Butler standards Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, October 2018, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #9

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: The Butler Book and a New Job

         Scenario: A newly hired butler is assuming his responsibilities in the home of a well established family in New England, taking over from a butler who is retiring after some thirty years. There is a household staff of six (chef, housekeeper, gardener, chauffeur, lady’s maid, and the butler). On his first day, he is scheduled to take a detailed tour of the home, briefly greet members of the household, and hold a first staff meeting.

           QUESTION: Where might the new butler gain the most important information about his new household, as he begins his duties?

Standards: The Professional Performance Standards state that the butler should “make a transition onto staff by first learning the household and job requirements.” The standards also state that the butler should maintain a Butler Book as a household database and reference notes, containing the variety of information required for the day-to-day operation of the household and personal care of household members.

Recommendations: The single most important treasure trove of information is the Butler Book, inherited from the previous butler. The Butler Book is the central data base of information required to operate the house. It will include personal information, idiosyncrasies, etc., on family members and important guests, as well as a detailed calendar, household traditions, special procedures, vendors and service providers, all household operations, a detailed record of important past events, everything that makes this family and household function.

In earlier times, the Butler Book was indeed kept in a large, or several large, notebooks. Today, it is more likely to be contained in a computer database. Regardless of physical form, it will be the small details in these records that will make a big difference in the new butler’s success. If, by chance, there is no such “book,” the new butler’s first major duty will be to create one. The Butler Book is the most important key to success, after his personal competence, integrity, and sense of responsibility.

Several other sources will help this new butler—the head of household and his spouse, the retiring butler—and he will want to meet privately with each staff member. He should take careful notes as he tours the household. But the Butler Book is the source that will make the most difference in his transition onto the job.

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.