Domestic Staff Training

Mary Louise StarkeyToday a prospective client called, seeking private service training for her current household staff.  She exclaimed, “Whew!  You were hard to find, Mrs. Starkey!”  Given that Starkey International comes up first when you Google Household Management, I was stunned until I asked, “What were your search words?”  She replied, “Domestic Staff Training.”  Those who know me and my work understand that I have been a wordsmith for this unique profession of Private Service and have written extensively for the industry, developing the use of over 100 words and terms including coining the title “Household Manager.”

Over the years I have rallied against ever referring to our Graduates as “Domestics.”    The term domestic often has a negative association including: uneducated, low skill, not always trustworthy, non-English speaking, and more; this is not a good beginning for a growing young profession.   The word Domestic is defined in Webster’s 1999 edition as, “pertaining to the home, family, or household affairs” and “tame; domesticated”.  Much of my work over the last 30 years has been to actually create a world-recognized, well-respected, educated, and appropriately paid profession.  The term domestic continues to play a vital role in defining those that do the more unskilled, hand’s on cleaning and outside heavy grounds work in private service.  However, to continue to utilize the word Domestic to define, categorize, or refer to those who have attained years of service management education, abilities, and expertise as a “domestic” is much like referring to an architect as a carpenter!


YG0813Certified Household Manager

Top Three Standards:

Property & Grounds

Personal Statement:

I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. I am the second oldest of nine children. Growing up surrounded by my family of 11 in a three-bedroom, one-bath home, I attended Catholic grade school and Catholic high school. My mother and father taught us how to have a strong work ethic, proper morals and values.

My grandfather was a sign painter who bartered for groceries, gasoline and anything he could. My grandmother worked as an operator for the Bell Telephone Company. My grandmother never possessed a driver’s license; she took the city bus everywhere she needed to go.

My father was a Vice President at General Electric. My mother was a top level C.E.O. of domesticity. My mother juggled and balanced finances, shopping, cooking, unequaled love, care and support for the other 10 people in the house, while never thinking of herself.

In a family of 11, you just naturally helped with everything. From a young age we cooked, cleaned house, babysat, changed diapers, did laundry, folded laundry and helped with yard work. When I got my first car, I quickly realized that I was a neat freak, as it was always spotless and in perfect mechanical condition.

I have spent more than 30 years in the service industry and have managed homes for Fortune 500 Principals. I am a two-time Certified Household Manager of Starkey International. My skills include planning and coordinating, vendor management, construction project oversight, wine cellar purchasing, inventory and control, daily menu planning and cooking. In addition, I am experienced with all the ins and outs of entertainment, whether it’s a party of two or a 300-person function. Hiring and training staff, account management for all household-related expenses and fulfilling payroll are all a part of my administrative expertise. Later in my career, I have developed a tremendous amount of knowledge in landscaping, gardens and construction.

I place a high value on personal achievement. I push myself to become better and continue learning. I have successfully owned and operated a restaurant in Sedona, Arizona. But more importantly, I provide unconditional love and care for private families. My goal is to work for a private Principal and live onsite, with possible travel included. Thank you for the opportunity.

My top Service Standards are Property & Grounds, Maintenance and Administrative.

Property and Grounds:

  • Served as the owner’s representative for the new construction of a 10,000-square-foot, 12-bedroom beach home in Turks and Caicos; worked regularly with architect and general contractor to ensure quality, timeliness and budget of the project 
  • Oversaw the construction and maintenance of a $1 million, 70,000-gallon swimming pool, complete with water features 
  • Skilled with new construction on properties ranging from 5 to 80 acres, taking the project all the way from dirt removal to finished product, including blueprints, vendor management and final punch list 
  • Experienced with remodel projects: working with heavy equipment to finalizing interior details 
  • Years of hands-on experience with mowing, weeding, edging, fertilizing and tree trimming; knowledgeable with seasonal planting 
  • Experienced with irrigation systems, deep root tree fertilization, mosquito and insect management 
  • Capable of operating pool and spa systems and caring for outdoor buildings, structures and furniture 
  • Capable of entry gate and fencing upkeep, roof and gutter repair and setting up large-scale outdoor holiday decorations  


  • Established property-wide maintenance schedules, including quarterly HVAC unit checks, filter changes, duct cleaning, quarterly refrigeration compressor cleaning, dust removal and biannual ice machine disinfecting
  • Established weekly pool cleaning including filter changes and equipment checks 
  • Completed monthly irrigation inspection and regular automotive care, including oil change, registration, plates, tires, insurance and cleaning 
  • Knowledgeable in the operation and maintenance of heavy equipment, trucks, tractors, mowers, entry gates, fencing and property security, wells and water treatment systems, large commercial grade pools and water features 
  • Skilled at sprinkler repair, seasonal plantings, tree fertilization and tree trimming, installing artificial turf and implementing a property-wide organic fertilization program 
  • Experienced with roofing and gutters including repair and replacement 
  • Knowledgeable with auto repair and maintenance; scheduled maintenance, repairs, license and registration, and cleaning for stable of cars 
  • Crafty handyman skills including minor electrical, plumbing, paint, drywall and carpentry 
  • Bid, contracted and provided oversight for interior and exterior painting of 15,000-square-foot home


  • Capable of processing financial records, daily reports, payroll and account reconciliation
  • Skilled with hiring and training staff, inventory control, purchasing food, alcohol and paper products 
  • Negotiates, manages and pays vendors 
  • Responsible for all expenses related to home property, including all monthly bill paying, grocery inventory and purchasing, wine/alcohol inventory and purchasing
  • Capable of logging employee hours and monitoring vacation and sick time 
  • Experienced with monitoring daily bank account activity for fraud 

Employers Seek the Best in Private Service

I, as my clientele, work to keep a fairly low profile in my Private Service work. There have been claims that I am very difficult, and much more. Most of the stories written about Mary Louise Starkey have come from tabloids to sell papers. Unfortunately, they are...

Core Professional Duties in Private Service

The following article was authored by Starkey International. Positions in a Private Home need to be clear and concise to be successful. This is the profession of the Business of Household Management. It literally means setting up a structure much like you would in a...

Core Professional Duties in Private Service

StarkeyInternational-PlacementPositions in a Private Home need to be clear and concise to be successful. This is the profession of the Business of Household Management.  It is literally means setting up a structure much like you would in a business, to effectively manage the home.  The Principals depend on their staff and may not be able to manage the home themselves due to personal commitments. Thus, this administrative piece is most important and is typically given to the Estate Manager, the Household Manager, and in some cases where there is a full time Principal actively involved in the home, the Personal Assistant.

In all cases, it is important to set the tone of the environment right away and establish who the staff and vendors are, and what their responsibilities and duties are in the home. This can be accomplished with listing Core Professional Duties or Position Descriptions of each staff member. If this is task is still unclear, Starkey offers a short one-week, 40 hour “Systems Course” via Correspondence or at Starkey to teach the Principal or Family Office staff person who is responsible for accomplishing this task.


Core Professional Duties of the Estate Manager

Overall Management of an Estate, or multiple Estates, is quite different from the detail of daily service delivery. Understanding the difference can make the difference of preventing turnover. An Estate Manager’s position is to take on the responsibilities involved in upholding the Service Vision and overall quality of life of the Principal and their family. The Estate Manager should approach a Private Service Management position with the following perspective:

Over all Service Vision

Learn the depth of clarity necessary to execute all operations within a Service Environment; utilize the Starkey Service Management Model taught in the “Systems Course” with careful, skillful and intentional listening to the Principal’s Service Vision. This written Customized Service Management Plan process will reveal and summarize the economic, human, and social factors required for the successful completion of setting up all aspects of the Principal’s overall Lifestyle, Service Vision and their Environments. Be sure to achieve agreement with the Principal on the Service Vision, Service Goals and the overall Service Management Plan, including the staff and resources needed to fulfill the service expectations for each home and Service Environment.


Service Management Blueprint and Budget

Use the now-complete Service Management Plan Blueprint to gather and analyze the overall budget necessary for the Household/Estate and Service Environment fiscal management. Create and refine monthly, quarterly, and fiscal year budgets in cooperation with the Family Office or Accountant. In some cases, manage the Household/Estate operations and project-specific purchasing, payroll, insurance, etc. specific to those budgets as directed.


Family Office Administration

The Family Office, at the Principal’s direction, is responsible for interfacing with specific professionals including insurance, legal, CPA, architecture and design, human resources and building contractors. They might also oversee the detail associated with invoices; maintain the files and historical data necessary to protect the owners and their private/personal corporate entities. It is always essential to maintain confidentiality agreements to minimize Principal exposure.


Vendors, Contracts and Resources

Locate ethical and reputable commercial service providers within the immediate community, as well as for any remote locations or projects. Maintain highest standards of integrity, steering clear of the unethical “kickback” practices of some vendors. Develop relationships with vendor owners and managers – communicate the Service Standards and behaviors necessary for the privilege of ongoing contracts with the Principal, Household or Estate. Maintain the records, relationships and protocols to ensure quality product delivery.


Staff Training & Management

Utilize the Technical Skills Qualifier™, the Personal Style Identifier™ and the other Service Management Tools of the System to achieve the necessary depth of clarity with the Principal and with staff to articulate the expected Service Standards, Service Styles, and individual and team productivity, expectations of conduct, requisite skill levels and pertinent behaviors. Create and deliver the expected atmosphere and Lifestyle throughout the household or Estate.


Service Relationships

Nurture the relationships and protocols in all areas to minimize Principal exposure, and to ensure quality service and product delivery. Whenever possible, cross-train to empower staff, control labor costs and promote the lowest possible turnover.


Service Environment

Educate, develop, manage and nurture talented and committed teams of Private Service Staff, Vendors, and Resources to produce excellent delivery service in the interior and exterior physical Service Environments and Grounds and Property.


Charities and Community Interface

Represent the Principal, Family and Guest priorities within the local and extended community with discretion, gracious yet confidential behavior, intuitive and empathetic service to extended family, friends and neighbors, charitable institutions and professional service providers. Nowhere is the Private Service Manager’s Code of Ethics more important than here. Expect high standards of behavior in all Estate staff.


Safety and Protection Protocols

Complete understanding and support of the Safety and Protection Standards and Security Systems required by the Principal with respect to the Household, the Estate, Transportation and Travel, additional homes, security information, special Guests, and Events of the Principal and immediate Principal and Family.


Project Management

Communicate on behalf of the Principal regarding Design/Build operations: management of contractors, analysis of estimates, quality standards, research and recommendation of contractors and projects.


Core Professional Duties of the Household Manager

A Household Manager (occasionally called “Butler”) is responsible for daily operations of the interior environments and will pay attention to the many subtle details of the Administrative Standards in addition to recognizing and distinguishing specific Service Expectations. Initial endeavors will include the following:


Immediate Tasks within the first days:

  • Development of a working Service Management Plan Blueprint
  • Supervision of Household Staff and Vendors
  • Preparation of weekly Day in the Life™ Schedules
  • Support or preparation of weekly menus and preparation of meals
  • Support of the Principal, Family and Guests in their daily routine
  • Inventorying of china, silver, crystal, art work, antiques and other collectibles
  •  Interfacing fully with Family Office, Accountants, Vendors and Resources

Additional Tasks within the first weeks:

  • Storing resource books, smart home technology information, warranty and maintenance information
  • Maintaining a Safety and Protection Management Plan for the residence and monitoring the security measures
  • Organizing the pantry and developing weekly menus and grocery, paper products and other household goods ordering lists
  • Developing entertaining schedules, ordering of service and wine cellar management procedures


If there is a Family Office or Estate Manager to pay bills and issue payroll checks, that person will have a list of vendors, budgets, insurance information and other resources. This is invaluable systems information for the Household Manager. Most families have vendors they have worked with over the years that the Household Manager will need to continue to work with. A Household Manager or Butler will scrutinize and supervise the level of service that each vendor is providing and what they are charging for the product or service they are delivering.


Words to the Wise for Staff: Never attempt to change an existing Service Delivery System until you have had a chance to learn what the System is, what the politics of the Household or Service Environment are, and the reasons things have been done a certain way. Then, have frank conversations with your Principals and learn their perspectives and share what you have observed.


Core Professional Duties of the Personal Assistant

The Personal Assistant can often function as the Household or Estate Manager in “smaller” Service Environments where a Principal is the acting Household or Estate Manager and requires Personal Assistant support or as a fully integrated Personal Assistant for a highly recognized Celebrity, Public Personality, CEO or Retired Billionaire. A Personal Assistant is primarily responsible for interfacing on behalf of the Principal with the Family as needed, their family office and Private Service Staff. The main goal is the support of the Principal’s Life Style Goals, Service Standards, Administrative Tasks, Entertaining, and Event Planning and Travel and Concierge needs.


  • Manage all Correspondence and the Household, Children’s and other Family members’ Personal Calendars
  • Interface and Communicate for Principal with Household Staff, Vendors, and Resources
  • Maintain Contact Databases
  • Research Specialty Products, Professionals, Vendors and Network Contacts
  • Manage budgets and bill paying
  • Support the Planning of all Entertaining and Charity Events
  • Manage Invitations and RSVPs
  • Attend Board Meetings and provide Meeting Minutes
  • Manage International and Domestic Itineraries, Reservations, Transportation, and Travel
  • Work with their Principal’s Charities and Non-Profit commitments




Mary Louise Starkey

First Lady of Service

Excerpts from the Original Guide for Household Management 2007

Starkey International Institute – 303-832-5510