QUESTIONS & ANSWERS (Continued)
For those of you who have been in the industry for a while, the name ‘Cadbury’ will no doubt be familiar. Cadbury has offered advice to Domestic Staff and their employers for many years (he is the Ann Landers of the Butler world, if you will).
Cadbury is in fact none other than former I.I.M.B. President, Werner Leutert, who is also the owner of Home Staffing International. We reproduce some of Cadbury’s questions and answers here with his permission.
Q: Dear Cadbury,
I would like information on becoming a butler. I’m a female ready for work; I would appreciate any information you could send me. Thank you.
A: Dear Sherrie,
Most people enter the private service profession through a series of jobs in, and a personal passion to learn about, giving fine service–both in terms of professional attitude and acquiring the requisite skills. Some persons come into it by way of the hospitality industry – through hotel and restaurant work – and others receive training in the course of their domestic employment. A small percentage of butlers, both male and female, get their start by going to one of the Butler training schools.
Keep in mind the traits of a top Butler:
- Exceptional positive attitude with strong energy
- Immaculate Appearance
- Trust,’ something that you build over time, very important!
- Skills and knowledge developed through professional interest and ongoing learning
- Common sense & good listening skills
- Able to think on your feet
- Being tech savvy
- Anticipating your boss’s needs
- Able to respond quickly to a variety of tasks
- Being yourself – Natural
- Controlling your emotions – Be calm
- Confidentiality at all times
Next figure out if these traits are within your abilities and if so, seek out the avenue that best gives you increasing experience and credibility in the Butler world.
Q: Dear Cadbury,
Are there any particular skills that employers are asking for in the private service candidates that they hire? We are a private service couple. It probably makes more sense for us to build on our CV’s with courses and seminars relevant to the skills currently in demand. After spending the past couple of weeks online several hours a day investigating the job market etc., it looks as though in spite of all the professional schools and training that individuals and couples have, there may still be things that they are lacking. Your thoughts? Thank you. F&N
A: Dear F&N,
I’m not sure that I can answer your question in the detail that you might be hoping for. Every private service position is unique because of the people/family and because of the location and residence. You cannot come up with a resume that is “one size, fits all.”
What you can do is present yourself honestly and address issues that are common to most private service positions. You need to convey your skills to the reader. Communicate either your hands-on ability or your ability to direct someone in the following topic areas of House Management Skills:
- Culinary expertise
- Serving / Service, entertainment, protocols
- Property management any handyman/trouble shooting skills/knowledge of trades
- Driving and vehicle care skills
- Child care skills
- Administrative abilities
- Special talents that might be of interest such as languages, special training
- Other areas that I may have overlooked or that you know you are skilled in
The more specific you are, the more interesting it can be, but keep your writings concise. If housekeeping is not a strong hands-on skill, you still might be able to say, “I understand high standards and am competent in daily pickup, can direct and supervise the basic care of a home including fine furnishings and finishes. What I do not know, I will ask about or research.” Be honest, of course.
Q: Dear Cadbury,
I recently acquired a server position at a 5-diamond restaurant. What would be your suggestion for me to make a good first impression to our Chef de Cuisine? I know each chef is different, but I was wondering if you had any good experiences trying to win over a chef? Thanks in advance for your reply. Nervous in Santa Barbara
A: Dear Nervous,
Universally appreciated attitudes will include at least these traits:
Helpfulness – offering to help other team members as possible: perhaps assisting chef with some small task such as carrying something for him, getting him a glass of water.
Supportiveness – being sincere and generous with genuine comments and compliments, with humor if possible. Chefs like to hear what the customers say about their food.
Responsibility – understanding what is expected of you in your particular job description, so that the chef and you are on the same page as to the procedures and his expectations are met. Also being willing to recognize and manage your share of any group responsibility – such as closing procedures in a restaurant – insuring all areas are left in a standard condition.
Graciousness – being able to seek and accept advice as well as accept responsibility for mistakes and not immediately blame others.
So when you meet the chef, give him or her a smile and state that you want to work well with chef and ask chef to let you know if chef needs you to do something for chef or has any suggestions for you.
Follow up your initial impression of helpful friendliness with some unexpected gestures of helpfulness, nice comments about chef’s food and by asking chef as often as possible if you can help him or her in any way.
This approach usually works, but is not guaranteed! It works in other service relationships as well!
Q: Dear Cadbury,
One question, what is the average number of hours a Butler works per day? Thanks, Halston
A: Dear Halston,
The number of hours a Butler works is somewhat related to salary. The high-end butlers, paid, let’s say, upwards of 65k, tend to view the job as more of a ‘way of life’ and allocate their time to meet the needs that the job calls for. Lesser-paid Butlers may be more cognizant/concerned about their hours and wish to formalize duty time more specifically. From the employer’s perspective, long-term staffing involves mutual respect, so the Butler’s hours should be balanced to allow the Butler a life. Having said this, a 10-hour day, five days a week is a good core workweek with longer hours more irregularly as needed along with being available 24/7.
Q: Dear Cadbury,
After reading a great many employee profiles for domestic staff on various web sites, I have to ask, why such a large turnover rate? It seems that no one stays put very long. Are employees poorly treated? Are the employers difficult? What are the common/big complaints? MB
A: Dear MB,
The short answer to your question is that persons who are posted are not currently employed, so the ‘silent majority’ of private service employees who may be tempted to move to another position are not posted.
Great private service relationships are based on mutual respect. The brilliant employer recognizes the value of his employee and shows appreciation not just monetarily, but also with appropriate kind words and consideration for the needs of the employee to have a life too. The employee in this situation recognizes the excellent employment he/she has and does not seek to change.
Other reasons for turnover rate is that employers financial conditions change. An example of this would be the stock market crash of 2-3 years ago. Sometimes when employers change spouses, the new spouse is not comfortable with the entrenched staff. Sometimes employees come to a different point in their lives and seek situations that allow them more money, or more time to themselves or a preferable climate or locale. There are many reasons for change.
Among the biggest complaints from employees is that the job they signed up for does not match the expectations of the job in reality. The biggest complaint from employers is that the employee does not demonstrate the competency, initiative and self-sacrifice that they expected.
Q: Dear Cadbury,
How do you decide what is the appropriate salary for someone working in the home? An Employer
A: Dear Employer,
Salaries are a reflection of the value placed on the excellent performance of a job while taking into consideration the supply and demand and the location of the assignment.
One back-of-the-napkin method for calculating a fair wage is to compare the wages of other professions or related trades in the area. If a top-rated server is making on average $20 per hour in your area, than a Butler starting wage can be approximated by multiplying this rate with the expected hours of duty including overtime. Calculate a Housekeeper’s salary by using the rates for contracted Housekeepers. This helps you get to a range of salary independent of the salary history of candidates. However, don’t get too creative by thinking that the value of housing and food given to staff is the same as if they were paying for it independently. Working in the home involves a considerable loss of privacy and freedom and at the end of the day, the professional needs to feel that the compensation is worth the hard work and personal sacrifice that is often involved when one is at the service of another’s lifestyle.
Q: Dear Cadbury,
Can you please tell me the appropriate etiquette on tipping the house staff in a private home? For example, if a butler provides an extra service to a guest, is it appropriate to give a discreet tip? Or is it completely inappropriate? If it is done, is there a recommended procedure?
Thank you, Janet Sherman
A: Dear Ms. Sherman,
In most private homes, the professional staff is not conditioned to expect tips in this day and age. Unlike restaurant staff, who depend upon tips to make up for low wages, most Butlers and other staff in a home that employs a Butler are paid a decent wage.
Tipping is a very personal thing, and if you wish to give a tip, you may certainly do so, especially when a staff member has gone above and beyond. Doing so discreetly is important, so the procedure may be to write the Butler a note and enclose a gratuity or use a private moment to ‘insist’ on a token of your appreciation. More than likely the Lady and Gentleman of the house would discourage tipping, so using them as a conduit is not recommended.
The enjoyment of the guest in a private home is the product of the work of many staff – the Chef, the Housekeepers, the Driver, the Gardener and so forth all doing their part. A gift to one may become known to others potentially causing jealous twinges.
I recommend these ways to express appreciation:
- A heartfelt Thank You upon leaving the home after the visit
- Compliments in front of the Lady and Gentleman of the house about the great service
- A nice letter addressed to the staff of the house which can posted in the staff area.
- Consultation with the Butler about how to show monetarily your appreciation to all the staff.