Lori Zuker Briller is the co-founder of The Grapevine Agency, a boutique recruiting agency in Beverly Hills. Her professional path has been long and winding, but she’s followed her bliss to her current success as a job match-maker. Lori is all about connecting the right people with each other, and she has a uniquely important perspective on the relationship between nannies and the families they work for. How should a nanny help the family during a divorce? Lori has the scoop. Read on for her story of finding professional fulfillment, followed by her tips for the best way to nanny during a divorce.
What led you to The Grapevine Agency?
After working in the entertainment industry as a development executive for Alec Baldwin and then later at Will Smith’s company for several years, I slowly became disenchanted with the process of making movies. As much as I loved watching them, I realized that the behind-the-scenes process was exceedingly slow and laborious for, in my humble opinion, no reason.
As a New York City native, I had my own desires to open a “Dean and Deluca” type marketplace, which ultimately Joan’s on Third did with perfection before I had the chance. I could feel my entrepreneurial spirit in my bones, but didn’t have the right outlet. I also knew myself as more of a doer in terms of research, tasks , lists etc. than the actual act of going after something to really make it happen. When I could feel my time coming to an end at Will Smith’s company, I was, as kismet would have it, introduced to a woman who owned a staffing agency. She wanted to bring me in to expand her entertainment corporate business since she knew I had many contacts, in addition to my familiarity with the vibe, language, and what people would be seeking when hiring assistants. I am so grateful that she gave me such a huge opportunity, and I was actually quite successful very early on while there. But I was still just 30 years old at the time, and didn’t like being micromanaged. I had gone from being a Director/VP of Development with my own assistant, to seemingly being told what to do at every turn, even though I was expanding her business quickly. So I did the smart thing--and I quit! HA! Still not quite sure what I was thinking.
Afterwards, I met with a recruiter who I knew through family friends, and she asked me to come work for her. While one of the hardest decisions of my life, it also turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. She threw me into the deep end, but I learned so much about true recruiting (and this was old school recruiting, when would be dialing for dollars). I worked with her for several years, and simultaneously built an assistant business. At a certain point, her business shifted and it became clear to me that it was time to move on. As luck would have it, I caught wind of an acquaintance of mine who was looking to start her own talent agency, and I threw myself at the opportunity to join her. I did what any ambitious lunatic would do, and I called everyone I knew at CAA who could connect me to her, asked for a meeting, and sold myself. After a 2-hour meeting we were partners and I have never looked back! It was my “AHA!” moment. I just knew in my gut this was the right choice for me. Together, we created The Grapevine Agency, which turned 14 years old in June. We’re a boutique placement agency in BeverlyHills specializing in placing all sorts of assistants and career EA’s into the right jobs for them. We also place house/estate managers, housekeepers, nannies, chefs, drivers and security guards. I love connecting people together. When the right placement is made and both parties are happy, it’s one of the best feelings. I love helping others, and relish that feeling of matching a client with someone that will truly change their daily life, while simultaneously providing a candidate with fulfilling work for an enjoyable employer. Well, it just doesn't get any better than that!
Do you agree with the expression that “good help is hard to find”?
I think that adage is true sometimes. I am speaking generally here, so please, I mean no offense to anyone younger out there, but often times those coming out of college these days have a clear sense of wanting what they want and wanting it now. The issue here is many of these recent graduates don’t understand that the ability to climb through the ranks and to learn is cumulative and takes time. Many of my clients tell me that they are hesitant to hire folks in their 20’s--again a huge generalization--because they don't tend to have the same work ethic. They’re inclined to jump from job to job and have an inflated sense of what they should be paid. I can say this from first-hand experience. With that said though, I have met many hard-working young people with a tremendous work ethic.
Saying “good help is hard to find” can also be unfair. Sometimes there are clients that just keep wanting more and more from one individual, and have a tendency to roll many jobs into one person. So in a sense, the employee is destined for failure. In these scenarios, it's not that good help is hard to come by, it’s that employers have unrealistic expectations. In the modern era dominated by technology--cell phones, emails, and so on--it’s rare that anybody has an off button. But as we have seen, there really needs to be a balance. There needs to be a healthy dose of fun time, off time, and recharge time. Perhaps if hiring parties could see that as well, there would be less friction between employers and employees. But of course, there are some lazy folks out there. That’s just a part of life. For the most part though, I have the privilege of knowing and working with some incredibly talented rock star assistants and service people, who are eager to do a good job.
How has your own story impacted what you do professionally?
I grew up in New York City in the 70’s, and attended very academic schools, Horace Mann and Dwight, I learned early on to be self sufficient. New York allows you to maneuver around on your own earlier in life than LA does. It gives you a sense of autonomy. My mom also worked, so I was left to manage a lot of home needs for myself. I was fortunate to have a tremendous work ethic grow out of that independence. I have always been self motivated. A lot of what I do in my line of work is finding people, and luckily I’ve always been good at research. It’s connecting with people, which I’d say I am fairly good at most of the time too. I was always doing extracurricular activities at school, which helped me learn how to juggle many things at once. Now, I sometimes find myself juggling 20 clients at a time! You have to be streamlined, focused, and exceedingly organized. And on top of all of that, gut helps too. I have always trusted my gut.
How can nannies help when the family they’re working for is going through a divorce?
Divorce is never easy. Even when the parents are really good about co-parenting, aren’t fighting, and are doing everything for the greater good of the kids. No matter what, divorce is an adjustment for everyone involved. I have spoken with nannies and clients alike while immersed in varying degrees of divorce, and the focus should always be on the kids. Make sure the nanny doesn’t become collateral in the divorce. The parents should keep the nanny as an impartial, Switzerland-type party within the divorce, and not attempt to sway them to either side. Ultimately, the nanny should remain an outlet and support system for the children throughout the divorce process. If the kids share anything alarming with the nanny, then they should go to the parents with those concerns. The nanny is there to create and assist with as much structure as possible for the kids through what can otherwise be a pretty hectic time in their life. The nanny should keep them grounded and focused on their everyday life, and most importantly, make them feel safe. Kids (and even parents) need structure, so the nanny should try their best to maintain the same drill and normalcy at home during the divorce. Consistency is always key, along with big ears for listening, and a calm, warm heart.