Theo Fennell #3
Interviews

Theo Fennell

Theo was educated at Eton and art school in York and the Byam Shaw, now part of UAL, of which he is a Fellow. After this, by chance, he joined the brilliant silversmiths Edward Barnard. Here, he fell in love with silver and the tradition of craftsmanship. Having, to his surprise, found his vocation, he started Theo Fennell, the company, in 1982. He then started to design jewellery and silverware for a small circle of private clients, starting a workshop to make the pieces. Some of the original craftsmen are still with the company today making pieces for some of the original clients. Since then the company’s flagship, studio and workshop have all been in the Fulham Road and the work is known around the world for its originality, passion, wit and consummate craftsmanship. His pieces are in some of the most prestigious collections and on some of the most famous bodies in the world. The company is much involved in supporting the next generations in the jewellery trade and sponsors various awards.

A good PA should reflect the very best aspects of their employer and have the tenacity to problem solve with good grace. They should be the one to oil the wheels of their employer’s life in a genuinely proactive way so that the very best can be got out of both of them. A good PA is like a good adjutant, it makes the relationship much more than the sum of the two people.

 

What educational qualifications do you insist on / Do you require your PA to have a degree?

No, indeed it can be a disadvantage as University sometimes teaches some bad habits and no work ethic. Three years of doing not much except the occasional nebulous essay can make it tough for graduates to re-enter the real world. Common sense, tenacity and a sense of humour are far more important than a 2:1 in Media Demography.

Would you agree that behind every great business leader is a great PA?

It certainly helps a lot and, as a PA is the first line of contact, people are often judged by their PA’s performance. How they cope with this reflects on their employer. Sometimes a demanding PA disguises a delightful boss…however, the reverse is acceptable!

What makes a great PA over a competent PA?

Empathy with their employer, diplomacy and an ability to solve problems.

Do you think the importance of emotional intelligence in a PA is sometimes overlooked for a strong skill set? 

Indeed it is; a combination of the two is ideal, though rare. Skill sets are easily learned by a bright person but emotional intelligence is a real gift and a much more complicated thing to acquire.

Would you agree that chemistry is the key ‘ingredient’ for a successful long term working relationship between a PA & Principal?

Yes, but I don’t think that chemistry is a consistent thing as a great PA for one person can be a disaster for another. Equally two very different PA’s can be equally good for the same person because the chemistry works. It is an extraordinarily complicated relationship and I think often entered into too quickly. I think that, within reason, it needs a serious vetting process and time to make sure it works. Also, I don’t think either side should feel diminished if it doesn’t work out but just move on quickly.

What key attributes, traits and skills do you look for above all others when employing a PA?  

Patience, tenacity, efficiency, trust, an ability to problem solve and a sense of humour. One is looking for someone to iron out the complexities of a multi-faceted job and life and reflect one’s best characteristics and not the worst –of which there are obviously more to choose from!

One is looking for someone to iron out the complexities of a multi-faceted job and life and reflect one’s best characteristics and not the worst –of which there are obviously more to choose from!

Would the lack of a PA impede your everyday output?

Without a doubt, otherwise I wouldn’t have one…..

Is your PA a confidante and sounding board for you?

Of course, you must have confidence in their judgement and be able to say what you feel without the risk of indiscretions. I have to feel a PA is completely loyal.

Do you empower your PA by allowing autonomous decision making in any key areas?

Yes, although she tends to check first. I appreciate real endeavour and honesty more than anything. If someone makes a genuine mistake and tells me, I am rarely upset.

How do you keep your PA motivated?

I am not sure I am qualified to answer this but, once my own shortcomings are surmounted, I think it is a pretty interesting job in a highly charged and creative environment, with wonderful pieces being designed and made and much contact with extraordinary people. So, for the right person, it is a demanding but rewarding place to work. However, for someone who finds a creative and bustling place stressful it would be very difficult.

Do you encourage ambition in your PA by offering a structured career path into an alternative role within your organisation?

If my PA wanted to improve her skill set and advance her worth to the business, I should be delighted. However, as it happens, the role is growing and the job itself could become much broader and I would encourage anything that helped equip her for this.

The role is growing and the job itself could become much broader and I would encourage anything that helped equip her for this.

Are you conscious of boundaries where a task may be classified as beyond the call of duty?

Of course, but I think that very much depends on the relationship that has been built up and the established boundaries.

Is your PA an ambassador for you and your office?

Absolutely, it is one of their prime duties and, as I said earlier, their performance with business contacts, customers and friends it largely what one will be judged by.

Do you give your PA access to your inbox/Do you allow your PA to answer e-mails on your behalf without vetting?

Yes, she has complete access and I therefore expect complete discretion especially given our customer base. She will always ask if there is a complicated email but I think an important part of the job is to communicate as the voice of the employer.

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