Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, June 2019, The Butlers Speak

Steven FerryThe Butlers Speak

by Steven Ferry


Of those surveyed, 60% had never been asked to organize an estate move. As one said, “I have yet to experience the pleasure of an estate move—I can only imagine!”
As for those who have had the pleasure, here is their take:

“Unfortunately, I have been involved with estate moves more times than I care to remember—I always seem to land a job where we are either about to move in or move out. Over the past three years, for instance, I have moved from one estate to another: from New Jersey to Florida, moving into a condominium while my employers’ home was designed and then built. That entailed moving ‘some things’ with us— fine art, china, linens, cars, clothing—to make it a home-away-from-home, and 250 boxes later, it kind of was. Then we moved from the condo to the new home, which meant more packing from our New Jersey home and all the items from the condominium—not so much fun, hard work, long hours….”

Another estate manager has also experienced several moves, including two to a different state and one relating to “the property manager who was let go. The staff had three days to pack his personal belongings and we all felt awkward knowing that we could be ousted without warning. I purchased moving supplies and rented a U-Haul truck; the housekeeping staff wrapped and packed everything—marking the boxes by room; and then the outdoor staff carried the boxes and furniture outside and loaded the truck.”
Most moves concern the principals, and planning such moves “includes a lot of clearing out,” according to one estate manager. “Donating unwanted items and deciding where they go—museums, goodwill, or consignment. We hired a private packing and moving company, so it really is like working with any vendor service: Acquiring bids from three reliable companies (in our case in the United States, Mayflower, North American Van Lines, and United Van Lines). Once I used Two Men and a Truck for a short move (to settle a spouse into an apartment quickly until the formal divorce arrangements were finalized, which took a year—and after which we moved the spouse again).”

Some challenges do present themselves during such moves: “The worst thing about moving is the builder giving a move-in date and changing it multiple times so we have to tell the staff to unpack what they packed because we are not ready for yet another month. It is very frustrating for the staff as well as the principal—who eventually told the builder we are moving, come hell or high water. At which point, we had over 100 workmen on the site while we were unloading at the curb because the van could access neither the front nor back doors of the building.”

Not all moves involve challenges, just the “stress of co-ordinating all the logistics and scheduling. On one move, the house was sold before the new house was ready, so we had the movers loading and unloading hundreds of boxes and furniture into storage, then reloading and moving to the new house when it was ready. A master list of each box number and its contents becomes vital in such situations, especially in the event the principal asks for something when it is in storage.”

Estate managers all agreed on the absolute necessity for this list of numbered boxes and their contents, as well as the need to use “good packing supplies: Boxes, tape, moving blankets, tons of bubble wrap and about a forest of trees in wrapping paper.” And then demonstrate how fragile items like china and crystal need to be packed, whether by the internal staff or the movers, to avoid breakage—because moving everything “from A to B, safe and sound, is all we need and want!”

“On moving day, make sure you have waters, sodas, and food in ample supply, even giving the movers lunch, because sending them out to lunch can and will cost you precious time. Petty cash is a must, as nothing speaks louder than cold hard cash to thank someone for a job well done—as the saying goes, ‘You attract more bees with honey than with vinegar.'”

One estate manager pointed out, “Keep good records, follow up with e-mails and phone calls, and maintain very good communication with everyone. Stay on track, have a plan, exchange vital information with your team. There are so many great Apps today to keep your staff informed. Usually, the fine art is moved separately, since moving and storage of such valuable items are usually the responsibility of the Designer or Art Curator.”

Final words of advice: “I guess a part of me must enjoy adrenaline rushes and practicing stress management. You cannot complain, you must compliment and encourage team work. Be the “Fall Guy” and do not pass the blame on to anyone else. Practice Yoga, run or work out to alleviate tension, pray or even receive professional counseling if you feel you need someone to talk to—since we know we cannot talk about our jobs to anyone, including other staff members. At least for me, I am confined to talking to the property manager and principal. I play online Solitaire to relax and take classes when I can fit them in my schedule. I just took a ‘Map and Compass’ course with the State Wildlife Organization.”

Whatever works, do it to keep that blood pressure low and a smile on your face during even the most pressing and demanding of times.

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.