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What’s the difference between a butler and a house manager?

There are plenty of reasons to hire professional home staff. You get to come back to a tidy house. You don't have to worry about performing the most arduous tasks, like landscaping and deep cleaning. And if you hire a personal chef, you can enjoy meals of the highest quality. As helpful as many of these roles are in simplifying your day-to-day, no other staff member provides your daily life with as much ease as a personal butler.

A butler is essentially the glue that holds your household together. They can help the busiest families maintain their hectic schedules while keeping everything organized and running properly. They especially come in handy for adults working long hours, who may not have time to check everything off their to-do list. Ultimately, they take on many of the household tasks that keep you from participating in what you'd rather be doing, whether it's putting in late hours at the office or participating in the hobbies and activities that give you a sense of fulfillment in life.

The day-to-day responsibilities of a butler

The major duties of a butler typically involve the more unpredictable tasks that come up around the home. A personal butler might pay the bills, book appointments for members of the household, arrange social events and stock up on supplies around the home. They may also perform regular maintenance tasks around the house, making sure everything is in good condition and calling a mechanic, electrician or plumber if necessary.

While a housekeeper is typically responsible for conducting the heavy duty cleaning around the home, a butler may do some tidying up to fill in the spaces between each visit from the housekeeping staff. They may make beds, do laundry, wash dishes, wipe down surfaces and tidy up cluttered spaces.

Butlers are not nannies or babysitters, so they will likely not be placed in charge of caring for the children of the house. However, there may come a time when the butler is responsible for picking the kids up from school or dropping them off at soccer practice. That said, it's important not to rely on your butler to perform the duties that might be better allocated to a professional that specializes in child care.

Depending on the amount of work you might require from your personal butler, this professional may work full- or part-time hours. Live-in butlers are not altogether common, but many households benefit from having a full-time butler living in the home to cover tasks around the clock. To bring on a 24-hour butler, it's essential that you have suitable, private living quarters to make this staff member feel at home.

A butler's dress code

According to Estate & Manor magazine, the main regulation involving the standard dress of a butler is that it should be markedly different from the dress of those living in the house. The butler should stand out among the household without sticking out prominently as the staff. For that reason, butlers typically do not wear name tags or other strong indicators that label them as an outsider.

Aside from the clothing, butlers should adhere to a few guidelines when arriving to work each day. Their clothing — either formal or casual, depending on the homeowner's preferences — should be clean and pressed. Scuffed shoes and tarnished sleeves will not suffice. In addition, butlers should have exceptional hygiene and a sense of pride in their appearance. This entails keeping their hair styled and their faces shaved (in the case of male butlers). Female butlers may take additional steps to improve their appearance, applying a light layer of makeup and ensuring fingernail polish is not chipped.

Butler vs. house manager

If you've been searching for a high-quality butler to keep your home in top running order, you might have seen another job title floating around: house manager. Some professionals prefer the distinction of a house manager over butler. While these two roles have more in common than not, it's worth citing the differences between a butler and a house manager.

Generally, the butler pays the most attention to the members of the households and meeting their specific needs. Conversely, the house manager regards the well-being of the home itself, ensuring everything is maintained, inspected and safe. However, there are plenty of butlers who perform the tasks of a house manager, and vice versa. The duties each type of professional performs depends on your expectations and the professional's areas of expertise.

Another notable difference between these two roles is the level of formality associated with each. Typically, butlers are expected to meet a certain standard of dress, often wearing a suit or — more traditionally — a tuxedo. However, a house manager is typically viewed as a more lax position, meaning they may be permitted to dress casually on the job. The exact expectations of dress and etiquette are typically up to the homeowners; some may prefer their butler to meet a proper decorum, greeting and speaking with them formally, while others may prefer their butler to speak to them as if they are a close friend or member of the household.

Expected boundaries between the butler and homeowner

Whether the butler is a part-time employee or a live-in professional in the home, certain aspects of etiquette are essential in establishing a productive relationship between the homeowner and their staff members. Although butlers and their clients may see each other every day, it is paramount that they foster a professional relationship rather than one rooted in friendship.

Butlers should not be directly involved in the personal matters of their clients. While they may be in charge of handling personal information, such as bills and credit card statements, and making calls on behalf of the homeowner, they should not perform the role of a therapist or confidant. If the client has developed a positive rapport with the butler, it might feel natural to share aspects of each other's lives, but there is potential for a line to be crossed.

Although the homeowner may not share personal details directly with the butler, there may be a time when the butler sees or hears something out of the ordinary. It is of the utmost importance that staff members do not reveal gossip or confidential information to one another or outsiders. In the event the homeowner discovers that their butler has broken their trust, they have the right to dismiss them of their services.

Experience required to become a butler

People do not become butlers by chance or circumstance. Taking on this role requires dedication in the areas of fine dining, social etiquette and home management. Some butlers may have limited practical experience but vast amounts of formal knowledge, while others have plenty of experience with no formal training.

Many butlers and house managers attend schools that offer specific training in this field. One of the most popular is the 10-week butler training program from the International Butler Academy. This European program educates prospective butlers on the ins and outs of the role of a butler or house manager, including dress code, service etiquette, manners and other components of what it takes to be an effective butler.

It is possible to become a butler without attending a formal training program. Many butlers gain expertise on the job or as an apprentice to a more seasoned butler. Without a formal certification, they may not be able to request the same amount of earnings as those who have gone through extended training programs.

Because butlers may be tasked with serving the household and their guests at meal times, it is possible that they may have attended culinary school to learn the ins and outs of fine dining. Also, butlers may hold a certification in wine specialization, giving them expertise on different types, regions and blends of wine.

In addition to these instances of concrete experience required to be hired as a butler, plenty of soft skills lead to a professional's success in this career. Some such assets include:

  • Ability to multitask: Butlers need to juggle multiple tasks and errands at once. They should be able to jump seamlessly from one job to the next, all while balancing the full itinerary of the day's work.
  • Strong communication skills: Because these professionals are responsible for arranging meetings and appointments, coordinating with other hired help and conversing with guests, they should be charismatic and social.
  • Attention to detail: Butlers are in charge of making sure the household is performing at its highest capacity. They should be adept at locating issues — from leaky pipes to malfunctioning central air — and figuring out ways to mitigate them.

Finding the right butler or house manager

Even though many butlers and house managers actively are seeking jobs, it is essential that you work with the right recruitment partner to ensure you are hiring staff of the highest quality. At Colonial Domestic Agency, we connect homeowners to the most talented professionals in roles ranging from maids and butlers to personal chefs.

Would you like to know how it works? First, a recruiter from Colonial Domestic will meet with you to discuss your household needs and provide you with advice on what to look for in the right butler. The recruiter will then search our extensive database, selecting candidates that they believe can best serve your household. We will conduct initial interviews, then connect you directly with the candidates who pass this screening. From there, you can manage the final interview and make your decision on who you'd like to have serving your family.

Are you ready to begin your search for the right butler? Get in touch with us today to learn more about our services and find out how we can match you with the right butler candidates who suit your needs and expectations.