Butlers vs House Managers

Where are all the Butlers?

nondescript, generic cartoon image of a butler
Butler at your service

As a house manager I was going along in my day to day routine managing a house in Beverly Hills for high net worth people, I started wondering and questioning, what is the difference between Butlers vs House Managers? What is a butler? Are there modern day butlers? Do people really know anything about butlers?

I did a survey and most people said they didn’t know anything about butlers. The general consensus was people mostly know about butlers from what they see in movies and TV shows.

This is my industry, the private house hold industry. The more I thought about it the more I decided I had to investigate the subject of butlers and house managers. I got a statement from a Domestic Placement agent that said, “There are no real butlers in the US they are called House Managers. And you will find most Butlers in Europe.” With that statement, my title, as house manager, as can be seen here, https://kellyqualityestates.com all of a sudden was not on firm ground any more in regards to understanding my title or position! I was thinking, you mean, I could call myself a butler!?!


Butlers or House Managers which one is Kelly Watkins, I think I figured it out
House Manger, Kelly, not in uniform working on the weekend at the house she managed

Busting Down the Butler Barriers

“If I can share with you one important thing I learned, it is that women and the title of butler don’t mix,” Mrs Starkey said. I side with Mrs. Starkey founder, maverick and genuine leader in the Private Household Industry, http:// https://www.starkeyintl.com. On my journey to understand my place or title in my field I was led to interview a number of Butler School owners. I was told a fascinating tale, that Mrs. Starkey was the only person that had the vision, compassion, bravery and determination to go to Washington and get clarified for us some of the terms for the Private Household Industry.

Butler vs House Manager Origins Explained

Mrs. Starkey believes (and I totally agree with her) that the term “Butleress” just does not work in describing a women butler. Instead the term “House Manger” was created by her, since that is a neutral term and title that any person can assume and operate as.

I asked for and was searching for a manual or some resource that contained all the definitions of the different job titles, like Butler and House Manager, but this was all safely out of reach, accessible only if I paid for the courses at Starkey International.

However, I did gain one huge clarification Mrs. Starkey shared with me. Specifically, she did define for me the difference between a House Manager and an Estate Manager. In fact, really liked her definition: an Estate Manager is a person that manages an estate that is over 18,000 square feet. Anything under that square footage is a House Manager.


Butlers vs House Managers, Do they have a Code of Conduct?

black and white drawing of 3 butlers standing in formal attire.  Butlers and House Managers.
How to act like the perfect Butler?

Do butlers have a code, guidelines or an operating manual they adhere to? Ordinarily, it seems that all professions have a certain set of guidelines they follow.

This was another driving question I was hoping to discover if there was an actual guide of conduct for butlers. The big reveal is there is no such codification or guiding principles. Each butler school seems to teach their own version of the vague and general idea that butlers should have good manners, they should put others first, be service oriented, be a gentleman, etc.

Personally, I know of a very simple, yet effective common sense guide for exceptional morals and principles. Similarly, these common sense guide lines have helped me tremendously with my work in the Private Household Service industry. Indeed, this code of conduct is universal and covers everything, http://www.TheWayToHappiness.org


The Butler Role is a Style

cartoon image of stylish butler on ice skates with a serving tray
The Butler with style

Regarding the Butler vs House Manager roles, the way I see it is, when you work in the private household service industry every household you step into has different needs and demands. So there is the position or role of Butler to be filled, but within that role you will discover from the principal, owner, employer what type or style of Butler they want you to be. For example, do they want quiet non-intrusive type of butler or a dominant run everything extremely formal type of behavior or any other kind of variation. You have to be able to adapt to that estate Eco-system.

Another key point, I learned is Butlering is a style, this by far was the most interesting piece of information I learned from Mrs. Starkey. The juicy sound bite she dropped on me was that really, Butlering is a Style originated and developed in England. So the traditional butler that we all see on TV and in movies was honed and shaped in the United Kingdom. Another broad scope she gave me was that the rest of Europe is very “folksy” and not that formal, in which case the demand for butlers is less frequent. The very formal butlers are not that prevalent in the other parts of Europe. This pertains mainly to the private domestic scene.

Hospitality Butlers

Generic black and white image of a butler serving wine with a tray

On the other hand, there is a whole different scene in the hospitality world. In my opinion butlers are in high demand in that part or the side of the industry. The hotel industry.

Hence, it makes sense that this is a viable and growing side of the service industry. Moreover Some schools
cater to teaching the skills needed for the hotel butler. Significantly, I had the unique fortune to interview the gracious owner of the International Butler Federation, https://www.thefederationofbutlers.com. Overall, from what I understood from him I would say it sounded like the majority of his students are in the hospitality or hotel butlering side of the industry.

Modern Butlers

Further, I stumbled upon the International Institute of Modern Butlers. I found this to be a great resource. Mr. and Mrs. Ferry the owners were very gracious in connecting with me and sharing what they offered. http://www.modernbutlers.com
Mrs. Ferry told me, “It was a matter of, I did not have to invent the wheel again.” Mr. Ferry has written several operating manuals on butlering. Furthermore I got the best definition of a House Manager to date while interviewing Mrs. Ferry, “A House Manager is the American cousin of the Butler!” Ahhhh, free information and clarification I love it!

Schools for Butler and House Manager Training

Butlers or House Managers polishing sliver

On the positive side, in hopes that it would be helpful, I thought I would list the Butlers and House Managers schools that I have found. Of course, you are saying in your head right now… I can just google butler/house manager schools. Well, yes you can google it. I did and I got about 2 schools that came up. Moreover, I think the Butler/ House Manager schools are better at teaching how to polish silver than they are at marketing and promoting their schools. To clarify, this is my gesture to be helpful. In addition, I have been finding these schools in all the nooks and crannies through out my research and networking. I will list the schools here:

A List of Butler/House Manager Schools:

Starkey International http:// https://www.starkeyintl.com

Federation of International Butlers https://www.thefederationofbutlers.com

International Institute of Modern Butlers http://www.modernbutlers.com

Rosset Bespoke Butlers http://www.rossetbespokebutlers.com

The International Butler Academy https://www.butlerschool.com

British Butler Institute https://www.britishbutlerinstitute.com

Professional Domestic Services & Institute https://www.housestaff.net

Marta Perrone: Estate Management Expert https://martaperrone.com

Polo & Tweed: Estate Manager Training https://poloandtweed.com/domestic-staff-training/estate-manager

Charles MacPherson Associates www.charlesmacpherson.com

In Conclusion

In conclusion, I’m just trying to be as helpful as possible. I don’t pretend to be a expert or an authority. In essence, I’m just documenting my career journey. Additionally, if I can help you in any way please contact me. Hence, I see the evolution of the private household industry as going from the formal butlers in the UK to branching out and morphing from a demand for a more laid back style in America, which has manifested and became the House Manager.  What do you think about the butlers vs house managers situation happening today?  Consequently, do you agree or disagree that the House Manager is the American cousin to the Butler?



Meet the Author:

Trapped at an office job, I quickly found that sitting behind a desk was not my strong point.  I excelled at moving, hustling and making material things look better, improving the condition of just about everyone and everything I came into contact with.  With that advantage…  Kelly Watkins is a  House Manager, Housekeeper and Success Influencer!  18 years of delivering domestic excellence in the private service industry, meeting requirements for running distraction free estates. I truly take pride in running a clean and orderly house, delivered with superlative quality and dependability.  I am a people person at heart.  What I like about my profession is that I can take a house and move it up into a better condition.  Continuously helping others is my successful action in life.

10 thoughts on “Butlers vs House Managers”

    1. Bowing to you sir! You are more than welcome. Your words are my pay. I do not make any money from my blogs, the pay comes from people like you and the knowingness I’m moving the world in the right direction.

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