How The Life Curators is helping professionals strike a healthy work-life balance

Lara Kloosterboer Westphalen, Founder and CEO of The Life Curators, tells European CEO about current trends in the global concierge industry, what led her to launch her company, and the key challenges and opportunities in the future as technological advancements continue to grow apace

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Lara Kloosterboer Westphalen, CEO of The Life Curators

The global health and wellness market is projected to reach $5.3trn this year – up from $4.9trn in 2022 – according to the Health and Wellness Global Market Report 2023, marking an ever-growing emphasis on wellbeing among consumers.

That translates into several areas. The pandemic accelerated a shift towards remote and hybrid working, putting the emphasis on work-life balance – but not everyone has been able to maintain the equilibrium. A recent study by research firm Gitnux found that a poor work-life balance was damaging family relationships among nearly half of those asked, while 37 percent said it was affecting their physical and emotional health.

Given these ongoing challenges, it’s perhaps little surprise the concierge sector is booming – last year the industry was valued at $572m, and it’s expected to reach $911m by 2028, according to a report by Industry Research Co, marking an ever-growing demand for busy professionals to better manage their time.

So what’s driving the trend, how is the sector changing, and how is The Life Curators contributing to help its clients strike the right balance? We spoke to Lara Kloosterboer Westphalen, Founder and CEO, to find out.

What’s the premise of The Life Curators and what services do you offer clients?
At The Life Curators, we’re reimagining executive assistance. We offer a wide range of personalised services that cater to the unique needs and preferences of our clientele. Our offerings go beyond traditional virtual assistants to include global concierge services, personal assistance, executive assistance, strategic advice and wellness and lifestyle services.

What’s the story behind the company and what was your motivation in founding it?
During a challenging phase in my life, I was struggling to fulfil my roles as a mother, wife and professional due to the relentless demands I faced daily. This personal journey highlighted the need for a company like The Life Curators. I founded the company in 2013 – and had it renamed and rebranded in 2021 – with the aim of helping busy professionals better harmonise their personal and working lives. I already had a background in luxury lifestyle management and personal assistance, with an extensive network of global connections; these experiences gave me the insights and resources needed to create a unique service that caters to the specific and diverse needs of our clientele.

What are clients looking for when they come to you and what are the key benefits of joining The Life Curators?
Clients come to The Life Curators to find a personalised and streamlined method to better manage their lives, freeing up more time to focus on their families and business endeavours. We take on responsibility for all hiring expenses, including equipping our Personal Assistants with essential tools such as computers and mobile phones, so clients don’t need to manage these logistics themselves.

We’ve noticed growing demand among clients for personalised wellness experiences and lifestyle enhancements

What kind of clients do you work with?
Our clients hail from a diverse array of backgrounds and professions, united by a shared aspiration: the pursuit of a better work-life balance and the chance to enjoy meaningful moments. While our services reach a wide demographic, most of our clients are based in the UK, Brazil, Portugal and Spain. Our clients include executives, entrepreneurs and other individuals committed to optimising their personal and professional lives, and most either come to us through recommendations from our existing customers, or they find us online.

How do you ensure privacy and confidentiality?
With the widespread adoption of technology and data-driven services, safeguarding client data’s privacy and security has emerged as a paramount challenge in the concierge industry and beyond. Stringent adherence to data protection regulations is key in building clients’ trust. Privacy and confidentiality are of the utmost importance to us – we have strict protocols in place to ensure the security of our clients’ information and data, and our team is trained to handle sensitive information with care and discretion.

What have been the key challenges in managing the business and how have you overcome them?
Managing the business has presented its share of challenges. The concierge industry is competitive, with new entrants continuously emerging. This has prompted us to put the emphasis on innovation and technological advancements, enabling us to provide cutting-edge solutions to help us retain a loyal client base.

With our global presence spanning multiple time zones and locations, the logistics of operating internationally can also bring challenges. We’ve addressed this by establishing efficient communication and management systems, ensuring seamless operations across these diverse regions.

Identifying and nurturing the right talent can also be a time-intensive process. In response, we’ve made substantial investments in our recruitment processes and offer continuous training programmes. These efforts have helped us to build a highly skilled and adaptable team, capable of accommodating a wide range of requests.

We approach these challenges with a proactive and flexible mindset, and are constantly evolving our business model and operations to effectively meet the dynamic needs of both our clients and the ever-changing market.

What impact did the pandemic have and how have things recovered since?
Covid had a significant impact on our business; like many, we faced an initial disruption as travel restrictions were imposed and clients’ priorities shifted. The demand for certain services, including travel arrangements, declined, so we adapted by offering virtual services that catered to clients who were unable to travel. This included virtual wellness consultations, remote executive assistance and other digital solutions. We also expanded our offerings in other areas, providing fitness routines, mental health support and virtual cultural experiences.

As travel restrictions eased and the world began to recover, there was a resurgence in the demand for our services. Clients were eager to resume their travel plans and book unique experiences, and we were ready to meet those demands.

What’s it like managing a business more generally?
Running a business is multifaceted, involving a wide spectrum of responsibilities, challenges and rewards. You have to consistently demonstrate excellence in areas such as leadership, decision-making, team management, financial oversight, operational efficiency, marketing, sales, customer relations and long-term planning – as well as work-life balance – among many other areas.

It’s a demanding and intricate role; success in business management demands a unique blend of strategic thinking, effective leadership and the agility to adapt to evolving circumstances. It carries substantial responsibilities, but it can also bring about incredible rewards.

What are your business goals for the future?
My primary goal is to continue our expansion by entering new markets and broadening the company’s geographical reach. Continuing to build and nurture a highly skilled and motivated workforce is also hugely important. We plan to invest in employee training, leadership development and talent acquisition to achieve our strategic objectives. We also aspire to collaborate with other companies through partnerships, alliances or joint ventures to unlock new opportunities and explore new markets.

We’re also committed to establishing sustainability goals aimed at reducing our carbon footprint and actively participating in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Lastly, our pursuit of strong brand recognition remains a key focus. Developing a strong brand presence can significantly enhance consumer trust and foster brand loyalty, ultimately contributing to long-term success.

What impact might AI and other technological advancements have on the concierge industry?
The recent slew of technological advancements offer the industry exciting opportunities for the concierge sector. Mobile applications, chatbots and AI-powered platforms will significantly improve customer interactions, offering tailored recommendations and services. Integrating technologies like AI and IoT can empower providers to enhance customer experiences and streamline operational efficiency, fostering growth and customer loyalty. Virtual concierge services are expected to become increasingly prevalent, and the adoption of blockchain technology for secure transactions and payment solutions is also anticipated to become more widespread.

Running a business is multifaceted, involving a wide spectrum of responsibilities, challenges and rewards

How else might the sector develop in the future and what key trends are you seeing?
The concierge industry is poised for a series of transformations in the future, propelled by shifting consumer preferences and global trends. Alongside the technological breakthroughs, sustainability and responsible tourism are taking centre stage. Concierge services will likely embrace eco-friendly travel alternatives, promoting local and sustainable experiences and guiding travellers in making environmentally conscientious choices.

In terms of consumer trends, we’ve noticed growing demand among clients for personalised wellness experiences and lifestyle enhancements, as well as for tailored travel experiences. In the corporate realm, companies may look to integrate concierge services into their employee benefits packages to boost staff wellbeing. This could mean aiding employees with travel arrangements, or assisting with other tasks to help them achieve a better work-life balance.

What challenges do you foresee moving forward?
As the concierge industry continues to advance, it faces a myriad of challenges and opportunities that will significantly influence its trajectory. One key challenge lies in finding the delicate balance between luxury and sustainability, and providing eco-friendly options that also align with the industry’s demand for exclusive, high-end experiences.

We’ve also seen how global uncertainties such as pandemics, natural disasters and geopolitical instability can disrupt the travel and hospitality sector, so businesses must proactively prepare for these uncertainties and develop effective contingency plans.

What are the key opportunities?
Collaborations with businesses to provide concierge services to their employees represent one lucrative avenue, especially as employers are now putting an ever-bigger focus on wellbeing post-pandemic. That growing emphasis on wellness and wellbeing presents a valuable niche for expansion; offering health-focused experiences, wellness retreats and services can cater to the ever-increasing demand for holistic well-being.

We’re also seeing escalating demand for personalised experiences, which offers another prime opportunity. Tailoring services to cater to individual preferences and crafting unique, memorable experiences can set concierge providers apart in a highly competitive, ever-changing landscape.