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Airport concierge Phyllis Stuart proud to have raised more than £200k at her charity balls

Phyllis Stuart, of PES Executive Handling.
Phyllis Stuart, of PES Executive Handling.

Every Monday, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Phyllis Stuart, managing director of Aberdeen-based airport concierge service PES Executive Handling.

How and why did you start in business?

Simple – after spending 27 years in a variety of customer services roles with British Airways, latterly as customer services manager for Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow airports, I was ready for a new chapter. I’ve always loved going above and beyond to help people in a very personalised way, and I wanted to continue in the same sphere, channelling everything I’ve learned into setting up and running my own business, my way.

The obvious answer was to do what I do best, so in 2020 I set up PES Executive Handling as a slick, efficient, highly attentive and professional, customer-focused business that makes airport journeys as smooth and stress-free as possible for VIPs.

Today, we provide everything from professional and discreet meet-and-greet services to fast track security, concierge and executive transfers.

How did you get to where you are today?

Aviation came up as an option when looking for a job after having my children and, rather nervously, I applied for my first post – it was a big step to take at the time. Why aviation? Well, my late father was an airport fireman and while he tragically died in a motorbike accident when I was three, I remember being fascinated by everything I saw and heard.

Maybe it was his uniform but I did want to become an air hostess. I couldn’t train in Aberdeen so did other things, but I have ended up spending lots of time in and around the airport.

Career-wise, I’ve been driven by a desire to do my very best for people, and surpassing customers’ expectations is central to what I do.

Who helped you?

My mother was always hugely supportive and although my father died when I was very young, he has been a big influence on me.

Becoming a member of the Federation of Small Businesses was recommended to me very early on, and it has given me vital access to good information and advice, particularly on things like insurance and creating comprehensive terms and conditions.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

Be yourself, prepare well and cover all bases to the best of your ability. It has always helped me.

What is your biggest mistake?

Aged eight or nine, I took part in a piano competition at a festival. I always played with music, but everyone else played without so I thought I should too, and I played badly. I had followed the crowd, wanting to be the same as everyone else but it hadn’t worked. I learned a huge life lesson as a result.

What is your greatest achievement?

The many charity balls I’ve run over the years, initially when I was with British Airways. I’m really delighted we’ve raised more than £200,000 to help underprivileged children.

If you were in power in government, what would you change?

A big ask, but I’d seek to engender more common sense and respect. Politicians can help others best if they are good listeners and respectful of others’ points of view, and constituents should receive the best possible customer service, because that is what they are – customers. You can completely disagree with someone’s political views and still get on well with them if you keep respect at the centre of your interactions.

What do you still hope to achieve?

To keep building my business, partly for myself and partly as a legacy for my family. I’d like to expand into Inverness and Glasgow, taking my style of customer service to other places. I’ve also been asked to do some tourist tours, which have been very well received, and I’m hoping to do more in that market.

What do you do to relax?

Walking, gardening, spending time with my family and exploring the natural world with my grandchildren – Royal Deeside and Ballater in particular. I visited with my parents as a child and love doing the same thing with my own family now.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?

During lockdown I started listening to podcasts, especially anything to do with UFOs, Area 51, space and all that – note the aviation link. I’m fascinated by the unexplained, and love mysteries and science.

What do you waste your money on?

Toy shops.  I love treating my grandchildren.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Pet and feed my cat, who will have been staring at me for at least an hour.

What do you drive and dream of driving?

I drive a Mercedes but I’d love an Aston Martin, with Mayfair plates. When I go to London I often wander in Mayfair, and look at the cars and daydream.