, essentially, means “keeper of the keys.” It goes back to medieval times, when the concierge was the keeper of the castle. His job was to make sure that the castle was run properly as well as to make sure that any visiting dignitaries were taken care of and did not want for anything during their stay. Later, the concierge concept moved into the hotel industry. If the patrons of a hotel need something during their stay, they call the concierge, who handles whatever those needs are.
Approximately 25 years ago, a group of former hotel concierge started to take that concept to the general public. The concierge concept was made so that the average person could benefit from it. An entire cottage industry was formed around taking care of things that other people just didn’t have time to do.
Carolina Concierge and Courier is a full-service personal assistant service. It’s not something that you have to be a wealthy person to afford. It’s affordable to the masses and we are available to take care of anything that a busy person doesn’t have time to do, doesn’t want to do, or just doesn’t know where to go to get it done. That can be anything from a personal errand, to a corporate errand, and most anything in between. I like to jokingly say, “as long as it’s honest and legal, we’ll take care of it.”
What kinds of personal errands do people ask you to do?
It pretty much runs the gamut. Whatever a person needs to have done. If I can take something off someone’s plate to help their day run better so they can be more productive in other areas, then I do that for them.
I have clients who ask me to pick up prescriptions and to pick up groceries. I deliver meals. I had a client who bought a large cedar wood play set for her children and asked if I could find someone to put it together for her. I found someone who could take care of it and facilitated to make sure it was put together to her specifications. The gentleman was a contract builder. He was licensed and bonded, so he was able to go on her property without my worrying about any legal issues. I have a number of licensed, vetted vendors who I call upon to do the things that I am not directly able to do.
What about corporate errands?
It depends on the client. I have clients who are printers, for instance, and I make deliveries for them. I sometimes do out-of-town deliveries. One client ordered some specialty cookies from a bakery near Charlotte. He asked me if I could possibly pick them up, so, I did. I drove to the other side of Charlotte, picked up two large boxes of cookies and brought them back.
Another client lives here in Pitt County and teaches real estate classes. He had a class set up in Raleigh and the classroom materials were not in place the night before the class. He called me and said, “Is there any way you can go to a warehouse in Raleigh, pick up the information and textbooks, take them across town to the classroom and have them set up by 9 o’clock tomorrow morning?” I said, “Sure, I’ll take care of that for you.” When I called to tell him everything was ready to go, there was this big sigh of relief. I like being able to take care of things when people find themselves in a jam. I like to help them out. It’s a good feeling.
What areas do you serve and how much notice do you need to handle someone’s request?
As a general rule, I work in a 25-mile radius of Greenville, but I will service all of North Carolina if a client needs it. Preferably, I like about a 24-hour notice. When you contact me, I’ll return your call or text within one to two hours. Once I find out what you need and how urgent it is, we’ll work out a suitable time-frame.
But, sometimes that 24-hour notice is just not possible. Emergencies come up and someone will call in a panic and say, “I really need this. Or, is there any way you can take care of this for me?” I’ll look at my calendar and a lot of time I can work things in. Some requests are more urgent than others, so I’m able to move things around to get done what needs to get done to relieve an unfortunate situation for a client.
My son, Andrew, works with me. He helps a great deal, which allows us to multi-task and take care of more things than just one of us would be able to handle.
What direction do you see your business going in?
We are in the process of expanding into the medical community in Greenville. The medical community is growing with the hospital, the university, the medical school, and we now have a new dental school. I used to work in the hospital, years ago, and know firsthand how busy doctors and nurses are. Nursing staff often work 12-hour shifts. 12-hours is a long time. So if a nurse works all night long, when they are done and able to go home, they need that time to rest. That’s where I see our business benefiting them. There are things that can only be accomplished during normal business hours. With our assistance, those hard-working people don’t have to worry about getting up in the middle of their sleep time to take care of something.
We also work with those receiving medical care. When patients have surgeries or treatments that require them to have some recuperative time at home or in the hospital, they still have things that need to be done that they wouldn’t normally ask anyone to do. We can give them an opportunity to rest, knowing that things are being taken care of, and they can focus on getting well. That’s where I think the next phase of our business will grow into—being able to help people who are recuperating from surgeries and medical treatments.
How can people contact you?
Anyone can contact me by phone or text at 252.531.1436 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.