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Would you like some grey poupon? Demand for personal butlers has grown by 20 per cent

Sheryl Nadler
Shine On
July 10, 2012

For those who are concerned that the economy is recovering at snail's pace, there is good news — at least in the world of the ultra high net worth. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, worldwide demand for butlers is up 20 per cent.

Scott Munden, vice-president of Charles MacPherson Associates -- a top-tier staffing agency and private career college for butlers and household managers worldwide -- has noticed this increase in demand at his agency.

"In 2008, with the financial crisis, things definitely froze up," he says. "However, over the last year to year and a half we've started to notice improvements in the U.S. market. Interest in hiring butlers and household managers has increased. Things didn't drop off in Canada the way that it did in the U.S."

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Salaries for Canadian butlers range between $40,000-$50,000 a year for newbies, all the way up to $125,000-$150,000 for experienced staff.

Munden -- whose firm recently placed a Canadian butler from Buckingham Palace with a prominent Canadian family -- explains that while Europe, the U.K., and the U.S. have long-standing traditions of hiring butlers, Canadians didn't really warm up to the practice until fairly recently.

In the past, housekeepers would take care of household issues and personal assistants would take on other responsibilities. But as Canadians build bigger, more sophisticated homes with smart home technology and complicated heating and cooling systems, Munden is seeing a shift toward hiring butlers who are trained to take care of everything.

"They need somebody who works at an executive level who can manage the overall property, who can deal with serious mechanical problems by speaking intelligently to trades and vendors," explains Munden. "The demand for service has really developed in our culture along with an increased interest in luxury goods. So there's a connection there."

Also see: Things you didn't know were invented by Canadians

So do proper butlers wear formal uniforms? It depends on the culture and country, says Munden. In North America, most homeowners find formal uniforms stuffy and the butler will instead wear proper business attire.

The four-week program at the Charles MacPherson Associates attracts both men and women from the hospitality industry, financial services industry, and even engineers. The program covers everything from household management skills to butling to cigars to mixology to housekeeping to laundry.

What type of personality is most successful at being a butler?

"A cool cookie, for sure," says Munden "You need to be unflappable. We describe a household in theatrical terms. You have a back of the stage where the show is being managed and while it may be mayhem with people running all over the place, on stage, everything is perfect, everyone knows their lines and everything goes off without a hitch. A house should be like that."

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