Is formal training worth the investment?


Mastering the art of household management can be a years-long endeavor, but what if you want a faster way to develop expertise?

Whether for yourself or your staff, you might consider butler or household management school.

Completing one of these programs can serve to solidify a household manager’s skills, enhance their service offerings, and improve their principal’s overall quality of life. So, are they really worth the investment?

I spoke with three successful graduates to find out:

  • Martha Lockie (attended International Butler Academy),

  • Catherine Morris (attended International Butler Academy), and

  • Peter Downs (attended Charles MacPherson Academy).

Here’s what I learned.

1) Shore up your weak spots

All three graduates decided to attend an academy because they felt they might benefit from more formal training, given that they didn’t come from traditional estate management backgrounds. Martha had worked as a personal assistant, hotel manager, and event planner; Peter had been a private chef for years. “I didn’t have a formal background in hospitality,” says Catherine, who worked as a personal assistant and household manager prior to enrolling explained, “so I wanted to shore up the areas that I wasn’t quite as comfortable with, like table service and etiquette.”

Successfully completing an academy can serve to formalize training and help you stand out in a competitive field, “I wanted to set myself apart,” Martha shared, “and add something special to my resume. I loved the idea of being able to provide an extremely high level of service to my future principals.”

2) You’ll Never Regret Learning Those Formal Skills (Even If You Live In California)

“Having started my career on the East Coast, it took a little time to adjust to the more casual nature of most Californian households,” Peter said. “At the butler academy, I learned a lot of formalities, which was a good thing. It never hurts to know the elements of formal service, as you can always dial them up or down as needed.” Catherine agreed, “If you have the extra skills, you can always pare them back. But you can’t use them when you need them if you’ve never learned. It’s all about reading the situation.”

3) But It’s A Lot Of Work…

“I didn’t know it would be so hard!” Martha said with a laugh. All three alumni described long days, boot-camp style training, blunt criticism, demanding teachers, and competitive classmates. These academies are no joke. “It was a rapid-fire learning experience,” Peter recalls, “We were in class eight hours a day, six days a week and had hours of independent study, reading, and homework every night. The program was very intense.” So, even though you may end up living in a castle while you complete your program (as Martha and Catherine did), don’t expect it to be a vacation. “It was literally the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Catherine agreed.

4) AND Consider The Technology Angle

“There’s a growing emphasis on smart home systems, especially in California, so the one thing I felt my program was missing was the technology element,” Martha said. Peter agreed, “it would have been valuable to come away from the academy with connections to local and national technology and security companies, so that we, as estate managers, could stay on the cusp of the latest smart home trends.” Californians, especially Silicon Valley residents, love a tech-savvy home.

5) It’s Worth It If…

Butler and household management academies are probably best suited for people who:

  • Have some experience to draw from. Enrolling in an academy when you don’t have any private service experience to speak of may not be the best choice. “I’d recommend getting some experience in a private service role first,” Peter suggested, “the program is so fast-paced that if you aren’t familiar with the material, you’re going to fall behind.”

  • Want a comprehensive overview of household management. “Be sure you’re clear about what you want to get out of the experience,” Catherine recommended.

  • Are committed to making this a career. “Being a butler has become increasingly trendy,” Martha observed, “there are so many people who come into this business for the wrong reasons and end up not making it through the academy.” Graduating from a prestigious program can serve to solidify your qualifications and to enhance your career, but you have to be ready to work for it.

The takeaway?

Martha and Peter both stated unequivocally that their programs were well worth the time and financial investment. “No question that it was worth it for me,” Peter said. “It was one of the best experiences of my life,” Martha agreed.

Catherine, on the other hand, advised “you should be clear on what you want to get out of the experience. If you’re just starting out, a butler academy is probably a great choice. But, if you’re simply looking to polish one or two skills, a more focused course might be a better choice.”