Michelle Dersookiasian is PA to Toni Mascolo, co-founder and CEO of Toni & Guy.
Clearly, beauty is in Michelle Dersookiasian’s blood, writes Colette Doyle. This 32-year-old personal assistant of Armenian descent started off as a Saturday girl at the local hairdresser’s at the tender age of 14. Fast forward to 2013 and she now works for the co-founder of the Toni & Guy empire, Toni Mascolo OBE.
Her genuine affection for her high-flying boss is beyond question: “I have the utmost respect for the man, he’s so humble, there’s no big ego trip with him, and yet has created this huge brand,” she says.
Michelle is actually Toni’s longest-serving personal assistant, having worked with him since 2004 and she notes that her role has “changed dramatically” over the past nine years. “I’ve gone from being Toni’s junior assistant to working side by side with him, being his right-hand woman as they say and being involved in everything he does.”
She relishes the greater responsibility that the role now offers, even if it means having to face her pet bugbear of dealing with builders. This is a common occurrence as, alongside Toni’s business interests, she also manages his personal portfolio of properties.
Asked what makes a good PA in her opinion, Michelle says she feels it’s not just the technical secretarial expertise that is important, (although she does like to make sure that is honed to perfection and regularly attends courses on improving IT skills and commercial correspondence) but also interpersonal attributes, such as patience and empathy.
“You have to have some kind of chemistry with your boss, you need to ‘click’ with him or her for it work, ”she comments. The one skill she’d find useful to have is the ability to read other people’s minds. “Being a PA, you’re expected to know just about everything – I have actually become quite good at reading Toni’s mind, but he does sometimes catch me out,” she laughs.
The professional chemistry that she mentions certainly seems to exist between her and Toni, whom she describes as being “great at giving positive feedback and appreciation for a job well done.” She believes this is a reflection of how the PA’s role has grown to become invaluable in the modern workplace. “I think that all CEOs, regardless of the size of their company, rely on their PAs because a good PA allows them to maximise their productivity and any busy professional appreciates that such a person plays a vital part in their team.”
Looking to the future, she says she would like to continue working with a big, household name brand, “it wouldn’t have to be in the beauty or hairdressing sector, but it would have to be a brand that I loved and believed in, that way the passion you have is genuine and it makes working hard not feel like a chore”. For now, though, with Toni & Guy celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, she is perfectly content where she is, part of one big, happy and highly successful family.
A Day in the Life
· 9:30am Arrive at the office; I have an hour and a half until Toni arrives, so it’s my time to catch up and get ready for the manic day ahead. I prepare for our meetings by making sure Toni has all the relevant information he will need and answer any urgent e-mails on his behalf. It’s a very special day today as Toni and his wife Pauline are being honoured with a Papal Knighthood so I have been arranging this event (the reception is at The Ritz) for the past two months. The guest list is done, the food has been chosen and the table plans complete, so we’re ready to go.
· 11am Toni arrives, he has his morning coffee from Caffè Fratelli (Toni’s chain of restaurants) and we have a debrief for the day.
· 12pm Meet with one of our 260 franchisees in the UK to discuss how their salons are doing and areas they can improve; with Toni being the franchisor he is very hands-on with everyone in the company. Toni still offers guidance to the many of the franchisees not just in the UK but worldwide, he is always available to discuss any issues and offers his advice.
· 1:30pm We are off to the Odeon to a Prince’s Trust Event (I always accompany Toni to all the various events, whether they take place during the day or in the evening). The Prince’s Trust is one of the many charities that Toni & Guy supports. The company runs the Toni & Guy Charitable Foundation, which supports other charities such as MacMillan Cancer Support, the Variety Club Children’s Charity, the Stroke Association and the Prince’s Trust to name just a few.
· 4pm Back to the office to do final preparations for our event tonight. In between all of this I have answered about 100 e-mails. I also run one of Toni’s property companies and personally manage his private property portfolio, meaning that I’m the first point of contact for many queries and constantly take calls from everyone –tenants, estate agents, banks, you name it! In the car on our way back from the charity event, I even take a call from one of Toni’s clients, keen to book an appointment for her hair.
· 6pm We leave for The Ritz, where the event is a huge success. Naturally, I know all the people on the guest list, so I greet them, take them to their tables and make sure they have a great time. I get home at around 1am and know that when I start my day all over again tomorrow it will be completely different, as no two days are ever alike in this job.