Deloris Locke may be the most influential woman in Buckhead you’ve never met. Locke has been providing domestic staff- executive house keepers, estate managers, house managers, chefs, etc- for Buckhead families since 1991. The needs of her clients have changed over the years, but her work ethic and attention to detail have allowed her to adapt and remain an important resource in the community.
Clients of the Locke Domestic Agency almost always communicate with Deloris over the phone, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get personal service. Locke says that advice she received from an early client helped to shape the way she does business to this day. “J. B. Fuqua was one of my first clients, and he called me directly. His assistant didn’t call me, he called and told me what he needed. He said, ‘How long have you been in business?’, and I said, ‘This is just my second year.’ And he said, ‘Let me give you some advice- if anybody calls you, you call them back. I don’t care who they are and what they want. If they took the time to give you a phone call, call them back. Never be too big that you don’t call them back.” Locke says she didn’t think much about it at the time, but it has made a big impact on the way she has done business ever since. From big important clients to the candidates she places, Deloris believes that, “Everyone deserves a phone call.”
At this point, much of Locke’s business comes from referrals and return clients. “To me, that’s why my clients have all ended up coming here. It is because I’ve made such good placements. And of course, if you’re in that group of clients, they refer you.” Deloris spends time talking to clients in order to help them find the right candidate to fill their needs. “Your client has an idea of what they want. They know they want somebody that can pick up the kids in the afternoon or somebody that can clean the house. That’s what everyone wants, so now we go into exactly what are your expectations?” She continues, “I’m about the scope of the work, the realism of the job, and then the dynamics of the household. That’s a moving target all the time.”
Deloris has a reputation as a straight shooter, and her return clients appreciate her no-nonsense approach. Her experience has given her the confidence to be direct and get down to business. “I wasn’t always as bold, but I’ve been doing it for 30 years. I know what I know, and you’re not going to tell me differently. If you don’t want to receive that, I’m just not going to get involved. I tell them, ‘I know you have never worked with me, Mr. Client, just roll with me on this.’ I know exactly what you need.”
Placing candidates with the right clients is imperative to her success, and Locke’s personal interest in each and every candidate is apparent. Speaking about her candidates, Locke says, “I’ve met every one of them. I’ve seen their shoes, their feet, their car. I have a relationship with them. I interviewed them for two hours, and I talk to them on the phone every day. I spend 95% of my time with candidates 5% with my clients.”
In 30 years, Deloris has seen her candidates go from part-time workers with no other skills, to educated domestic professionals. Many candidates have 2 or 4 year degrees, but have chosen domestic jobs over what they may have studied in college. Locke looks for specific criteria in her candidates. Concerning her childcare candidates, she said, “When they come to me they already have some type of childcare experience in a private residence. It’s not just what skill set they can bring, it’s how they handle themselves.” Locke relies on her relationships with her candidates to connect them to the right clients for long-term placements. “It’s all about personality. That’s why I can do it from a telephone, as long as I meet my candidates. Clients all want the same thing- honesty, show up, have a good attitude, and know your skills.” Deloris is choosy about who she works with because she takes great pride in her candidates. “If I wouldn’t hire them myself, I’m damn sure not going to send them to you!”
Deloris has developed a training program for candidates who she feels are well-suited for the domestic field, but may lack the required skills. She knows that personality and hard work are important for domestic staff, and she is happy to help candidates where she sees potential. It is easy to see the interest Deloris has in her candidates. “Everybody has a story, and a life, and a desire, and wants to go somewhere. So you just see if you can help them.”
Most of her clients have never met Deloris. She believes this separation helps her clients feel comfortable opening up to her, and ultimately allows her to connect them with the right candidates. “I built a great network, and I have great clients. They refer me to their friends. They say, ‘Tell Deloris I told you to call.’ And they’ve never laid eyes on me.”