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A day in the life of Leesa Jones, General Manager of Richard Branson’s Necker Island

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Leesa Jones, 41, manages Necker Island along with her husband, Kenny. They live there with their children Theo, eight, and Zara, six

At 6.15am, when Kenny and I round up the kids’ book-bags, school uniforms and packed lunches while also getting ourselves ready. For work, I’ll wear a cotton dress and flip flops. If I’m not on the school-run – each day we take the kids by boat to nearby island, Virgin Gorda – then by 7.30am, I’ll be checking that the staff are ready to serve breakfast to our 34 guests. 

Overseeing the running of Richard Branson’s Necker Island, which is available for hire. Along with Kenny and two assistant managers, I do everything from managing 112 staff to accommodating guests’ eclectic requests. I once arranged for a groom to zip-wire into his wedding, with the Tarzan cry playing, as his bride was carried in by vikings. We create a bespoke itinerary for all guests, including spa treatments, walks, treasure hunts and sports, and I ensure all of those run to schedule.

After working for Virgin since 1998. I started as an in-flight beauty therapist on Virgin Atlantic, then managed spas in South Africa, Majorca and Morocco. When I set up the spa on Necker in 2002, I told my parents I’d only be gone for six months – 14 years later, I’m still on the island. I met my husband here, as he was setting up the water-sports centre. In 2010 we were both promoted to island managers.

Necker Island

Island paradise: there are worse places to spend your working day

Is intense. I’ll be in a golf buggy zipping around checking that everything is running as scheduled. Exclusive hire of the island costs £54,000 per night (you can also book an individual room on certain weeks) so guests expect the utmost excellence. We’ll liaise with them on a daily basis and I’ve become expert at spotting negative body language – if they aren’t happy, I’ll find out what’s missing and get it for them. It’s more relaxed when the Branson family are here. We’ve known them for so long that we’ve become friends – we might go sailing together or have lunch. I usually finish work at 4.30pm.

Was being at the first meeting of The Elders, a group of the world’s most influential people, including former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who were brought together by Richard to discuss world peace. I was in a room with Nobel Prize winners and Nelson Mandela was on video conference – it was a true ‘pinch myself’ moment.  

Is that living and working on the Island can become exhausting. All my conversations with Kenny can start to revolve around work.

Lunch on Necker Island

Anyone for sushi? Leesa has to make sure that lunch is always perfect

Is working with an excellent team. The pace here is relentless – every meal, party and activity has to be spectacular, so I’m always pushing them. But I always feel incredibly proud of what we pull off together. 

I spend time with the children. I’m always home between 4.30 and 6pm. We’ll swim in the sea before dinner, then fall into bed at 11pm. Two nights a week I oversee the evening activities, from beach parties to black-tie events. I might be invited to drinks with guests but I always leave by midnight – my job is impossible with a hangover.

I trained as a beauty therapist and had ambitions to open my own spa when I applied for the job with Virgin Atlantic. The lure of world travel was too hard to resist but it’s certainly something I’d think about in the future. I rarely get to use the spa on the island as I’m usually so busy.

Words: Alexandra Jones

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