The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, May 26, 2002  

They Have Help

Make no mistake. We believe Martha Stewart is one of America’s best chief executive officers (not one of the best “women CEOs,” simply one of the best CEOs). The chairman and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., she is intelligent, shrewd, ambitious, aggressive, talented, and hard working. Stewart is also, to the dismay of her many critics, extremely successful, success that, as best we can tell, is well deserved.

Much light has been made of Stewart’s legendary schedule, perfectionism, and alleged obsessive-compulsive behavior. Normally a private person, Stewart recently opened up to Stacy Perman, who contributed “At the Desk of Martha Stewart” to the June 2002 issue of Business 2.0.

“The multimedia goddess of perfect gardens and handmade soap has a workload that would crush lesser mortals,” writes Perman. “In her own words, here’s how she carries it off.”

Let’s listen in:

“I don’t have any typical daily schedule -- well, I do have TV days and other days. Tuesdays and Thursdays we tape Martha Stewart Living either at the studio in Connecticut or on location.

“On those days I get up around 5:30 [a.m.] to work out and do my home errands. I try to meet with my property manager to get an update on my properties. I do my telephoning -- business calls and calls to friends -- at home while I’m on the exercise bike.

“I’m at the studio by 8:30 a.m. -- 7:30 [a.m.] if it’s also a radio day -- and I work, typically, until around 6:30, 7:00 p.m. and jump in the car to New York for a dinner meeting.

“On other days, like Wednesdays, I start at 5:30 a.m. and have to be at CBS at 7 a.m. to do the Early Show, and I also do a post-tape or two. Then I am back at the office for a full day.

“My schedule is back-to-back meetings, then a dinner meeting, then back home to Connecticut or sometimes New York. My schedule is booked until Dec. 31, 2002. I’m sure I have some dates in 2003 also.”

Impressive, particularly considering that Stewart did not mention her other obligations, including, among others, Martha Stewart Living magazine, the web site,, her nationally syndicated radio program, and her television specials.

So, how does she do it? Well, it’s not easy. Maintaining this schedule entails the use -- at the very least -- of a beeper, a cell phone, and three laptop computers. Stewart says she always travels with two laptops “in case one breaks.”

As for the aforementioned “property manager,” Stewart obviously needs one. Last we knew, she owned five properties -- Turkey Hill Farm in Westport, Conn.; an apartment in New York; a beach house in East Hampton, N.Y.; Skylands, a 61-acre estate in Maine; and a farm in Bedford, N.Y. -- along with what we have heard described as “a 36-foot picnic boat.”

Stewart, whose day begins anywhere from 4:00 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., is not only organized, her organization process is organized:

“I have laminated lists of all my personal and business phone numbers, which I keep by every phone. You don’t want to know how many phones I have. I also have lists in my car and in my purses. I carry them with me instead of a Palm. I find it infinitely faster. My assistants [Ed.: Note plural.] update and laminate new sheets once every three months.”

How to keep up with everyone in her life?

“I stay in touch, but on my schedule. E-mail is the last thing I do at night and the first thing I do in the morning. Today I have 357 unanswered e-mails. I am a very fast reader and I answer everything that’s appropriate.”

We draw your attention to what Stewart does not mention as elements of her daily schedule, namely: grocery shopping (including the 20-minute wait at the register), doing the laundry, taking out the garbage, mowing the lawns, raking the leaves, vacuuming the floors, cleaning the windows, taking the car in to the shop, scrubbing toilets, and paying bills, the tedious humdrum that occupies the daily lives of lesser mortals.


William F. Buckley Jr., one also known for maintaining a peripatetic lifestyle, literally wrote the book -- Overdrive -- on how to fill a day with meetings, lectures, sailing, dining out, editing a magazine, hosting a television show, and engaging in phone conversations and correspondence with the rich, powerful, and famous.

In the 272 pages of Overdrive (which sadly is out of print, but in the library here at The Rittenhouse Review) Buckley made only passing mention of what, in an earlier day, we called “the help.”

Indeed, Buckley had precious little to say about how said help enabled him to devote 14, 16, 18 hours a day to his greatest loves -- writing, editing, speaking, sailing, and lunching in Sharon, Conn., over half-bottles of Côte du Rhône.

We put this forward, less as a criticism and more as a reality check. So many people have trouble discerning the difference between reality and the images presented in the media, and in magazines in particular, that it becomes necessary to remind these sensitive souls that there is much going on behind the scenes.

This is not to begrudge either Stewart or Buckley of the fruits of their labor. It is only to emphasize that one’s accomplishments can become all the greater when one has the advantage of paying a posse of hired hands to take care of all of life's annoying details.

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