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An interview on House Managers with Steven Ford

As a House Manager and Butler with over two decades experience, Steven Ford is an exemplar of the domestic staffing industry. Following his excelling career in the Royal Air Force, Steve adopted the role of Butler in an English Manor House. Subsequently, he worked on 5-Star cruise ships, and then to VIP families from Russia and Europe, running not only the household but also the budgets. As a consummate professional, highly discrete and incredibly courteous member of the Irving Scott family, he is one of our most valued candidates. Below, he answers some questions on his role, his strengths, and his experiences to date.

Irving Scott: What are the largest challenges associated with the House Manager position.

Steve Ford: Every household offers different challenges. Some want speed, others perfection, some are very demanding – it varies from house to house.

Which members of the wider domestic staff are the key support for a House Manager? 

All members of staff are important; it is a team. Like a cog on a wheel, there may be different sizes, however all cogs turn together to achieve the same goal, driving the front wheel. Thus no person is more important than the next; each is needed to succeed.

If you were to perform one other role within those in a home – what would it be?

As a Manager, I have to perform all roles on a daily basis and step in whenever is required.

What sort of House Manager are you? Which adjectives best describe your attitude and approach to the role?

I am a person who believes all staff are equal and important, I reassure all staff of their importance. I have to be flexible, discreet, punctual, diplomatic, and effective at all times.

How does the world of domestic staff differ from that of corporate hospitality? How does your training in the latter influence your work ethic?

Corporate hospitality relates more to offices and banking spaces, it is not really a butler role, as the expectation is a lot lower, and speed is more important. It is often carried out by waiters and on a lower pay scale. Language is less important too, as you do not have the one-on-one interaction, as in a private house. A Butler can work in hospitality, however not all hospitality staff have the required standard or knowledge for a private household.

What does a client look for in a House Manager?

Each client will look for something different in their staff; a non-smoker, someone with fitness to perform long hours, previous longevity, formal or informal training, driving skills, yacht experiences, licenses held, family skills, diplomatic skills, ability to think on their feet, flexible to changes, able to train of other staff, and so on.

What would your clients say about you?

My clients would say professional, discreet, honest, flexible, and not intrusive.

What is one thing about your role you didn’t know at the outset?

Every role is different, so you learn so much in the role. No role is ever set on application, clients need change and your role may change as a result.

What direction do you need from clients to be effective?

Clients don’t need to give me direction, I should be able to preempt their needs before they know themselves – this comes with experience. I don’t require guidance, if the situation changes the client will say what is required and let me to achieve this on their behalf. It’s a matter of trust.

You must have a favourite aspect of your role – what is it?

My favourite aspect is exceeding the clients’ expectations; when something happens and it is taken care of, and the client is not even aware. For example, I had a dinner party, the boiler packed up, so I ran a hosepipe from a staff property for hot water.  This way, the client was unaware of any problems. They were very happy when they found out, I exceeded their expectations.