To many the word ‘Butler’ conjures up an image of an individual such as Mr. Carson of the television series Downton Abbey. The title has always been synonymous with wealth and the upper echelons of society. One envisions an impeccably dressed gentleman in a black and white suit and wearing a waistcoat and bow tie, complete with pocket watch and white gloves. This is the larger than life figure of the Butler in charge of an immense estate as well as the army of servants who are charged with keeping the manor in superb condition whist providing the utmost in service. Indeed, in centuries past, this was the true image of the Butler.
Mr. Newton Cross of SABA International Butler Academy in Cape Town is the very antithesis of this image. As the creative owner and principal of the Academy, Mr. Cross has a unique, modern and charismatic approach to Butler training and has changed the way that clients and students perceive the image of a Butler. The modern-day Butler may perform similar duties to the Butlers of old, however many changes have occurred in regards to age, the uniforms worn, places of work and, to answer the question of many, there are a large number of successful female Butlers working in the field!
Mr. Cross is passionate and innovative and these qualities have always been his driving force. He has always been independent, finding entrepreneurialism and mindfulness a very appealing quality. In his own words: “I loved cooking and entertaining from a very young age and my passion for baking lead me to sell the cakes I made. As a young boy of 9, I knew that being a Butler was what I wanted to do, however this was not a recognised occupation in South Africa at the time. Years later I was able to realise my dream and qualify as a Butler at the age of 19 at the school for Butlers and Household Personnel.
After working for a number of prominent clients, as well as numerous contracts on the luxurious Cunard ocean liner, Queen Mary 2, I realized the need for a Butler school in South Africa. I was working as a Butler for a Dutch property tycoon in Cape Town. When my contract with the family ended and the family returned to Europe for summer, they requested I supply Butlers from my school upon their return to South Africa. Hence a need was recognised and the South African Butler Academy was born in 2009.”
Butlers are typically known as Household Managers in today’s changing world. The work of both is essentially the same thing. There has been a worldwide resurgence of clients wanting and requiring the services of a Butler, younger clients in particular wanting a dynamic and modern household assistant in their stately residences. Others may require these services in the presidential suites of their favourite hotels and resorts, perhaps on their private jets or onboard their pristine yachts. The demand is constant.
Acquiring the technical skills to do the work are essential. This is where SABA International Butler Academy stands apart from the competition. During the 8-week residential Butler training course held exclusively in Cape Town, the trainers at the Butler Academy offer unique training methods combined with kindness, honesty and sincerity towards students who quickly become a big part of the SABA family. The trainers are original, creative and keep ahead of the trends in the industry. “We understand very well what the industry requires and we know what individual candidates require in order to advance in the profession. We are a modern Butler Academy with a modern approach to Butler training.”
The trainers together bring years of experience to the table and they are dedicated to the art of Butler service. As the head trainer and principal, Mr. Cross is exceptionally gifted in infusing his students with the necessary skills to become a Butler. His years of working for the world’s elite have been packaged and translated into a most unique style of Butler training. He has devised an excellent course content that is based on experience, storytelling and an abundance of practical applications. The trainers teach through an intense methodology of thorough assessments, immense discipline and the emphasis is placed on today’s Butlers to be efficient and to manage a household effortlessly. A Butler needs to have excellent self-control, to be subservient and unobtrusive, yet at the same time be absolutely indispensable.
In addition to the 8-week training course, Mr. Cross’ training programmes are sought-after worldwide. He travels globally in order to bring this unique brand of Butler training to remote resorts and hotels, private yachts and royal palaces. No institution requiring training is seen as too small. These programmes are tailored to the needs of each client and delivered onsite and their success is measured in the number of clients who continually request return visits to train new staff. It has become clear that SABA International Butler Academy is the most highly sought-after and favoured Butler training academy worldwide.
Anyone wanting to become a Butler must have the correct attitude. You need a heart and passion for service, unfailing energy, commitment, devotion and discipline. Successful candidates gain not only excellent technical skills, they also gain tremendous confidence in their abilities to perform their work.
There is no shortcut to being a successful Butler. It takes hard work, perseverance and dedication. You need to begin at the bottom and never be afraid to learn as much as you can. Your personal life will become less important and your personal opinions might not agree with those of your client. Being discreet and not taking anything personally is essential, however if you have the passion and thrive on being of service to others, you will excel as a Butler and have a life-long rewarding career.