Modern Butlers’ Journal
The Institute’s free electronic newsletter promoting service standards and items of interest to professionals in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts and other quality service professions around the world.
- The Modern Butlers’ Journal, volume 12, issue 2, International Institute of Modern Butlers
The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 12, issue 2
International Institute of Modern Butlers
Teaching Right Mindset, People Skills, & Superior-service Expertise
Message from the Chairman
Being in the Moment
Professor Albert Einstein reportedly claimed, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
Professor Einstein obviously considered it important to have a cluttered desk and mind, and that a calm mind must, *perforce, be **vacuous (*inevitably be **lacking in intelligence).
His cluttered mind produced the world’s most famous equation (E=MC2), which in layman’s terms means that mass (M) can be converted to energy (E), and energy into mass; and the speed limit for energy or matter in a vacuum (outer space has a few particles in it, but is essentially a vacuum) is 186,282.397 miles per second, to be precise, which is the speed of light (the “C” in the equation).
There is much information embedded in these five symbols, and the technologies that resulted from them even more numerous, including satellites and nuclear energy—to which one must add, unfortunately, nuclear weapons. In fact, the tangle in Professor Einstein’s mind resulted in his suggesting to President Roosevelt in 1942 that, per his research, an atomic bomb was possible—after which President Roosevelt wrote a large check for The Manhattan Project and the result was Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Professor Einstein later signed a manifesto drawing attention to the dangers of nuclear weapons and pleading for peaceful solutions to international conflicts; by then, however, the genie was out of the bottle and the tangle in his mind all the greater—he died just days after signing that manifesto.
The good professor’s E=MC2 equation and Theory of Relativity contains errors, the advances made in the sciences as a result of its formulation notwithstanding. From a scientific perspective, it is not necessarily true, for instance, that light always travels at the same speed in a vacuum, nor that something cannot travel faster. In a nutshell, his Theory of Relativity is only relatively true, and particularly so from the Humanities perspective (philosophy, ethics, religion, etc.), because Professor Einstein was referring in his formula to the physical universe and was missing the fact that there are other universes—yours, for instance. Your world is not the same as the physical universe, and the laws of the physical universe do not apply to your world.
If “mad scientists” are to have fun inventing atomic bombs, then as one small group within humanity, they are overlooking the concerns and interests of the majority of their fellow humans, and for that matter, all life forms. That is why the good professor had a change of heart just before he died and was finally facing up to the greater truth that there is more to life than atoms and molecules, and splitting them into smaller parts.
So how does this subject relate to butling? We rarely move at the speed of light, so worrying about whether we might be able to move even faster might be seen, quite correctly, as a waste of time.
The answer is simple: had Professor Einstein’s mind not been so cluttered, he might have connected with himself, his own world, and calmed down sufficiently to see and think clearly. He might not have suggested the atomic bomb to the President, because he would have seen clearly that you cannot create a weapon like that and give it to other people whose minds are similarly cluttered; and one cannot release upon the world something as destructive as the atomic bomb without offering an antidote or cure for the damage it can do. He might have predicted the need to sign that manifesto in 1955 with the English philosopher, Bertrand Russell, in an effort to roll back the inevitable Cold War that was in full swing ten years after Nagasaki—and therefore not written to the President in the first place. The skill missing was the ability to predict consequences.
All of which is to say, if you are centered as a butler, in the moment, calm and collected, your mind will be still, or empty, and as any Zen warrior or practitioner will tell you, only then will you be able to act and cause great things; only then will you be able to communicate clearly and effectively with your principals, staff, vendors, and whomsoever else you meet, day to day.
To conclude with Professor Einstein, he also said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” While this is an inadequate definition of insanity, it is nevertheless true that one has to be missing either powers of observation or adequate intelligence to keep doing something in the same way, even when it is obvious it is not working.
What tends to happen then, especially if someone is making money from these inadequate solutions or ideas, is sights or goals are lowered until even laws are passed forbidding anyone to improve conditions—for instance, it is illegal in many Western countries to cure cancer or to say that one can, even when they can. This lack of success could trace back to the same issue Einstein was struggling with: the notion that life only consists of molecules and atoms.
Be curious and observant enough to see whether or not something one does, or someone else does, improves conditions; and if not, look for a better solution. If it does work, see if it can be made to work even better.
There is no substitute for having a calm mind, observing what is in front of you, having the courage and intelligence to say what you see and act on it appropriately, and the humility to backtrack and remedy any less-than-optimum result—which for me, would include far too many of the current situations in our world. One could say there are rather too many wrong solutions in effect, all generated by individuals with cluttered minds and desks.
Letters to the Editor
“Last time we conversed, you strongly supported the idea of setting up a website to promote my activity. Do you think that, from a marketing point of view, a website would be really useful? I am positioned at the very high-end of the market in terms of estate management and members of staff to manage; the jobs in that range of the market are extremely rare, and when they exist, it is not a given that they will pay my current salary level. In addition, my market today can be Arab, Russian, or Chinese owners buying in my country (extremely few today), or international buyers based in Switzerland, Monaco, and perhaps Gulf countries. I don’t see Russians anymore, nor reaches from the UK, where salaries are stuck ten years behind.
“The way the industry is heading makes me wonder about staying in the profession: we are dealing with too many unprofessional, unqualified, and inexperienced operators trying to obtain any work on any terms. Now that I am at the peak of my career, which agents could benefit from, they show no interest. In conclusion, the cost of web design is fairly affordable but the most important part of having a website is to link it to search engines so that every time someone searches for property managers and similar key words, they find me. But who is going to search for a property director of my status on the Internet? What is your view?” GL
Ed: Understood. Remember, it is often not the principals themselves who looking for an estates manager, but their staff. A web site would be one way they find you. Through agencies is another (which you say is not so good). And word-of-mouth the third, networking, who you know.
“The website would be mainly made for the principals’ staffs (who generally know very little about our job). Normally the staff calls the agency. Yet, would you strongly support the project?” GL
Ed: As much as I would a stool with three legs rather than two.
“I’m one of the writers for an international magazine that goes to the captains, crews and other professionals in the yachting industry. I’ve been asked to write a story on a delicate subject and thought I might step outside the traditional industry for a professional take on it.
“The question is this: Aboard a yacht, the captain and crew work for the owner and his wife. What should they do, if anything, when the owner brings his mistress or girlfriend aboard? There seem to be two schools of thought from the captains that I’ve contacted.
“One is to do nothing. What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. They work for the owner and their loyalty, even if they like the wife, is to the job and not to personal relationships. They carry on as though the owner had brought a business associate aboard.
“The second, and one which was apparently used by one captain, is to tell the owner not to put the crew in such a difficult situation again. If he did, they would depart en masse and he could run his own boat.
“Since your Institute deals with the mindset and attitude of service professionals, I’d be interested in your thoughts and would love to use them, with your permission of course.” CC
Ed: In our profession, we always remain neutral and non-judgmental, whether or not we approve personally of what we see.
A crusty ship’s captain can stand on his high horse (sorry about the mixed metaphor) and make demands, and that may well be the ethical thing to do, but he would be making the basic error of taking sides in a dispute between principals. And if we are to face the simple facts, he would also be guilty of threatening mutiny, for which the employer would be quite justified in keelhauling the captain (figuratively). I would suggest this particular captain’s background does not include any training on, nor understanding of, private service—just running tight ships. Nothing wrong with this, of course, unless you happen to be captaining a private yacht!
The rule is, “do not take sides in a dispute between Mr. and Mrs.” This only becomes tricky if the Mrs. asks you, particularly in the presence of the Mr., whether he was philandering on his last trip out. One does not say “Yes” (taking her side) nor “No,” which would be a lie and taking his side (never lie to employers). They are, after all, both your employers and you cannot lose the trust of either, or you may as well walk (the gang plank, if we are to be consistent in our setting).
So how does one handle this delicate situation?
Simply say something along the lines that you are very sorry there is such discord, and you hope they can sort it out amicably between them. And if she presses you, or decides that this noncommittal response is tantamount to an admission of guilt on her husband’s part, you make it plain that you are not saying he did nor did not, but simply that it is not for you to become involved in a fracas between two employers, or to talk to one about the other like some gossip; and then repeat your wish that they can sort it out between them before excusing yourself.
Of course, if the employer is the one who wants to know, and the significant other is not your employer but the flavor of the month, then there is no restriction on allowing what you have witnessed, to see the light of day.
” Thank you for such a stunningly quick response! A journalist’s dream.” CC
“I’ve wondered about something that I’d like to ask you. Did they bring up to you the issue that I was too familiar, or was it in response to a direct inquiry that you made? The Mrs. continues to talk to me quite a lot about things and is interested in some of my personal life. I try to keep it simple and short, but I just don’t sense a need to be really formal. Frankly, it’s just not my nature. VN
Ed: On the “being too familiar” question, I brought it up: it was something they had their attention on but were unsure how to proceed or whether they should bring it up. In any closed community, it is important to make sure one does not “get up the nose of” employers. I understand that the Mrs. wants to talk, even about you, and it is correct for you to keep it short with her (meaning in terms of how long your talk about yourself, not meaning being unfriendly). Being formal is not the goal, but being very friendly when replying, and very alert for the Mrs.’ interest level dropping and switching off about yourself immediately should you notice that occurring, is the important skill to have in these less-formal private-service settings.
Need to Break Away but the Boss Needs You to Stay?
If you are in private service and need to take time off for family or health reasons, or for a holiday or vacation getaway and need someone to cover for you during your absence, then the Institute has a roster of butlers willing and able to fill temporary slots.
Butlers in the Media
Mr. Paul Burrell continues to garner news about his contact with the media concerning his former employer. What the former butler has trouble appreciating is that media contacts and publicity gurus should not be in any butler’s rolodex in the first place—unless their employer is a public figure and one is assisting them in their own publicity.
One has to suppose that, just like the verb “to google,” the “butler app” and “digital butler” are descriptive nouns that have entered the world’s lexicon, with the meaning “smartphone apps and assistive services, all built upon the notion of taking errands off the hands of otherwise busy individuals.” One such product was created this month in the US, and another in New Zealand. One cannot fault marketers for drawing the butler analogy to help people understand their product better and quickly.
The concept of rent-a-butlers that we launched years ago has had a new wrinkle over the last few years, as entrepreneurs see an opportunity in the same market mentioned in the prior paragraph. A recent Bloomberg review of the service confirmed my suspicions, although one of course does give the benefit of the doubt to any new idea: if a service is launched, even with $12.5 million raised from venture capital firms, and then executed by people with no experience, no loyalty, and who pay no attention to detail, then the results will be as expected. If one wants a low-end PA/housekeeper/gofer-type service, naming it after a butler is at best hopeful, and will certainly not result in the high level of service that an actual butler would bring to the endeavour. And without that, how useful is the service, actually?
Let’s Talk about Mixology, Part 9
by Amer Vargas
More than 20 years ago Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, and Tom Hanks starred in Brian de Palma’s Bonfire of the Vanities.
There is a moment in the movie when Bruce Willis’ character, Peter Fallow, meets with Mr. Ruskin, an old man whose health would benefit by abstaining from alcoholic drinks, but who prefers to challenge his fate:
“Jack [waiter], Courvoisier VSOP. Put it in a sidecar. I am not supposed to drink, but I always like a sidecar.”
This delicious cocktail makes the movie character talk and laugh a lot as he enjoys his last sips. While he may never be able to enjoy a sidecar again, the rest of us can take pleasure in this delicious and classy drink. Its origins are unknown, although they appear to be in the World War I timeframe, and either in London or Paris. One story pins its invention on an American army captain in Paris, who used to ride in a motorcycle sidecar to and from the bars and bistros where he drank.
The sidecar can be made with any cognac or brandy and, as is always the case, the better the ingredients, the better the cocktail.
Its preparation is very simple. Apart from the cognac or brandy the other main ingredients are Triple Sec and fresh lemon juice. Mix 4.5 cl (1.5 oz) of cognac, 1.5 cl (1/2 oz) of Triple Sec (or any other orange liqueur, like Cointreau or Grand Marnier), and 1.5 cl (1/2 oz) of lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Strain and pour in a cocktail glass, then garnish with lemon peel. Some bartenders like to decorate the cocktail glass by sugaring the rim, but this is not the most common presentation.
Sip and enjoy!
Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s President and can be contacted via AmerVargas @ modernbutlers.com
Entry-level butler/chauffeur (Rolls Royce) position, Miami Beach, Florida; live-in with all costs covered; US citizen or green card holder. The job basically consists of looking after one employer, plus three other family members who are occasionally in residence; light entertainment demands; running errands for employer; basic household chores (changing light bulbs, policing the property, etc.). Clean driver’s license a must. 6-day week with frequent downtime, usual vacations and holidays; 3K a month. Please email resume if interested.
Of Butlers and Roses, Part 22 of 25
by GJ dePillis
Final Tips on Rose Bush Pruning and Sprays
Do not prune a rose bush that has just been planted, as it needs time to establish itself: wait at least one year before pruning so that the plant has time to establish its roots. And during that first year, the bush will need more frequent watering, preferably weekly.
When pruning a branch in preparation for winter, remove every leaf from it to prevent diseases from setting in on a rotting leaf and infecting the entire bush.
If small children or animals will not be near the rose bush, one can use a spray to prevent insects from setting up a home during the winter. One such spray is Bonide All Seasons Horticultural & Dormant Spray Oil (organic), Hi-Yield, Organics Rx Sea Kelp (which as the name suggests actually is organic), or Ortho Volck. Only use these sprays when the rose bush is dormant—meaning no leaf nor flower growth at all. If leaves are growing, it is too late to spray. Try to spray on a cool day (even in the summer), because some dormant sprays have a sulfur base that can “burn” the foliage when the sun heats them.
Organic gardeners can use horticultural oils to suffocate pest eggs to deter insects in gardens that suffer from aphids, sawfly, spider mites, thrips, spider mites, or other small flying bugs eager to make a meal out of the lovely flowers.
Black spots tend to grow when the PH balance of the leaves is too acidic. If it is too late to use the dormant oil and the plant already has leaves, some gardners use a foliar (leaf) spray such as X-treme Gardening CalCarb, Dutch Master Foliotech Grow, MaxiCrop Liquid Seaweed, or Spray-N-Grow Micronutrients. These are also fertilizers and make the bush more alkaline.
When to water: When a finger pushed about 2” into the soil finds it to be dry. Infrequent, deep watering is better because it encourages the roots to grown down and deep. Shallow daily watering results in undesirable shallow roots.
Apply mulch about 4” deep and clear of the trunk out to a radius of 4”, ensuring the lower canes or stems of the rose bush are not buried in the mulch. If needed, prune off the lower branches so the mulch can be laid in sufficiently deep.
Lastly, when working on rose bushes with thorns, I recommend using heavy yet pliable gloves with gauntlets (long cuffs) to protect the wrist area. In warmer climates where people don’t wear long sleeves, denim sleeves can protect the arms against thorn scratches.
Ms. dePillis is a freelance contributor to the Journal who is based on the West Coast of the United States. She can be reached via depillis @ gmail.com
by Jeffrey Herman
Q: Silver-cleaning products are not particularly safe or environmentally friendly. Can you recommend any more-ecologically-friendly cleaning-supplies?
A: Yes! There now is a new 100% plant-based glass cleaner I use on silver, and, of course, on glass: It’s especially safe and effective if there are children in the home and around food products as well.
Mr. Herman continues to offer his services to our readers for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either call him at (800) 339-0417 (USA) or email jeff @ hermansilver.com
The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.
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