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Episode Seven: Man And Machine
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Need a manicure? Shoeshine? Beard trim? Have no fear, Master Concierge Ben Rydell has it all covered at Y&R's New York City headquarters.
Mr. Rydell has been an integral part of Y&R since May 2013, when the WPP shop moved to 3 Columbus Circle after 87 years on Madison Avenue.
Y&R Global CEO David Sable created the concierge role immediately following the office transition as a way to make staffers feel comfortable in the new space. Mr. Rydell's desk was strategically placed on the entrance floor of the office near the cafe, which Mr. Sable said is "core to bringing people together."
Initially, the vision for the concierge was simply someone who would be a resource for employees, helping out with small tasks, but Mr. Rydell took it to the next level. "Whatever you need done, he can do. It just amazes me," said Mr. Sable.
Before joining Y&R, Mr. Rydell was the front lobby concierge at the Related Companies headquarters, managing guests such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. His first job in New York was as a front-door host at Serendipity 3, a popular Upper East Side restaurant with an average wait time of two hours. There, he welcomed celebrities like Tom Cruise, Kim Kardashian and John Travolta.
At Y&R, Mr. Rydell organizes weekly office events, like Tuesday manicures, Wednesday haircuts and beard trims and Thursday chair massages. He also picks up and drops off dry cleaning, and seeks out local restaurant, bar, theater and sporting event discounts and tickets.
"I never hesitate to go out of my way if anyone needs anything," said Mr. Rydell.
Sometimes referred to in the office as "Mr. Fix It," he can get a stain removed before a big meeting, bring a pair of shoes to get quickly repaired or have a button sewn back on a shirt. He carries safety pins, needles and thread with him at all times, and for those who get caught in the rain, he has three types of blow dryers at his station.
He's also more than happy to lend a helping hand to people across all WPP agencies in the building. Recently, someone from Wunderman needed to use Y&R's shower, and "he was blown away that I had a fresh towel waiting for him," said Mr. Rydell.
Not only does everyone at 3 Columbus Circle know Mr. Rydell, clients love him too, said Mr. Sable. A few clients call the master concierge directly to ask for restaurant recommendations or reservations.
Because of Mr. Rydell's connections throughout the city, he's the go-to guy for party plans or last-minute arrangements. "I can quickly get on the phone and make a same-day reservation for a group of 10 or more," he said. "It's a challenge sometimes, but I do everything I can to make it happen."
Some of his favorite parts of the job include building personal relationships, keeping staffers feeling motivated throughout the day and coming up with fresh ideas, such as partnering with health and wellness studios and bringing in boot camp classes.
Mr. Rydell, who also has his own zip code plus-four at Y&R so he can accept personal packages, emails a newsletter to the entire office every Monday. The memo includes the cafe's weekly menu and a recap from the previous week, as well as various deals and offers. During the holidays, he sent out a shopping guide and information about free events and family outings around the city.
But Mr. Rydell isn't only a concierge; he's an accomplished trumpet player and former sideman and bandleader on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean cruises. In 2008, he met his future wife, Natalie, on a cruise ship named the Azamara Journey. She was one of the show's cabaret-style performers and singers. The pair married in November.
While Mr. Rydell is essential for daily tasks at Y&R, his role is much more than that of caretaker or planner. "He's become such a part of the fabric of the company," said Mr. Sable.
More important, the feeling is mutual, according to Mr. Rydell, who said he looks forward to coming into work each morning.
"Everybody here makes me feel so welcome and special. They love me and I love them," he said. "It's a unique, special relationship, and I've enjoyed it since day one."