If you cannot afford to break away from work for a couple of months, or afford the fees for training at a formal butler school, then an on-line or long-distance learning course becomes a viable option.
It is also an ideal way to increase the depth of your knowledge and gain another perspective and more skills to complement any training already done at a bricks-and-mortar school.
These courses are for:
- Anyone who would like to become a butler.
- Anyone currently in any position in private service, who would like to widen their skills base, improve their level of service, or move into the butler profession.
- Butlers already in service, who may be long on experience but short on formal butler training and would like a credential.
- Housekeepers in private estates.
- An affordable way to learn or train;
- Keep earning income while taking the course;
- Train from the comfort of your own home;
- Train on a schedule that suits you;
- Train under the supervision of an experienced butler, who works with you one-on-one to help you master even the most complex of subjects;
- Increase your skills and value to current and future employers;
- Gain the ability to bring greater satisfaction to those you service and thus to yourself;
- Increase the depth of butler knowledge / skills with formal training that you have missed.
The courses on offer are all based on the books Serving the Wealthy, Volume I and II.
In addition to the full course, the Institute now offers a number of shorter courses focused on specific areas and subjects, for people who want to polish their skills in just those areas.
All online courses include checklists detailing the reading and practical assignments, as well as projects to be done. Progress for students in the Western Hemisphere is supervised by Prof. Steven Ferry and/or Mrs. Monica Ferry. Students in the Eastern Hemisphere and in Spanish-speaking countries are supervised by Mr. Amer Vargas. The course in Management Skills is supervised by Mrs. Monica Ferry, the Institute’s Executive Director. All students have an open line via e-mail to their instructors for questions about their materials and assignments, and to receive guidance on professional matters.
The full butler/household manager course takes about 400 hours of full-time study – this is comparable to an 8-10 week course offered in a bricks-and-mortar school. But unlike a bricks-and-mortar school, each subject can be and is covered in more depth than one ever could in an 8-10 week course. In a traditional school, each student is surrounded by other students who all must share one teacher’s time & attention. One is forced to go at more or less the same pace as the rest of the class, whether one has fully grasped that subject or needs more practice or not. Whereas with the one-on-one tutor and open schedule you will have in our online courses, you will be able to spend as much time on a subject or practical application as you feel you need to master it.
The course costs US $2,500. Students must purchase their own course materials (books & DVDs) via Amazon.com or another provider, which will cost approximately US $350 depending on whether you purchase new or used books, plus the shipping and handling costs of said books (which will vary depending on where in the world you live). Students may pay in three installments as they proceed through this course, if preferred.
The Management Skills Course and Housekeeper Course each take about 200 hours (about 5 weeks full-time, longer on a part-time schedule) to complete and cost US $1,000. Four books and two DVDs must be purchased for each of these courses (similarly via Amazon) for a total cost of about $250 plus shipping. These courses must be paid in full before starting; there are no installment payments.
Full Private Residence Butler/Household Manager Course – $2,500
Private Service Management Skills – $1,000
Housekeeping Course- $1,000
Private Service Basics Course – $750
Fine Dining for Private Service Professionals – $600
Private Service Specialty Skills Courses:
- Valeting & Looking After Guests – $300
- The Bar and Wine Cellar – $200
- The Culture and Ways of Cigars – $200
- Security and the Oddjob Factor – $200
- Moving House – $200
All graduates receive Certificates of Completion from the Institute upon successful completion of the course.
Hesitating about what sort of training is the best for you? Read the IIMB chairman’s article on the Training Path Choices here.
Visit the I.I.M.B. Shop to purchase your course of choice, or you may contact the Institute directly for assistance. Students in the United States may pay quickly and easily using PayPal or Western Union.
If you live outside of the United States and cannot use PayPal, please contact the Institute to be guided through bank wire or other money transfer procedures.
The Institute is a Founding Member of the International Luxury Hotel Association and the Alliance of Professional Butler Trainers (https://www.butleralliance.com/).
Serving the Wealthy-Private Residence Butler On-line Course – course outline
Subjects covered on the full butler course include, among many others:
- Outside Hollywood, What is a Butler?
- From Slave to Servant to Staff: Changing Perceptions and Attitudes
- The Many Faces of the Modern Butler
- Essence of a Butler
- A Good Butler’s Basic Attributes
- Butler communication skills
- Trappings and tools of the trade
- How to set up and organize a butler pantry
- Butler Etiquette and How to Handle Various Tricky Situations with Aplomb
- Predicting and Handling Others
- How to Recognize and Avoid the Boss from Hell
- The Butler Administrator, Managing the Household
- Keeping household accounts
- Staff Management, Dealing with Permanent Staff
- Supervising, dismissing, disciplining Staff
- Dealing with Temporary Staff
- Dealing with Contractors, Suppliers and Services
- The butler’s relationship with his/her employer(s)
- Working with the Housekeeper
- Making an Inventory
- Silver-Cleaning, Storage and Purchase
- Cleaning fine furniture and works of art
- Working with the Chef
- Running an Efficient Kitchen
- Hygiene and Food Safety
- The Bar and Wine Cellar
- Pairing wine
- Keeping Inventory
- Keeping Household Accounts
- Home Safety and First Aid
- Driving and Cars
- Looking After Guests
- Overnight Guests
- Visitors’ Book
- Valet – The Gentleman’s Gentleman
- Packing a Suitcase
- Care of Clothes After They Have Been Worn
- Cleaning Clothes
- Know Before You Iron!
- Purchasing Clothes
- The butler as personal assistant
- The Orchestration of Fine Eating Experiences
- Meals to Remember
- English Afternoon Tea
- Setting the Table
- Serving the Meal
- Organizing other events and occasions
- Moving House
- Preparations at the Old House
- Preparations at the New House
- The Actual Move
- Handling Security
- The Twenty-first Century Butler
- How a Butler Should be Managed and Remunerated
- Future Markets for Butlers
- For the Beginning Butler
- The Tools of the Trade for the Twenty-first Century Butler
- The Hiring Process
- The Interview
- Where to Start once You Arrive on Duty
- Butler as Toastmaster
- Keeping the Occasion on Track
Training Path Choices
Training at the front end of any career, and ongoing until the day we retire, at least, is a given for butlers and household or estate(s) managers today. In the old days, the only training route was on-the-job training and apprenticeship that was hands-on heavy, light on theory, and limited in scope. The results were narrowly focused manual skills and not much in the way of managerial expertise.
Today, we have two additional avenues: bricks-and-mortar butler schools providing anything from 2-8 weeks of training with varying degrees of effectiveness and for prices ranging from a couple of thousand to $15,000. The advantages include working with peers, face-to-face tutorials, and field trips, and often, preferential placement efforts upon graduation.
The other avenue, perhaps more in tune with the digital world in which we live, is online courses. Their weaknesses are the very strengths of the bricks-and-mortar schools; whereas the strengths of online courses include a significantly lower fee (typically $2,000 – $3,000 for study hours on a par with an eight-week residential course); zero costs for travel, room and board; and for those currently in the work force, neither loss of income for the trainee nor interruption of service for the employer during the training. Additionally, because more subjects are covered, the training tends to be deeper, or can certainly be made far deeper by the student taking ancillary courses locally on such as wines, cigars, flower arranging, advanced driving, firearm and security, etc.
An independent survey was conducted recently into preferred training methods, which is well worth reviewing. Key points established were:
Ø Only about 50% of people feel they have the learning opportunities they need in their work;
Ø People like to learn at home more than anywhere else;
Ø If they have a choice between learning on computers, tablets, mobile phones or reading a printed document, they pick a computer. Mobile phones came last;
Ø The preferred duration for learning is 16-30 minutes, by a very large margin;
Ø Learning opportunities are critical to job satisfaction.
Furthermore, according to the survey results, people most desire self-paced learning and to put information into practice immediately. Anyone who has done any of the Institute’s online courses knows that’s exactly the way their Institute training was conducted. The courses were designed and written by the Chairman, who has worked for decades as an educator, specializing in cutting-edge education methods, as well as by Professor Ratliff, likewise an educator for decades. Where an employer is paying for the training (as opposed to self funding), a visit to the estate by Institute personnel at the conclusion of the training can ensure full application of the materials and certainty on the part of the trainee, which are, after all, the ultimate purposes of any training.
Bricks-and-mortar schools and online courses appeal to different groups with different needs, goals, and barriers, so one cannot say that one is better than the other: only that it is a blessing for the profession that we have choices. Even the old hands-on training on the job is still available in a few stately homes and such as Buckingham Palace for those who want authentic and traditional training. Certainly in combination with the other two forms of training, they are valuable experience and CV/resume builders.
“A Modern Butler’s Story
My name is William Hodson, and for the last 30+ years, I have had a career in ministry. Spirituality has always been my passion, and I always knew I had to live this passion out with what I was going to do for a living. I’m quite happy and satisfied in my work and with all its challenges, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
And yet, all my life, inexplicably, I’ve had a secret fascination with the life and role and the art and skills of a traditional Butler, particularly the style of the traditionally trained British Butler. There was always something about it that resonated with me. I have always been fascinated by the refinement of character, of learning how to fine tune one’s sense of morals and ethics. The butler, to me, always represented integrity and decency, and a good grasp of taste and personal refinement. These qualities were studied and played out in the role of service and it could be much more than a day job, but a full-time way of life. Perhaps all of these things, in my own mind and heart, were looking for a way to be realized in conjunction with my ministerial ‘hat’.
To make a long and rather complex story short, it’s like this: I wanted to integrate everything about being a butler into my personal life and my life dedicated to ministry. Part of this was to use the valuable skills and knowledge on an everyday basis that go with being a trained butler, but also I wanted to grow as a person and do something amazing like this, because I’m probably just one of those odd or unusual people that loves to do things like this. Maybe it’s part of the actor in me, who knows, but still it wouldn’t go away through the years, this ‘interest’ I had. It was a bit like a recurring dream. And it got me wondering, how do you go about becoming an actual Butler? And how is it that even after all these years in ministry, I can’t deny that I would really love to be a trained butler, even if just for the amazing knowledge and fun of it? Maybe others around me would think that crazy, but there it was, obvious to me: I wanted to learn it.
This course was a perfect fit for me, since I really wanted to take up the challenge of become a real, true to life butler with a serious professional level of training and yet it was clear to me that I could not in any way realistically afford the “brick and mortar” school in another country, let alone suspend my work and life to be gone for the 12 or 13 weeks required to do something like that. I could dream about it, but that was it. Now for some, it may be fitting and the right time in their lives to do exactly that; for me, however, I am 54 years old, established in what I love to do in life, settled and connected, and it would be impossible to suddenly upend everything and go to butler school. And I know that would also confuse way too many people in my life. But the dream of knowing the butler’s world, and actually becoming one, wouldn’t leave me alone.
I’ve had one of Mr. Ferry’s books in my personal library for probably 15 years or so (when I first started reading more in depth about the subject), and it seemed by chance I was reorganizing my library and came across it. Out of curiosity I decided to look him up on an internet search, and from there discovered the IMB website. I found other online and distance learning butler trainings as well, but even after reviewing these I liked Mr. Ferry’s site and concept of the training, and of course having enjoyed his writings I knew this was where I wanted to proceed from. If not for the concept, structure, and format of the butler course with the IMB, I would never have been able to realize this nagging dream of becoming a butler right alongside my existing work and professional role.
Everyone I knew growing up was always amused by the stereotypical butler characters that you would see in movies and television. They were often portrayed the same way: snobby, rude, dull, sarcastic, or servile. These were caricatures created for the purpose of entertainment, after all. Still, it wasn’t until I got into the course with Modern Butlers that I was exposed to some interesting takes on the life and qualities of good professional and highly competent butling that still could entertain and inspire a good laugh or deepen one’s interest by incorporating accuracy of detail in the manner of Jeeves (of Jeeves and Wooster), the Service staff of Downton Abbey, as well as the character of Mr. Stevens from Remains of the Day. Early in the course, these were part of the ‘required reading’, so to speak.
You move from this and some fascinating readings on the history and traditions of butling, right into the study of the personal and professional code of ethics of the butler. The two principal textbooks of the course are by Mr. Ferry and associates, and they immediately set in place the centrality of the integrity and related ethical principles the butler must have, or he is simply not a good butler. I loved this because right out of the gate, you enter the course building on this foundation, and you repeatedly refine these qualities throughout the course because they are part of everything you study and train for. This was a dream come true for me because I always loved studying these qualities from different angles, and the way they were tied into every part of the course was immensely satisfying; even in the seminary I never got that kind of focus on creating a sure moral and ethical foundation.
My course supervisor, Mrs. Ferry, was amazing; every day I would be corresponding by email about the course work and my assignments, and all of the above was naturally a steady part of it. In fact, I got even more out of the readings through the discussions I would have by email about the subject matter, where I would get plenty of tips and unpacking of the material in the course, along with some solid advice, and some good challenges along the way when I needed work on some point or other. This isn’t a course where you just mail in your answers and if you are in the ballpark, you pass and that’s it. No, the interaction was most delightful and thought provoking, and yet the atmosphere remains all around positive, enthusiastic, and highly professional.
There are a number of other texts required for reading, and all of these are well worth every penny paid (the material is worth its weight in gold), and are certainly books you will keep readily at hand for fresher insight and trouble shooting. In addition to the various texts that deal with the knowledge and detailed instructions that go with the various topics of the course (whether it be cooking, cleaning, driving, packing a suitcase, handling difficult situations, discerning and handling wine and cigars, overseeing staff, refining one’s personal character and even how to walk and stand and move smoothly and gracefully, among many other subjects you examine) the student is treated to a volume of very deep and thoughtful essays on the profession included in one of the principal texts which introduces you to “life technology” which you can use to improve your person and the quality of all the spheres of life you are involved in. I believe essays such as these are so insightful and essential to day to day living, regardless of one’s profession and state of life. There is plenty you get with this course, let there be no doubt about that.
Before I got started with my course, I did spend some time comparing the different online programs and correspondence courses, as well as the brick and mortar schools for interest sake, but none hit me quite like the IMB; I really liked the comprehensive descriptions of the modules you would undertake, and how the vision for the program was highly professional and well communicated. I could see from Mr. and Mrs. Ferry’s vision for the program and their personal experience, along with the development of the material and Mr. Ferry’s writings on the subject that I had already had experience with, that this was the course for me. That is, I could actually study the art of being a butler even though I was already involved wholeheartedly in another profession. There was no reason why I couldn’t. And what started off as a fun challenge in short order became a passion which, with some creativity, I could live out in the course of my own unique circumstances.
One of the barriers to my taking up a formal study of butling was the price of the butler school, and here what I found with IMB was actually quite realistic…while on one hand it was hefty enough (because, of course, the program was professional and comprehensive), at the same time, unlike a bricks and mortar school, it wasn’t out of the question cost-wise.
I didn’t have to take 12 weeks off of my life to go away to study, either. In fact, what I did was work at the course over the following year and it worked perfectly. I took the course at my own pace: depending on what was going on in my life, I could govern the speed and ramp things up or slow them down depending on what other things were happening in my life. I could do this course, in other words, right along with my own life, with my own career path and home setting and other friend/professional relationships left undisturbed. And wonderfully enough, all these elements in my life turned out to be the very training ground where I could practice immediately whatever I was studying and working on. In all respects, it turned out to be quite perfect, actually.
I wanted to learn how to be a true to life, genuine and fully trained Butler, with all the right tools and know-how to get started in this unique and fascinating way of life. I planned to integrate that right into my personal life and use everything I would learn directly for those people in my life that I love and care about and want to see bettered and made happier. It’s immensely satisfying to see someone else’s day or life made that much more special because of something you did – with full intention – to help it become that way for them. And it’s even more special a feeling for you, almost an indescribable feeling, when you make the conscious move to put yourself, almost paradoxically, out of the limelight in the process, so that it’s not about you. It’s about who you are doing this for, and why you are doing it. This is, to me, the core of what is known as the “Service Heart”. When you enjoy creating effects in the lives of others which make those moments special or unforgettable, you’ve got it: you’ve got the service heart. I’m the rookie butler saying this at age 54, but I know I’m not wrong about this. I wonder if any of the new and seasoned butlers out there actually realize what a wonderful and amazingly powerful tool they have for changing lives for the better!
So, I signed up for this course and I had definite ideas in my mind how I wanted to use what I learned to help make life around me better than I found it, with all of the above in mind. I thought, if I cannot actually be a butler in the world, I can at least work to master this art over time with the solid education I the Institute could offer me, and integrate it into my life so that it can bear fruit in with my ministry work and personal life. And what ended up happening is that I was able to merge the two worlds naturally, my ‘employer’ and job setting having already been located and secured. I use everything I’ve learned on a regular basis, and the ‘Lady’ of the house (the foundress of the ministry I work with) essentially has become the one whom I serve, and the households I manage as part of my work and all the various relationships that entails, is my ‘field of service’ and the ‘households’ I manage.
I think I could intuit much of what the potential the course had for me, but I was so pleasantly surprised by how it really exceeded my expectations and hopes. You will get out of it what you put into it. So what I began to find was this: you’ve got an excellent system of education to become a butler in the best sense of the word, in modern circumstances in the modern world – but when you put a little heart into it, you will come away with a third condition that’s not just the sum of the two components, but perhaps more of a product: that is, what you learn and how you apply yourself with that learning – with the catalyst of your imagination – is going to cause a scenario where the good you are working on starts to multiply exponentially. I really did find this happening, and I couldn’t be happier about it. And that really is a very satisfying feeling, seeing that all happen and knowing you’ve made conditions better than you found them, and you helped make magical moments happen for other people, all while staying in the background.
You can do this course in whatever time frame is good for you, but I did my course in about 14 months. The Covid situation was just one more challenge thrown into the works that at first one might think is a wet blanket, something to hamper or postpone or even possibly your plans…but when you make the conscious decision to stay at cause and not allow externals to run your life, you find a way to reach your goals…you start seeing how you must think and act as a butler, and if you intend to be the best Butler you can be, you will find a way. You have to be on point all the time, and you need to be able to handle just about anything that comes your way. You are a rock and lighthouse for people around you, even if you are not told this. Your employer and the household and its members all depend on you and your strength and calm, your knowledge and expertise, and yes, your wisdom and your good humor. So every challenge that comes your way simply becomes part of your lessons, your tests, your quizzes, and your ability to refine your abilities and recraft how you approach problems that arise. It’s very much like a game and the position and quality of your attitude is everything.
You have time with your correspondence to grow in a variety of ways mentally, emotionally and even physically during this training, as you will come into a new appreciation of what you lack and what you do have in your corner when you want to become a butler. You take on responsibility in increasingly fuller measures, until you realize that you can handle quite a bit and handle it well, with a good measure of practice of course. You learn things about what you’re doing, and what you’re made of, in the process, as long as you’ve got your eyes open and you have a willingness to learn and practice. Then it really starts to become quite a bit of fun, actually. That’s been my experience.
My hat’s off to everyone involved in putting a course like this together. It just happened to be a dream come true for me, but I have no doubt that anyone pursuing the profession and lifestyle of a butler will emerge from a course like this prepared and at the same time enthusiastic about the possibilities of the road ahead.
Last but certainly not least, I have to say that my supervisor, Mrs. Monica Ferry, was absolutely outstanding in her role. In this course, it was the opposite of what one might think of in terms of “correspondence courses”, such as limited and impersonal email acknowledgments and simple pass/fail recognition of your essays and projects to be assessed. To the contrary, I got plenty of detailed feedback and upbeat, enthusiastic encouragement. Even the areas where I had plenty of do-overs to get my manner correct and the best it could be with recordings I had to send in, or where I needed a lot of time to understand and practice certain disciplines I knew so little about (cooking!), Mrs. Ferry was both understanding and at the same time, “let’s get back on the horse!” My work was always promptly responded to, evaluated, critiqued and my understanding of the material was so positively influenced by this virtual daily interaction.
I couldn’t recommend this course enough, and my hope is that many will benefit from it and take the art of Butling to the next level of quality and caring service in these current times. I also hope that there might be others out there who would take the course and use it the way I have, as a means to celebrate the joy of being alive and sharing some part of the ‘good will and spirit’, butler style, with others and making the world that much a better place.” William Hodson
“This course has been great for me–quite challenging at times, but also a great way for me to stay in the game while I continue to look for my next post. I would also say it has given me confidence and a trust in my knowledge and experience in the field. I have appreciated all of your guidance throughout!” DD
“Looking over Module 4, it looks wonderful, and yes, a good bit of fun! I realize it’s early on in the course, but I have to say, it’s amazing and very interesting and satisfying to work on! My thanks to you for creating and directing something like this—it’s a dream come true for me!” WH
“I recently landed an Estates Manager position in France with one of the wealthiest Russian families of our times. My role includes managing a €60 million refurbishment at one of their sites in Côte d’Azur, while overseeing a Chalet in another region of France, including coordination of staff work, acting as a PA, and working very closely with the family office in London. This position utilizes all my previously gained skills, such as those related to service, sales, languages, and those I picked up at the university. Nevertheless, there is something that truly makes me feel confident and more comfortable when dealing with the Principal and his family—I am referring to the understanding of my role acquired during the course you took me through. It is definitely one of the most important things to have, as it already proves to be a big “service differentiator,” as you put it. I do consider this position to be a great success, not only because there is a big and interesting challenge involved, but also because the family itself is so respectful and diligent, they make you enjoy working for them. On top of that, they tripled my salary and provided me with a stunning, two-story apartment by the seaside.” OS
“This is to notify you that I have received my certificate via mail yesterday.
To say I am happy is an understatement. I am filled with joy and most proud to have been able to complete the process against all odds.
I sincerely want to thank Ms. Monica Ferry for refusing to let me stop and for not given up on me in the face of my many shortcomings due to diverse challenges I encountered.
Thank you, Mr. Vargas for seeing me through the program. I appreciate your keen eye to detail, you made me more focused.
I also want to thank Mr. Frank Mitchell; to my mind he is the most patient and wonderful tutor who saw me through the dark years of my studies which ordinarily would have been a study for just a few months. I am blessed to have had him teach me the excellent art of service.
Above all, my thanks to Professor Steven Ferry who supervised my every course work and accessed me worthy to bear the seal as a certified Bulter from his prestigious institute. I am hopeful I will have more to learn from the institute in terms of further studies.
Thank you all, God bless you all.”
“I am writing to express my gratitude for your utmost professional guidance and for the fantastic materials that you have created in the Correspondence Course.”
“From the moment I opened the Butlers & Household Managers book there was no way back for me. At that stage, I did not have any service background whatsoever, and it was a magical experience to discover my interest in the content of the book, enough even to prompt me to learn English. Beginning then on the course, I was amazed at the thoroughness of the materials—I understand the importance of every single Module.”
“No other butler school concentrates as much on the mindset of the butler, the understanding of which is paramount. I simply cannot think of a better idea than structuring the course on the butler mentality fundamentals. Everything else simply flows naturally from this understanding, which makes the studying process really enjoyable! The skills and knowledge I have gained are helping me in everyday life.”
“Some assignments were really challenging, but it was a pleasure to accept these challenges and broaden my capabilities in these fields.”
“I honestly think that you are the best teacher that I have ever had (!), and your personal approach and expertise is what makes the studying process interesting. Without doubt, your personal example will serve as a reference point throughout my career and beyond!”
“The value of what you give to people like me cannot be assessed with money. To summarize my experience with the Private Service Butler and Household Manager course, I feel that it can offer as much for beginners as it does to people with work experience in the service industry. Absolutely sterling!”
“The correspondence course gave me the entire scope of the duties and responsibilities of the multi-skilled butler in meeting the differing needs of employers around the world.
I now understand the butler’s frame of mind and his intention to achieve remarkable service. My great gratitude to my teacher for his guidance.”
“I want to thank the Institute for the excellent training they provided. I am very proud to now be one more butler with a certificate from this reputed training center, able to offer my services in hospitality venues as well as private estates.”
The following comments from a university professor as he progresses through the course:
“I hope all the assignments in the course are this much fun.”
“This is a wonderful module, very thought provoking.”
“I have most enjoyed Module 1. I didn’t expect to enjoy the videoed programs quite so much as I actually do; and pondering the questions after gives me extra insight it the videos themselves. Great job on Module 1!”
“I look forward to the new assignments. This set was thought-provoking, instructive, and fun.”
“Thank you for your prompt and very kind review.”
“I can’t thank you too many times, nor overstate my gratitude, for your help through this material.”
“This whole set of modules from section five of the course has been most instructive and great fun. As always, should you require changes, I shall be happy to try again. I have come to enjoy and trust your comments on my work. The times I have needed to do things again, I have been better off for it.”
“Thank you for your very prompt and very helpful reply, as always. I have observed in life that there are few truly dependable people. You are proving to be one of them.”