Gone are the days of gloved hands carrying silver trays – the modern-day butler looks a little different these days. With an extended range of responsibilities, numerous benefits and an ever-growing knowledge base, it is now a very varied role requiring a wide range of skills. As a result, the paths to becoming a household
My niece recently asked what the first thing I think about upon waking was and I was embarrassed to say “my boss” but it’s true: my first thoughts are what is he doing today, what could feasibly go wrong and is everything in place to ensure it doesn’t?
Before I get out of bed I check my texts and emails to see what has come in overnight. This morning there is an urgent text from the Boss regarding changes to his travel plans to New York later today. My previous boss wasn’t so considerate – he would think nothing of calling my landline in the early hours to discuss changes to his travel!
My intention to get to my 7am spin class is out of the window as I fire up my laptop and get on the phone to the travel agent. I can’t complain because when he is away I am lucky to be able to plan my day as I wish and work from wherever I like, as long as the job gets done and I am reachable by phone, so there will be plenty of time to make up for the missed gym session.
I make the amendments to the itinerary, which as always details the two (sometimes there are three) options booked, ensuring maximum flexibility as his schedule changes. We will keep in touch this weekend so I can make necessary changes, even though I am due to be staying with friends in the country. Fingers crossed my hosts have Wi-Fi so I can use a brilliant app that allows me to make calls and text on my iPhone, avoiding the need for me to spend the best part of the weekend driving to the nearest spot with mobile coverage.
I text the driver to let him know we will be heading out to the airport earlier than planned. I often join the Boss in the car as it’s an efficient way for us to catch up and review things.
I am based in an office in an apartment a few doors down from the family home in Notting Hill. Today it’s a beautiful day so I walk there, which allows me to make some calls en-route. I am chasing the art movers to find out the whereabouts of a custom-made crate for artwork they are due to ship to his home in New York.
When I arrive I am greeted by the office cat. He was rescued by the Nanny (who lives downstairs) from the Westway where he had been abandoned as a tiny kitten. The cat and I share the office with the Boss’ wife’s PA. It’s an informal and relaxed environment and we are back and forth to the house frequently during the day.
My role is very project led. I am currently working with a web designer on a new website to replace the original, which I had designed and built using Moonfruit. I review the changes and go back with my comments. The designer has introduced me to WordPress so that once the site is launched I can manage it going forward.
One of the reasons I was keen to work with the Boss was his philanthropic activities. As well as serving on a number of boards in the areas of sport, education, healthcare and the arts, he has a foundation through which he supports organisations within these areas. We receive numerous approaches from individuals and organisations seeking support which I review and filter, bringing to his attention those that fit his philanthropic goals and writing rejections to those that do not. It is a difficult part of my job, particularly when the approach is from a cause close to my heart but not his. I am significantly involved as a volunteer fundraiser for a literacy non-profit and London-based charity that works with the homeless so I get a good vantage point from both sides.
I also act as a gatekeeper and deal with as much as possible to minimise items requiring the Boss’ personal attention, allowing him to focus on the things that matter most to him. After nine years of working together I joke that it is like a professional marriage and I confess an important part of the job is nagging and chasing him, be it getting him to sign legal documents or respond to an email, whilst recognising when to let him be.
In a private role such as this, the lines between his professional and family life are not clear cut. The eldest of his children is 26 and the youngest is 15. On occasion I have had to act in loco parentis, such as dealing with the aftermath of a teenage daughter’s secret party in her parents’ absence or taking another daughter to lunch to distract her from her worries about starting university.
For all the interesting aspects of the role, such as researching fascinating individuals ahead of important meetings, planning large budget birthday parties or the organisation of a “friend raiser” for a foundation established by a major pop star, there are days where he’ll ask me to pop out to buy him a sandwich or drive him to a meeting when the driver is busy elsewhere. I think he’d fall off his chair if I was to say “that’s not my job”!
Luckily, long gone are the days of having to wait by the office phone for a boss to call or a fax to arrive. Modern technology allows me the freedom to support him from anywhere and he is not one to worry about how much holiday I take, though I am always on call. When I planned a holiday to China and warned him coverage might be patchy in the more remote areas I was travelling to he responded, “I executed a major telecoms deal in China and coverage is great so you’ll be able to check your email daily”, and he was right!
Let’s just hope the Wi-Fi at my hosts in the country is working this weekend…
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