Reflections on the 2020 Pandemic

A Picasso lithograph hanging in The Starkey Mansion

Our emotions are running high and contradictions in our everyday work life keep us off-center. We look for ways to feel that we still have good relationships, and we work diligently to stay safe, yet don’t fully believe what we are being told by the media, and fearful reactions make us wonder what we are doing. I occasionally contemplate where I would go if our country continued in this mode. This is not a pleasant experience. Is there going to be a future that’s worth my investment in it?

I’m getting many calls from Grads asking me for guidance. One family’s expectations were off the chart when they decided to vacate the city at once, wanting the vacant summer 6,000-square-foot home cleaned and readied in one day, along with preparing meals for the weekend. Another client kept a Grad at bay for 60 days without pay waiting for the state to be safe before she could return to work. Another Grad had to listen and support her Principal as she spilled her heart out over her constant fears of death.

The world has indeed changed, and with it, we are not our normal selves. We feel isolated, frightened when we allow ourselves to go there, overwhelmed, depressed, and unable to find comfort with our normal workouts, hobbies, friends, or family dinners and events. Our book clubs are not meeting; the wine tastings have been cancelled, my long-planned vacation has been cancelled, the news is always angry, negative and politically divisive.

I tell my Graduates to have faith. If you have no faith, find something to believe in to focus your attention. Get in touch with how you are feeling and what changes you would make in your personal life to create a more fulfilling experience when given the chance. I started reading best-selling books I have been putting off. Call members of your family or old friends you’ve not spoken to in a while; I certainly have. Like everyone else in the world, I’ve also baked some bread (check out my favorite bread recipe) and have started listening to opera, one of my favorite pastimes. Xavier, my husband, is hard at work building a pizza oven in our back garden! Clean something; that’s proven to be an actively healing process for both your body and your soul. Keep busy, work hard, and be mindful and conscious of what you are doing.

This will pass sooner or later. I can only think it will have many silver linings if only one takes the time to look. Be good to yourself and genuine with your employers; they are likely having a more difficult time than you are. Continue to know you will be taken care of…the universe has very deep pockets. I am thinking of you, your well-being, and your continued success!

Why Household and Estate Managers must know the lost art of fine housekeeping

In our continued commitment to excellence for our students and Graduates serving our clients, we’ve noted a shortcoming that we intend to fix.

Over the past 40 years, our Graduates have often entered households where veteran Housekeepers held the keys to the fine Housekeeping secrets in the home. They completed the cleaning with such excellence that Starkey Household Managers did not need to focus on it. They had other priorities.

Gradually, the tradition became that Housekeepers were the Housekeeping experts, and Household/Estate Managers took that knowledge for granted. Slowly, Housekeeping knowledge has dissipated to the point where the knowledge has all but disappeared, leaving Principals with seemingly high and unrealistic standards.

Well, it’s my belief that Principals’ standards are not too high.

It’s that Housekeeping as an expertise has all but disappeared.  We recently taught a class of young men and women in their ‘20s and ‘30s serving multiple Principals. Their homes were disorganized and dirty.  They were stuffing sheets and towels into closets and using products inappropriate for surfaces. They saw ironing as superfluous. The staff had no training and no understanding of what was possible in keeping a fine home.

When I look at Housekeepers today, I see a few serious issues. They are only concerned with surface cleaning and are unfamiliar with what deep cleaning really entails. They don’t see the detail behind, underneath or above; it’s harder for them to look at their work from different perspectives and angles, especially from the Principals’ perspective (do they lay on the bed to see what the ceiling looks like? The Principal will surely see any issues when they do). In addition, they don’t perform tasks systematically; they don’t have a written system for accomplishing zones and task sheets in the home.

I’m also seeing a lack of knowledge when it comes to cleaning products. Housekeepers today have a harder time understanding what or how to use cleaning products and tools, whether it’s polishing silver or cleaning wood floors or tile.

Why would they know these things? Parents who both work generally don’t have the time or energy to teach their children how to clean well. Likewise, they wouldn’t have learned it in their school curriculum or from supervisors who also have no knowledge of this obscure and seemingly unnecessary skill set themselves.

Fine Housekeeping has become a lost and forgotten art. Principals are desperate to find staff members who are capable of properly cleaning a home. In addition, the students we are training or trying to place all like to say they know about Fine Housekeeping, but when asked to show us, they don’t know as much as they think they know. Household and Estate Managers have no choice but to now make Housekeeping a priority.

You may have heard me say, “Addition and Subtraction is to Accounting as Housekeeping is to Household Management.”

If you really don’t know it, you’re not fully knowledgeable of upholding your Principal’s lifestyle.

My clients are consistently sharing, “Why is it that no one but me understands what real housekeeping looks like in a home?” They are correct.  It’s a lost tradition that must re-emerge in 2020.

Starkey is offering Housekeeping courses both in clients’ homes and here at the Starkey Mansion.

Contact us for our 40-hour Housekeeping curriculum and upcoming course dates. Or ask about setting a date for Starkey to come to your Principal’s home to help educate staff about Fine Housekeeping.

How Estate Management Has Changed Over the Years

 

As recently as 10 years ago, old veteran Estate Managers were still available. These were highly skilled individuals with advanced Maintenance and Property and Grounds expertise. Their knowledge of the interior of homes was minimal, other than the management of vendors. For the most part, this is no longer the case. Today’s Principals want Estate Managers to know it all: the management of homes, inside and out. This includes Housekeeping, not just Maintenance and Property and Grounds. As there are also few veteran Housekeepers available in the market today, this presents a challenge.

 

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Changes in Private Service

Placement techniques in our Private Service profession have changed dramatically in the last few years.

  1. New employers do not understand your value other than for cooking and cleaning.
  2. Employees who are not Starkey Graduates do not have the language to communicate their value and what Household Management really can be.
  3. Those seeking positions do not understand what the right style of position is for them.
  4. Employers do not understand how to choose the right candidate for them.

To ensure long-term success, Placement in Private Service has become a highly sophisticated matching process. All Starkey Graduates (we have a 95 percent placement rate) are represented by Starkey after training.

In 40 years, we’ve learned what works for our high-net-worth Clientele, and know what is individually correct for our Graduates!

“Service must be positioned to be successful!”

Contact Starkey at 303-832-5510.

The Need for Starkey Trained Household Managers

 

Hiring a Household or Estate Manager is a tricky process these days. It’s hard to find a qualified person who fits into your lifestyle, and turnover is very expensive! There are no required certifications to enter the profession except the ones you as an employer might request. This means your potential candidate may be a great organizer or chef, but they may be completely ignorant when it comes to actual Household Management.

Starkey only places those who have been Starkey educated because our Graduates stand out from the crowd. They understand appropriate etiquette and household protocols. They take privacy seriously, and they have the knowledge of best practices and management tools specifically for homes. Our graduates understand various lifestyles, beliefs, and attitudes and have creditable knowledge when it comes to performing tasks. Service is a very unique relationship. How does a client really know what their candidate will bring to the table?

Our industry is growing and needs more trained professionals.

Browse our course offerings to send your current Household Manager for Starkey training.

Let’s Talk Placement!

Part 1

I have been placing Private Service professionals for nearly 40 years.
Early on, I placed those who came to me who were in the profession, but not my Graduates.
I quickly learned why the Starkey training creates real and effective Household and Estate Managers.
I now only place my trained Graduates, both new and highly experienced returning Graduates. (more…)

For All Current Household & Estate Managers

Starkey Has Taken Its Essential Knowledge and foundation
from Its Household and Estate Manager Courses and is
offering them in two courses…


We have found that experienced managers and staff have solid Technical Skills.

We now provide the management tools to create the perfect home structure to compliment your Technical Skills!

We also have the tools for you to know What you are worth!And What your Perfect Position is!

(more…)

Graduate Wisdom part 2

In the second of our Graduate Wisdom series we ask Mr. S.M. a graduate of Class 63 a series of questions in order to gain some wisdom from her experience

Q. Professional name used, # of years in private service. 
A. Mr. S.M- 19 years….. Wow…. Time is flying by….

Q. Title in your position… HM or EM or? –
A. Estate Manager

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Graduate Wisdom part 1

In the first of our Graduate Wisdom series we ask Ms. D.L. a graduate of Class 93 a series of questions in order to gain some wisdom from her experience.

Q.   Number of years in private service.
A. Been in private service ten (10) years

Q.   Title in your position… HM or EM or?
A. Estate Manager

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The Business of Private Service

mrsStarkeyAdministratively, I never thought of myself as particularly skilled. I was indeed an entrepreneur, and had a very clear vision of what I was to accomplish, but the administrative perspective was way too structured, systematic and maybe boring for my active service heart to ascertain. I remember early on, when organizing a housekeeping company, the idea of keeping books, hiring staff and actually purchasing a computer in 1981 was way over my head. I set up my first corporate bank account using my father’s credit card and cashed in a paid up life insurance policy purchased for me at birth. He co-signed the card so that the bank knew someone would be accountable. After all, I was just a cleaning lady. I kept that card for 25 years, well after he had passed on. Giving it up was a traumatic experience. His name on my credit card forced me to always keep my bills paid. I would have rather died than have the bank call him, suggesting I had failed in the administrative duty of paying bills. (more…)

The Real Cost of Turnover in a Private Residence

starkey-crest

When there is Staff turnover in a private residence more may be lost than just time and energy to rehire for that position. There is substantial Financial and Emotional loss for the Principals and family. We will explore these areas below.

First of all, consider the overall knowledge the Staff employee may have of the Procedures in the home and on the Property or the Favorites of the family or guests that are rarely written down. The majority, if not all, of this knowledge is at risk of being lost when the Staff employee walks out the front gate.

Consistency of the day to day operations of the home, property and family schedules will be disrupted. Relationships are created when there is Staff working in a private residence. Separation can be difficult for the family, particularly for children or elderly parents. Familiarity provided comfort and a new hire will be stressful until they are proven to be trustworthy. (more…)

The Private Service Chef – Making the Right Impression

Mis en PlaceOn the way into work this morning I was surprised and happy to hear a piece on how the practice of Mis en Place can help us all in the time management of our daily lives. I’m sure the recognition of the work required in the kitchen was appreciated by anybody who has spent time there. Mis en Place has been an established term in kitchens since the time of Auguste Escoffier. The great chef and father of the grand cuisine who still influences us today saw much in the military that could be applied to kitchens. Our classic uniforms where based on those of the soldier in the hot climate of North Africa. The Brigade system, the underlying structure on which the organization of the kitchen staff was based is very much a product of the military. From our first day of training, Mis en Place or “put things in place” was the basic tenet of our profession. Organization of the station; the food we prep and place in ninth pans, the sauté pans and side towels, the salt and pepper all have to be where they can be grabbed exactly when needed. As important but less often acknowledged is the need to remain clear and unencumbered as we work. You may know that everything in the kitchen is where you want it, but what happens after that pan or product is used? If you are truly going to be on top of your game, cleaning as you go is imperative. The kitchen must not be cluttered with all of the equipment and utensils that you used thirty minutes ago. The kitchen, not just the dinning room, is part of the Ballet of Service we perform during an event. During events you may have a staff member to help accomplish this work but for the day to day it is your responsibility to see it gets done. Often times Mrs. Starkey will offer guests a peek at the kitchen upon the completion of an event. They are curious where, hopefully, such a fine meal came from. How would you like yourself to be seen? What would you like the last impression of your Principals’ guest to be?

As a Private Service Chef or Cook there is much we can do in managing ourselves within the kitchen. Our self-directed motivation requires us to have a clean uniform, a clean appearance, and timeliness in our arrival and meal presentation. Mis en Place requires us to have an organized mind. We accomplish our “to do” lists, and then rewrite them and write them again until the task is completed to the high standards of the household.

All our planning and organization however can be undermined if the execution is not professional. We teach the established wisdom here at Starkey International that we a judged first by how we look, then by how we speak, how we act and last by what we say. If the kitchen appears clean and organized, stress can be eliminated and you can focus your mind on the task at hand and still be able to direct the other activities around you during service. In order for this to happen, cleanliness throughout the day, not just at the end of it, is essential.

Your Principal will notice and appreciate the impression of professionalism you have given their guests. It will give them confidence in you when you fulfill these standards on a daily basis. These are the values that elevate a Private Service Chef above the ordinary. Now let’s cook (and keep it clean !).

Chef Dale EidenChef Dale Eiden C.E.C.,
Private Service Instructor,
Starkey International Institute

Placement Update

Starkey Certified Household ManagersThe Starkey International Institute has a rich lineage in the private service industry. In fact Starkey invented, coined, and began utilizing the majority of terminology that has spread all across the entire private service world.

This is why we sometime struggle with the title Placement Department at Starkey International. This department’s title has connotations to an employment agency, simply matching employers to employees. Maybe we should change the department within Starkey to the Mosaic Department.  A mosaic is a breath-taking piece of art or decoration in composition, yet being made up of diverse elements. Starkey Certified Household Manager Alumni are the amazing colored pieces glass inlaid to become part of an astonishing whole.

Protocol

Formal Dinner SettingSocial protocol is an aspect of etiquette defined as a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary norms within a society, social class or group.

The French word etiquette literally signified a tag or label first used in the French Royal Court in the early to mid 1700’s to instruct guests on how to behave when dining at the King’s Table. In modern times, in the more common situation where the dinner table or other social gathering must be organized according to the degree of social rank and familial or professional relationships among the guests, it falls to the discretion of the hostess to determine who will take the highest position at the table as Guest of Honor to be seated at the right of the Hostess, with the Guest of Honor’s partner seated to the right of the Host.

At our Formal Dinners here at the Starkey Mansion, whatever the nature of our guests, this principal is still the foundation upon which the seating placement is based, and it does much to determine the social interaction and conversation during and after the meal.

Protocol

IntroductionsFormal Protocol in Private Service has evolved a great deal in recent decades since Private Service emerged from the shadows of servitude! The old language of “Inferiors” and “Superiors” has long since passed, but some things have stayed the same. The Starkey International Institute has strongly advanced the education of both Service Professionals and Principals based on the premise that mutual respect is the only stable foundation for the Relationship of Service.  Our clients have consistently emphasized the importance of propriety and respect in dealing with their employers and co-workers, but Household and Estate Managers also learn to set proper boundaries with Principals in order to honor their role as professionals. Protocol always serves good manners and efficiency.  The order of introductions at social events offers a fine example.

Private Service as an Accepted Profession

Mary Starkey EducationTagged with the title “The First Lady of Service”, I am often asked by the media, by our applicants, and by our Principals “Why education?”   I wrinkle my forehead in disbelief and respond, “We must educate if we are to be a profession!”

Why is it that there are those who think that their working experience cannot be challenged to succeed at a much higher, more demanding, level?

How is it that currently the profession of Household Management does not demand educational know-how, yet still ethically expects to earn that $100k plus per year salary?  Is this a throwback to the perception that service is still servitude?

How is it that there are some who think so little of themselves that they fail to obtain professional education for their benefit as any other professional would in any other professional field? It makes their lives easier and helps them take on those highly sophisticated roles required of today’s Household and Estate Managers. Today they are really required to be the Chief Operating Officers capable of creating and implementing comprehensive service management plans to adeptly oversee, support and work with a the staff, vendors, and resources on their Principals’ behalf.

Who are we cheating when we don’t fully educate ourselves?  I believe that both the employer and the employee lose.

Today’s world requires that all professionals, in all professions, need to be educated.  Consider the advantages of having Private Service terms and language unique to our Profession just like other professions have!  Do you know that having a specialized language gives our Principals the opening to realize that you have an expertise that they don’t have?

Consider what professional ethics are essential to Private Service so that our counterparts do not ruin our collective reputations and bring down our salaries.

Consider having real management tools unique to and expected in Private Service, which have been tried proven over many years by others in our specific roles of Household Management. Management Tools provide the means to no longer operate in crisis mode.

Tea ServiceConsider what service in Private Service really is: can you define it? Can you list the essential components, and easily put them in place? Do you know what is missing when your efforts are not succeeding?

All professions, in order to be considered a real profession, must stay on the leading edge of their industry’s knowledge so that they are able to consistently compare our abilities to what others have learned. We must constantly nourish ourselves with new ideas and ways of succeeding, and to keep our focus on what our profession really is.  This is why education is essential.  It is the foundation of our ethics, our management tools, and our ability to serve not only our employers, but ourselves!

I tell my clientele, “I do not care who you are interviewing, if Starkey has not trained them, they will ultimately be on their own agenda, not yours”.  After 30 years of placing Professionals in Private Service, and 20 years of educating them, it is clear that this skill is the hardest ability to teach, the most difficult for Service Hearts to take on, and is the real art form of service to master.

When untrained, egos lay in abilities, and how they accomplish tasks.  Our Grads ego’s lay in their ability to be on their employer’s agenda, knowing the best of the best, while always fine tuning what they do, and always doing the task their employer’s way.  This is a subtle, but huge and essential difference in the Profession of Service. Education does indeed make all the difference!

The Essentials in Service

Mary Louise StarkeyHere at Starkey, we strive to teach the most important lessons of Service Management.  We know that two of the most essential abilities of a Household Manager are:

  1. The Pattern Factor:  Seek out and identify procedures and patterns that are regular “ways” of doing things within a home.  Follow them until you find out whether they are the real requests or preferences of the family or are “ways” of default established by a prior staff person.  Once defined as a preference, make them a written procedure; if they are not, then seek out the preferred way and only then change the pattern by communication and example until it sticks.
  2. Creating Quality of Life: Task Sheets defined are the list of tasks performed or completed daily or weekly, or even seasonally by staff member within a home.  While following established Tasks is essential,  it is the role of the Household Manager to be sure the task is appropriate for that day.  For instance, if the weather is unseasonably warm, and the stated Task is to “turn on the space heater every morning in the sun porch” you must remember to come back after an hour or so and turn off the space heater as the added heat is no longer needed.  Always be in the moment, as your ultimate goal is creating creating Quality of Life!

How hard can it be to perform simple tasks?

Mary Starkey Tea ServiceI am frustrated today with the level of knowledge a few of my current students have exhibited.  Now in week four and having completed approximately 150 hours of Starkey education, they have not taken on the conscientiousness or service savvy one would hope for.  While they are indeed serious students, how hard can it be to just bring in my daily lunch without someone holding their hand?  Sound familiar?  “How hard can it be to perform simple tasks?”

In the world of education we all want to be shown exactly how things are done in order to be successful.  However, in private service, each Principal may give these students unique directions on how to accomplish a specific task.  Now, this is week four, as I stated, and I have held the hand of the first three students who have carried out this somewhat simplified task.  They each request that they be individually instructed, as opposed to learning from each other.  On the other side of the coin, these are not beginners to service we are educating; these are bright Household Management students expecting to take over the overall management of sophisticated homes.  Are we ever in trouble!  In reading other industry newsletters over the years, one reads about how to polish silver, wash a fine piece of china, and of course iron a shirt.  On the NBC Today Show, Ms. Martha Stewart said a white shirt could be ironed in 10 minutes but Matt Lauer was still stumbling after 20 minutes.

But we are speaking of just bringing in lunch here, not a highly technical, product proven skill!  So I began to consider the number of factors associated with bringing in lunch.  They have to include:  intrusion into someone’s space, privacy of the activities being performed within the space, is the person hungry, what is the lunch, how do you interrupt to ask if I am interested in eating, knowing what the culinary offering of the Chef is, how the food was prepared, what is in the recipe, what beverage would go with the food, where to position the tray, how to put the tray in front of me without disturbing me as I am on the phone, taking just the plate off the tray, and placing it before me as to accommodate a small amount of available desk space, where to stand when doing so, and if one should speak to me or not — to just name a few of the factors.  This is a great exercise in service delivery.

In the end, Service Management is 60% psychologically understanding who you are serving and their specific expectations.  The balance is technical and you really have to know your Principal.

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!

The Relationship of Service

 

The Wall Street Journal tells us that 60% of the people on our planet today are of the Baby Boomer generation.  We Baby Boomers, yes I am one of them, are well traveled, expect a good work ethic and superior skills, and appreciate mutual respect in all relationships, especially in service!  Furthermore, our service expectations are much higher than our parents.  We care about the style of environment we are in, where our food is grown, work to keep our mind and body healthy, like our privacy, and yes, we scrutinize our health care.  We consider it our right; we have worked hard to get where we are. (more…)