Head Butler & Estate Manager Paul draws from his 20 years of experience and offers his advice to clients looking to hire a Butler as well as some helpful tips for candidates joining a team of private household staff.
For those with relevant experience (such as hospitality, hotels or yachting), this week’s guest writer could really help guide you on the right path and help you gain that precious first role within a private household.
Paul has forged an impressive career in both private and corporate environments and travelled throughout the UK, Europe, America and Australia with his clients. He has also worked at board level for the globally renowned Soho House Group overseeing 750 staff members.
As a personal Butler to UHNW Individuals, high-profile musicians, actors and British royalty, he is just the person to answer our questions.
How would you advise any candidates considering a career as a Private Household Butler?
- Develop a broad range of skills so you are able to fix any number of situations as they arise; whether that’s how to use a needle and thread (to fasten a button in an emergency), knowing how to help in the kitchen if the chef needs an extra pair of hands, or arranging flowers that are delivered to your client as a gift.
- Quite often you will need to be discreet and hold a level of emotional intelligence, where you tailor your service to the individuals that you are caring for; some people will request you to be around and within their sight at all times and others want to be left alone whenever possible. You need to ‘read the room’ and be sure that you deliver an appropriate level of service to suit.
- Be organised, always be prepared for last-minute changes of plans. On occasion, you will need to make several “what if” back-up plans, so you have a contingency for any changes. If you’re travelling with your client, always ensure that you are ready to leave at the drop of a hat, just in case they decide to fly out early. You will usually have 60 minutes or less to pack and leave for the airport, so make sure you prepare for that possibility wherever possible.
- Create checklists – get to know the people that you’re looking after and make sure that you are thoroughly organised with anything that they may require.
Build checklists over a period of time. If they have asked for something on a previous occasion and you haven’t had it, make sure that you have it next time; an extra iPad charger, a spare pair of cufflinks for a gentleman or perhaps makeup remover for a lady, headphones, a particular blend of tea that you cannot easily find overseas or perhaps small exercise apparatus such as resistance bands.
- Anticipate your client – You are hired to pay attention to the small details so stay focussed and keep your eyes and ears open.
I think part of a role as a Butler is having the foresight to anticipate what your principal is going to require or what they’re going to do next. Part of the role is making sure you have everything ready; such as cars put away immaculately and full of fuel, so they can be available to use whenever required, the same applies to many other items, whether it’s sports equipment, clothing or silverware.
- Develop inventories for wines, crockery, silverware and have a full understanding of what is available in each private household, so you can adapt or source additional items as required.
- Continuously develop new skills; learn about cocktails, understand wines and, if appropriate, gain a better understanding of cigars – make sure that you’re as well-equipped with the skills needed for a multitude of situations you’re likely to find yourself in. Remember, you’re not only looking after your client, but you must also be prepared to look after any guests as well and be a “fixer” for them also.
- Make time to look after yourself; keep yourself fit, make sure that you eat well and make time for yourself away from work, especially if it’s a live-in role. To stay at your best and most efficient, you’ll need time away from the same environment.
- Develop a little black book of “go-to specialist suppliers” giving yourself reliable contacts that you can turn to in an emergency or situation when you need to find a solution quickly.
- Build good relationships with fashion stores, the local newspaper distributor, wine suppliers, caterers, tradesmen – you will need people you can trust to deliver exceptional service.
- Get the details right – make sure that the music is at the right volume, the lighting is softened and at an appropriate level, perhaps have a scented candle burning, are there plenty of fresh hand towels in the bathrooms? do the flowers have fresh water in them? do you have a good stock of frequently used products such as cosmetics, vitamins, perfume/aftershave to hand for when something runs out?– the role is all-encompassing and you need a great eye for detail.
What should any client consider when hiring a Butler for their private residence?
- First and foremost, you will need to establish what you need from a Butler. How do you see their role in practice? Are valet duties required, or perhaps general wardrobe management?
Maybe you need assistance with driving, in which case, does the candidate have the right level of experience driving luxury vehicles? Do you need them to cook for you on occasion?
Is it a service-led role, or is service of less importance and management of your team of staff and household admin more a primary requirement?
If you are looking to hire a Butler for the first time, a reputable agency such as The Staff Directory can help any client develop a detailed job spec. They can also help you to establish what is most beneficial to you in terms of what will fall under a Butler’s remit.
- Find out what it is that you want from this person, list the top five duties and responsibilities that you would like them to take on in the position. If you need them to drive, perhaps you need them to cover a shift on the chefs’ day off or manage the wardrobe for the gentleman. You need to make sure that you’re selecting a person with the right skill set for that for the role.
- Meet with the agency if you can. I think any good recruitment consultant will be able to gauge the core needs of a client, however, to gain a better understanding of these requirements, a face to face meeting is always more helpful. This meeting gives the client the opportunity to discuss how the household currently runs and the consultant is in a better position to ask any outstanding questions. Ultimately the responsibility of the consultant will be to present candidates that are the best fit for that household, in essence, their selection will relate to both the skillset and the personality of the Butler, providing a good match.
- Make sure that the person you’re hiring is the right fit for the atmosphere in your home. There are more formal Butler’s who are typically classically trained, perhaps from Royal Households who have a different attitude to a “modern Butler”. Whilst both may possess confident Butler skills, their approach to service will be delivered at different levels of formality.
What have you taken from your Butler career that would be of help to any junior Butler looking to begin a private household staff career?
I have learnt so many skills on the job and I’ve been lucky to work alongside some great people in the industry, whether it’s a housekeeping trick to remove a stain from linen or working with master sommeliers from prestigious vineyards. From one sommelier, I learnt about the “Ah So Wine Opener”, which has now become an indispensable part of my kit for opening vintage wines with brittle corks – If you don’t have one, add it to your kitbag!
What has been your career highlight so far?
I’m not sure that there’s been any specific career highlight as there have been so many, but there have been some really special occasions that I will remember forever. I’ve been really lucky to work for some incredible families, where I have been given an insight into their lives, along with their properties, yachts and aircraft.
I’ve been fortunate to visit restaurants, palaces and hotels with clients, that I wouldn’t have got to see in my normal everyday life. Some of my fondest memories are travelling on private jets and on a couple of occasions, travelling with the principal, where we were escorted through two capital cities by a police escort. I’ve seen live performances from some of the most talented performing artists in the world in a private setting. It’s been a fantastic experience and whilst it’s been hard work, I’ve had a lot of fun along the way!
It’s January. Lots of guests will be choosing alcohol-free alternatives this month after an indulgent festive season. Could you share with us a few mocktail recipes?
Faux Fizz – Garnished with lemon zest and a sprig of rosemary
4 dried apricots
75g golden caster sugar
2tsp apple cider vinegar
1 sprig of rosemary
1 strip of lemon zest
Top with Sparkling Water
Blackberry Mocktail – Garnish with whole blackberries and sliced lemon
30ml orange juice
20ml lemon juice
20ml Cinnamon syrup
Top with soda water
Pomegranate Mojito – Garnish with lime wheels, big mint sprig and pomegranate seeds
Apple & Cranberry Spritzer – Garnish with a slice of red apple, cranberries and sprig of rosemary
100ml Apple juice
100ml Cranberry juice
Winter Mule – Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a sprig of mint/rosemary
Shake top ingredients, then top with ginger beer.
And for those who won’t be participating in Dry January?
Add your choice of white spirit to any of the above recipes and shake over ice (I recommend Gin, Vodka or Tequila).
Or alternatively, you can celebrate the Sloe season with a Sloe Negroni (with or without the gin).
30ml Sloe cordial (see separate recipe below)
200ml Tonic water
15ml fresh lime juice
Fresh mint springs
Add all of the ingredients to a tall glass with plenty of ice, garnish with a fresh mint sprig and a lime
How to make Sloe Cordial
500g fresh sloes
Juice of one lemon
400g granulated sugar
1. In a pan, heat the sloes, water and lemon juice until they boil and simmer for five minutes
2. The sloes should soften and you need to squash them slightly with a wooden spoon
3. Simmer for a further ten minutes
4. Sieve the liquid, removing all of the stones (use fine muslin if you have some, which will
help make your cordial clear)
5. Add the sugar to the pan and return the juice back in, heat gently until all of the sugar has
6. Bring to the boil for a further five minutes
7. Cool and then bottle into a sterilised flip-top bottle
An alternative to the above, is a twist on a classic Negroni, by using Sloe Gin instead
30ml Sloe Gin
30ml Sweet Vermouth (Antica Formula is my preference)
Slice of blood orange, studded with cloves
Serve over ice and garnish with a studded blood orange slice and a stick of cinnamon
To hire a Butler on a temporary or full-time basis, please contact the agency and our specialist team will assist you +44 (0)203 669 7726 / firstname.lastname@example.org
To apply for Butler positions, please visit our Job Listings page and complete our Candidate Registration Form.