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Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, December 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #21

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: A Worthy Foundation (VI)

This is the sixth and final article in a series discussing foundational principles for the Butler’s Standards for Professional Performance. Mr. Ratliff will be focusing for the next two years on a project for his Church, the Church of Latter Day Saints. We thank him for his contributions and we wish him much success with his new project.

Scenario: An innocent gesture, perhaps, but troubling nonetheless. A guest couple were leaving after a visit with the host family. In an effort to thank the butler for his part in the evening’s activities, the man reached an arm around him in a rough, jostling hug. The butler graciously accepted their compliments with a quiet bow, but the jostling was neither welcome nor called for. The butler would not have been welcome to impose himself in such a way.

The Standards: The Standards for Professional Practice state that a butler must be able to…manage awkward circumstances with poise while preserving the dignity of others and the occasion. “A Butler’s Professional Code of Ethics” also states that a butler must “strive to maintain appropriate…boundaries in all aspects of service.”

Recommended Remedy: In this case, the butler was the unfortunate victim of inconsiderate guests. While the hug probably was just a friendly gesture, there was still compromise of the butler’s dignity and professional position, and violation of the professional boundary between guests and the butler.

In formal associations, touching can express concern for the welfare of and respect for another person. But sometimes touching is used to say physically what is not allowed verbally. Caution is warranted on both sides of the exchange.

Suggestions:

  • Touching in the workplace (the employer’s home is the butler’s workplace) should express goodwill without any hint of impropriety. If in doubt, don’t.
  • Touch other people only in conventional forms of greeting and parting, or for assistance. Avoid overly friendly physical expressions beyond conservative norms.
  • Resist, leave, and if serious, report any unwelcome touch.

In this case, the butler was the one receiving the unwelcome hug. How might he have avoided the situation in a respectful, dignified manner? After the fact, the butler did what might be expected—not acknowledging or returning the physical contact, just making a polite bow and no further comment.

Had the butler seen the moment coming, however, he might have reached his right hand out for a handshake, and positioned his left hand against the guest’s right shoulder to softly, but firmly, stop his or her advance for closer contact. He might say, “Thank you for your kindness. I’ll fetch your coats?” Then he would simply leave for the wraps. Friendly, formal, professional.

As an editor’s comment, in more modern times, it is recognized that some people like to express themselves physically and it would be appropriate to follow the lead of the guest if it is meant in good faith. A butler would never initiate such a close embrace, however.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

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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Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, November 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #21

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: A Worthy Foundation (V)

This is the fifth of a series of articles discussing foundational principles for the Butler’s Standards for Professional Performance.

Butlers perform many of their duties “onstage”, as it were, where life’s drama occurs in the employer’s household. The butler’s sartorial precision and quality, groomed perfection, graceful movement, professional manner, and efficiency are noteworthy and admirable. Who wouldn’t notice?

With impeccable appearance and manner, it doesn’t take much to draw attention—slightly extended direct-eye contact with a guest, a theatrical hand gesture, a little extra vocal resonance, or an athletic twist in a turn around a couch, while lightly balancing the wine service on a salver.

But “performance” is but one way to attract personal attention. Other ways include writing a tell-all book about one’s employer, or granting an interview to a member of the press. Another is to speak unnecessarily with members of the household or guests, other than in the performance of duties. Anything that draws attention to the butler, away from the main players, or opens the curtained windows of privacy exposing the main players to unwanted attention, constitutes a breach of professionalism.

A butler is a valuable household furnishing. Of course, a highly skilled butler can be a source of pride for some employers, who may even request a bit of flare in the service of a formal meal or presentation and the lighting of cigars.

But more generally, the spotlight belongs on the members of the household and their guests, not household staff. One’s employer must receive all of the credit for anything good and pleasurable that occurs; and should something unfortunate or less than stellar occur, the butler must accept the blame graciously, without complaint, fix the problem, and return to the background, out of the spotlight.

One performs in the background by moving quietly, away from center stage as much as possible, seldom speaking, anticipating the needs of those present, without their need to request your services. Tone down any grand gestures and unnecessary movement, and avoid speaking to them other than in the specific performance of duty or caring for them. Our success may be measured by the success of the household, everything perfect and the butler unnoticed, in the background.

A complimentary booklet on the standards of service, upon which this column is based, and also written by Professor Ratliff, is available for download in electronic format.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

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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Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, October 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #20

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: A Worthy Foundation (IV)

This fourth in a series of articles on foundational principles focuses on excellence. The first three principle ideas discussed in the series were (1) butlers as masters of relationships, (2) what is a high quality of life, and (3) the butler’s moral imperative.

I recently had an extended conversation with a retired household manager for a prominent family in Florida. I asked what she felt was the most important contribution she made in her service. Her answer: “Excellence.”

Migrating from England, Frances (not her real name) found employment with a young American family. The husband and wife had never had the services of a butler before. Frances was given responsibility for all household operations, employing various service vendors, including a groundskeeper, auto mechanic and detailer, assistant housekeeper, and kitchen assistant. Frances acted as head housekeeper, chef, and part-time nanny/”grandmother”. She contracted other services as needed. She also kept all household financial accounts.

Frances had been reared and trained in a gentile English tradition. According to Frances, as she introduced various systems and procedures into the household, her new employers “liked my English way of doing things.”

The family even invited Frances to discuss her “English way” with visitors. They were intrigued with pressed sheets, precise folds in linens, polished silver, fresh flowers everywhere, perpetually sparkling bathroom fixtures, orderly pantries, well organized closets and drawers, a systematic family schedule and calendaring system, dressing for dinner and the remarkable effect that a slightly more formal food service had on family meals and dinner conversation, the effect that a more formal manner of addressing one another had on the behavior of the children, and many more refinements Frances introduced into the home in accordance with her traditional English background.

Frances emphasized excellence at every turn in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, details of finish, ease of use, durability, reliability, aesthetics, respect for individual differences and wishes, promptness, and genuine politeness and courtesy, all the while honoring the standards and preferences of the employer.

The standards of excellence made the difference, for the benefit of everyone. A specifically English tradition may not suit every household, but by whatever manner of standards, excellence defines the butler’s pursuit.

A complimentary booklet on the standards of service, upon which this column is based, and also written by Professor Ratliff, is available for download in electronic format.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

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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The Modern Butlers’ Journal, September 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #19

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: A Worthy Foundation (III)

Two previous articles on the foundational principles undergirding the butling profession addressed (1) the butler as master of relationships and (2) what constitutes high quality of life. This third installment addresses the profession’s moral imperative—how to recognize a moral issue, what is moral or not, and why it is important.

Several conditions must be present for an issue to be one of morality:

  • Moral issues have to do with behavior, things that people do or don’t do.
  • Someone is affected by the behavior;
  • A deliberate choice of behavior exists based upon moral preference;
  • There is an implied or explicit responsibility to make a morally superior choice;
  • There is a moral standard by which alternative choices may be decided.

Absent any of these conditions, no moral question exists. The problem, however, seldom is whether a moral issue exists, but rather, what is the moral thing to do?

The basic idea is simple. Moral behavior improves quality of life and the welfare of others. It is helpful and kind. Immoral behavior deliberately harms or diminishes quality of life and the welfare of others, either directly or indirectly. It is hurtful and unkind. The governing principle is to care enough about the quality of life and welfare of others to do something about it.

A butler’s immediate professional moral imperative is to support, protect, and enhance the quality of life and welfare of his employer, members of the household, and guests. On a higher order, a butler’s professional moral imperative is to support and improve the welfare of society in general and the profession. And in the case of a moral dilemma, where there is moral conflict between choices, the welfare of society and the profession generally sway the choice. A moral breakdown threatens everyone concerned, near and far. The aim is the greater good and less harm.

The Butler’s Professional Code of Ethics state: “Abide by the highest ethical, moral, and legal standards….”

The Rotary Club has a “Four-Way Test” for anything we may say or do which may prove useful:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Does it build goodwill and better friendships?
  • Is it beneficial to all concerned?

Next month’s installment will address the foundational principle of excellence.

A complimentary booklet on the standards of service, upon which this column is based, and also written by Professor Ratliff, is available for download in electronic format.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

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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The Modern Butlers’ Journal, August 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #18

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: A Worthy Foundation (II)

This second piece of our professional foundation requires a well-developed understanding of what constitutes quality of life. Our overarching responsibility is to assure an outstanding quality of life for our employers, their households, and guests. Many people equate high quality of life with high standard of living. The idea is that greater wealth ensures a higher quality of life. These are not, however, equivalent terms. While wealth can afford some of the more expensive toys, comforts, and pleasures of life, the term “quality of life” usually has more to do with overall happiness.

Some years ago, I undertook an informal little research project identifying 14 features constituting a high quality of life. These features serve well to guide modern butlers in their scope of expertise and responsibility:

  • Safety
  • Health and fitness
  • Intelligence/wisdom—usually acquired through a good, broad education
  • Personal practical virtue—reflected in practical life skills
  • Order and cleanliness
  • Beauty—e.g., geographic scenery, the fine arts, gardens, the culinary arts, architecture, interior design, the mechanical and industrial arts, etc.
  • Personal spirituality
  • Moral virtue—acting in behalf of the individual and collective welfare of oneself and others
  • Healthy relationship portfolios—including family, friends, professional associates, and others
  • Economic welfare and security—i.e., standard of living, with the understanding that living rich is not necessarily the same as living well
  • Meaningful purpose—good reason to get up in the morning
  • Interesting, pleasant, and wholesome activities
  • A strong heritage and sense of identity within context of that heritage
  • Agency—the right and ability of choice, within reasonable constraints of moral and conventional responsibility.

These features of a high quality of life undergird the broad scope and depth of responsibility a butler has for his employer, the household, guests, and household staff.  Our next installment will address moral imperative incumbent upon the profession.

A complimentary booklet on the standards of service, upon which this column is based, and also written by Professor Ratliff, is available for download in electronic format.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

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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Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, July 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #17

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: A Worthy Foundation (I)

The Butler’s Standards for Professional Performance provide extensive guidance for the practice of modern butling—from attitudes, to professional responsibilities and behavior, to the performance of specific tasks, and the maintenance of professional relationships. Now may be a good time to discuss some basic foundational principles underlying these performance standards.

A master butler is a master of relationships, requiring four basic qualities:

  1. Most important is a genuine concern for the welfare, comfort, and pleasure of others. A butler’s professional life is devoted to this one objective. This simple, basic idea feeds the success and joy of a butling life.
  2. Competence enables a butler to perform the duties of office. These include technical skills (for example, meal service, managing the household, tending family archives, valuables, wardrobes; overseeing the care of motor pools and gardens; and the production of ceremonies and celebrations); communication skills (no skill is more finely honed and tuned than a butler’s ability to turn the right phrase at the right time in the right way); and people skills (etiquette, diplomacy, and simple good manners grease the wheels of human society and enable the butler to help create a treasured moment or turn a potential disaster into a pleasant memory).
  3. Personal and professional integrity earn trust, a butler’s stock in trade. Closer to a household and its members than any outsider and even many family members, the butler is entrusted with both treasures and secrets which cannot and must not be violated. He is unfailingly honest and true to his word, and also understands the value of discretion and the importance of keeping confidences without compromising his own or his employer’s integrity.
  4. Responsibility to the relationship is a special dimension of integrity, but important enough to consider separately. Responsibility means to do whatever is necessary to preserve the welfare of the relationship and that the butler will always act in the best interest of those within his charge.

A successful butler will score high marks on all four of these foundational qualities, as will a desirable employer. A struggling butler or employer likely will find a need for improvement herein. Also, virtually every specific standard is rooted within these foundational qualities.

Next month, I shall discuss a second set of principles supporting our professional standards: what constitutes excellent quality of life.

A complimentary booklet on the standards of service, upon which this column is based, and also written by Professor Ratliff, is available for download in electronic format.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

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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Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, June 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #16

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: Controlling the Dominos

Scenario: The lady of the house is planning a formal dinner at the family’s small mountain estate, with a grand view of the valley below and the bloom of spring on the surrounding meadows. With just days to go, she directs myriad details in a perfectly timed sequence to be completed the day guests arrive. The butler is given some of the more critical tasks and is available for reassurance and special help.

Suddenly, “Clyde” (a treasured old pickup truck) breaks down, making the day’s collection of supplies impossible for several hours. Everything stops, as each step in the carefully planned sequence depends upon the step before. Clyde is the critical link to a successful conclusion and no alternative transportation is available (another story for another day). The dominos begin to fall, threatening the entire operation. Worse, the few hours delay look more like a couple of days. Madam begins to panic.

Now is time for reassurance and special help.

The Standards: The Professional Performance Standards state, “The butler…should employ suitable principles of management and leadership.”  While specific principles are unstated, the standard suggests those needed for the work at hand, e.g. time management, operations management, and ways to cope with bad surprises.

Recommendations: Volume I of Serving the Wealthy offers basic, helpful guidelines.  The work can go on with little more inconvenience or stress than that associated with a modest hiccup.

Guideline 1: Stay calm. Revise tasks into several simple semi-independent operations that can be done, even with a delay in the day’s deliveries;

Guideline 2: Be flexible and adjust as necessary. Letitia Baldrige once successfully negotiated a monstrous kitchen mishap, after all the guests had arrived, by converting a formal embassy dinner into a pizza party!

Guideline 3: Arrange help if needed. Hire a mechanic to fix Clyde; rent a van;

Guideline 4: Stay the course…. Make steady progress. Guests will know only what they experience. Problems? What problems?

Guideline 5: Don’t make the problem bigger than it really is. Dividing the work around the problem contains the fall-out.

Guideline 6: Reassure everyone and keep them informed. Explain the problem and the new arrangements to the staff, demonstrating and assisting as necessary.

And yes, the party went splendidly!

A complimentary booklet on the standards of service, upon which this column is based, and also written by Professor Ratliff, is available for download in electronic format.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

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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The Modern Butlers’ Journal, May 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #15

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: Promotion of the Profession

Scenario: I recently visited a friend and his wife, who are living in an upscale retirement facility near a large city in the Western United States. The facility is beautifully designed; immaculate; with luxury apartments, professionally landscaped grounds, guest quarters, a large private dining room for luncheons and dinner parties, and ample parking space, including garage service. It houses a movie theater, a quiet, well-equipped library, a chapel, an exercise room and personal trainer, and is well-located for various activities such as golf, tennis, hiking, concerts, theater, gourmet dining of every imaginable type, shopping, and outings to scenic locations in the region, even wilderness and seaside hikes, river day trips, freshwater and deep sea fishing, and cruises. There is ready access to commercial and private airports. Maid service is offered once a week, as is personal transportation service for its residents. Gourmet meals and any-time snacks are prepared by an expert kitchen staff, including a highly accomplished chef and two sous chefs. Residents have formed groups for various activities, from volunteer service, book clubs, discussion groups, to music, sports, and dancing. You surely get the picture—an upscale lifestyle suitable for well-to-do, active, retired seniors desiring independence without the responsibilities of maintaining large households. Nearly perfect!

Nearly. With all of these amenities, there still was opportunity for a butler’s touch of luxury in ambience and quality of service.

Standards: The Butler’s Professional Code of Ethics encourages not only the practice of superlative service in one’s own employment, but extends the butler’s responsibility to promoting superlative service in other professions through “mentoring, promoting industry standards, and active involvement in professional relationships and organizations.”

Recommendations: My friend arranged a personal tour for me with an assistant manager of the facility. We discussed the butler’s relationship-based approach to staff and service management, the manner and delivery of perfect moments, the importance of setting the stage for the pleasure, safety, and success of others while remaining in the background ourselves, and other principles of successful butling.

Our tour has led to possible training opportunities for management and staff of this facility in the basic principles and techniques of modern butling that can be easily employed in a modern, new professional and living environment to enhance the life style and comfort of a large “household” of people.

A complimentary booklet on the standards of service, upon which this column is based, and also written by Professor Ratliff, is available for download in electronic format.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

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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Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, April 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #14

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: Anticipation

Scenario: An invited guest brings an unexpected guest to a formal dinner party. The unexpected guest is unknown to both the host and the butler. Guests, all of whom otherwise know each other, are gathering for cocktails in the library prior to the meal. All dinner settings have been placed; the food has been prepared and is ready to be served.

The butler’s problem: Help the host (1) seamlessly cope with the unexpected guest at the last minute; (2) welcome and integrate the new guest into the group.

The Standards: The Standards of Professional Practice state that “a butler must be a consummate professional…” Among several characteristics that describe a butler as a “consummate professional” is the ability to anticipate, i.e., to know the employer’s habits and mindset, to completely understand the demands of any usual situation of the household and intuitively to comprehend unusual situations, enabling the butler to act, even to know what will be needed so as to respond with confidence, effectiveness, and aplomb.

Recommendations: Here the unexpected guest might slip an awkward wrinkle into the fabric of the occasion; the butler must anticipate possible effects from the time of her entrance to the concluding departure. Several things must happen quickly. The butler should:

  • Welcome the guest, learn her name and discreetly inquire of any dietary requirements, preferences from the menu, and other special needs;
  • Immediately report the additional meal to the chef and server, with any accommodations required by the new guest;
  • Arrange the additional place setting, with name (if necessary) and menu cards;
  • Conduct a rapid internet search on the new guest and prepare a small printout or summary briefing for the employer. If the guest is someone especially noteworthy, perhaps draft a brief toast to welcome and honor the person at that point in the dinner when other toasts may be offered;
  • Ensure the guest has the opportunity to sign the household visitor’s log before departing.

The butler has set the stage quietly for the guest’s entrance and integration, for the employer’s role of gracious host, avoiding embarrassment of the invited guest who breached proper etiquette in the first place, the butler all the while remaining unobtrusively in the background. Complete mastery of the details of the occasion and anticipating the needs of the players made it possible.

A complimentary booklet on the standards of service, upon which this column is based, and also written by Professor Ratliff, is available for download in electronic format.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

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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Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, March 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #13

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: Simple Elegance

Scenario: A young couple is planning a wedding in a few months. It is to be a very nice affair, bringing in more than two-hundred guests from several parts of the country, all expecting a grand occasion. The wedding is to be conducted in the groom’s home town, and the bride’s family are to travel some 1,500 miles for the ceremony and celebration.

The mothers of the groom and bride, respectively, have agreed that the groom’s mother should plan and make the arrangements for both the family wedding breakfast and the larger reception, since she enjoys a reputation for frequent and fine entertainment, but on a smaller scale.

Budget is not an issue, although the couple have requested what they describe as “modest elegance.” The bride said recently, “The wedding is the main event, not the parties.” The groom assured a modest approach with a modest budget for the affair.

Enter the consultant butler, to offer advice and encouragement. At a first meeting, the groom’s mother confided, “I have just finished a big Valentine’s party. The wedding is just a few weeks away. Frankly, I am overwhelmed.  This event must be beautiful and memorable, but, I do not have time to do everything. Help!”

The Standards: The Professional Performance Standards state that “a butler should create…refined, elegant eating experiences…whether a simple tray for one or a dinner for 100….”

The standards also state that “the butler’s responsibilities for…social occasions…demand attention to a…diverse amount of activity and detail…. Checklists offer a[n]…efficient answer to these needs.”

Recommendations: The mother is seeking reassurance (i.e., confidence) that the task is possible, and secondly, ideas to help achieve modest elegance and simplicity.

Elegance is a function of taste and grace under pressure. Good taste usually is learned. The consultant butler may offer ideas when questions of good taste arise.

The right tools can help achieve grace under pressure; detailed checklists can make what seems impossible, relatively easy. Checklists offer a way to plan a complicated process, to declutter unneeded parts and movements, to prepare all the pieces in order, and to avoid forgetting. Checklists simplify everything else. Like an elegant golf swing, these wedding parties can be beautiful, smooth, and easy, with a powerful result—simple elegance.

A complimentary booklet on the standards of service, upon which this column is based, and also written by Professor Ratliff, is available for download in electronic format.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

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.