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 30 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.


We are talking about developed professionals in Private Service with deep knowledge in:

  • Administrative skills including HR management
  • Fine Housekeeping
  • High-end Entertaining
  • Maintenance, including remodeling projects and smart home technology 
  • Groundskeeping, including both hard and soft scapes and plantings 

This is a sophisticated position, as are the varied duties, and qualified individuals are few and far between. 

Why is this? I have read that several veteran Estate Manager professionals are not able to find quality positions. Why is this?

Principals in today’s world are often brand new at hiring for their homes and don’t know what or why certain tasks are needed. They are looking for answers from their highly paid Estate Managers for what needs to be done in each standard.

Veteran Estate Managers are used to well-trained Housekeepers and support staff to back them up. They are expecting a defined structure within homes, but they rarely find it. 

Estate Managers find chaos, crisis mode and negativity among staff when interviewing.

Well-positioned structure and clearly defined position descriptions are not developed, and if they are, they are often not functional. 

The result is that the Principal’s overwhelming expectations of immediate results are just not doable. 

Fixing these industry challenges will take leaders with real understanding of daily operations. Today’s Estate Managers need a customized system that they are able to set up in new homes. Taking Starkey’s Service Management System’s class will be an invaluable beginning. 

Principals need to be educated by agents who represent candidates from the beginning. These agents need to share what is possible from each potential candidate, what their full capabilities are. They have to know how long it takes to grow staff to be able to deliver expectations. Agents also need to be formally educated in Private Service.

The days of agents throwing out potential candidate resumes with no real knowledge of who they are or what they know is no longer functional.

Service must be positioned to be successful. Similar to a business plan, candidates must be able to develop and customize a service plan for the family and their service expectations.

Household Service is a highly sophisticated process of people management. Development of functional position descriptions. Day in the Life plans that can be shared with principals. Housekeeping plans cooperatively put in place with the housekeeping staff with written and time-oriented Zones and Task Sheets. Training of staff performing these tasks. Menu development fine-tuned with the Principals. Daily calendars. HR knowledge, and so much much more.

Estate Managers are expected to manage everything, often in multiple homes.

This is a big deal! Did I mention also supporting unique belief systems, religions, cultures, unique priorities, security and diverse ages within homes?

Service must really be positioned to be successful. High-end Estate Managers and those growing their skills must be represented by someone who also knows Private Service, and knows what each candidate is worth financially, not just what is offered. Candidates must be uniquely positioned to be successful.

Life connectors and mutual frames of reference must also be taken into consideration. Styles of Service must be matched. This is likely the most unknown aspect of Private Service and successful placement. Service has indeed become an expertise... and so is our ability to place successful candidates. 

Starkey is now almost 40 years old, providing real education and successful placement of 95 percent of our graduates. Please contact us today to learn more. 


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.

Our training teaches our Grads how to "think" like a Household Manager.
How to quickly learn an Employer's Service Standards and Household patterns.
How to immediately be on the Employer's Agenda. It provides proven and patented Management
Tools for effectively becoming a hands-on Manager of staff in a private home.

Our placement technique is a proven process to match a number of essential aspects to create long-term relationships. We consider the morals, values, ethics, background, religion, cultural practices, location, and expected technical abilities of a Graduate.
It goes miles beyond a resume.

Our placements typically last many years.

Today's Employers need ethical support and real sharing of knowledge as to how this profession succeeds.

Call me to get your Starkey Service Management Education. 303-832-5510

Call me to be matched with one of our Certified Household or Estate Managers. 303-832-5510

Interested in our courses? Click to download the brochure.

Part 2

In our highly successful placement strategy....

We match 
Service Visions, Family Trees, Morals, Values, Locations, Technical skills and Service means to Graduates and Employers.
But how do we get this information?

We've learned Placements do not last when not properly positioned to succeed. The priority for most Graduates and Employers is to find the right position and select the right Employee. This is how we do it!

Our Personal Statement Correspondence Program literally helps the student identify their perfect position.

We work with our Graduates holding their hand to help them identify who they are, what they bring to an employers table, what's important to the Student in a position... it's all about their Service Vision!

We support our Employers by helping them develop their Service Vision, what Systems are required for Housekeepers to succeed, what a Day in the Life of a Household Manager should look like, salary estimations and offer templates for hiring.

It's a sophisticated but essential process that leads the Graduate and the Employer to long term success.

The days of looking at multiple resumes are over. You really don't know who that candidate is or what they really know by just reviewing a resume.

Private service requires the matching of not only skill but who they really are. How they view the world. Whether or not they have a Service Heart.

Fine-tuned over three decades, our patented Household Management System Correspondence Program teaches students real management tools and how to think like a Household Manager.

Our wholly unique Personal Statement Correspondence Program helps the Employer and the Graduate identify the perfect match!

It's the best of the best. Guaranteed to bring about success!

Call us today! Call me to get your Starkey Service Management Education. 303-832-5510

Call me to be matched with one of our Certified Household or Estate Managers. 303-832-5510


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!

Starkey Service Management Systems Course

Starkey's Service Management Patented System Offered as a 40-hour Correspondence Course Guided by a Starkey Instructor; Videos, Text Books.

Customize a Service Management Plan with templates for any size estate or property; any number of family members, 11 unique Private Service Management Tools and a Household Service Language!

This is Essential Knowledge for those working in Private Service Estate or Household Manager, Personal Assistant or Family Office A Starkey Certification Program.

A Starkey Certification Program.

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

Q. What do you love most about your position? -
A. I truly love the diversity of my job, no day is the same. I like the relationships I have built with my team/vendors and growing them stronger everyday. What can I do for my team/vendor to make their day and develop a bend over backwards relationship when I am in a pinch with the client.

Q. What three primary gifts do you bring your employer?
A.Mastering the Moment - thinking outside the box for solutions to there problems
Clarity and Speed - resolving the issue before they become a problem or before they are noticed
Listening - being able to truly listen to the client, sometime what they are saying is not what they are wanting….. Listening and asking questions

Q. What three primary gifts does your employer bring you?
A. Flexibility - allowing me to be me and taking the time I need, when I need it to recharge
Funding - funding the lifestyle the client wants to live, willingness to pay for quality work
Trust - trusting me to do my job and direct the team as it best fits the clients needs

Q. Now, after this quality of time in Private Service, what is your definition of a Service Heart?
A. Willingness to give but being able to hold the boundaries of a professional.

Q. What technical or psychological skills have made you most successful?
A. Listening without judgement…
Having the ability to know when the shit rolling down hill at you is about you or just the client blowing off steam…..
Knowing the client and their priorities, being smart and having the knowledge about their priorities……..
Having a team that you can count on and giving them credit when credit is due

Q. Advice you give to all those new in Private Service or looking to enter private service?
A. Be authentic and real…… if you make a mistake own it and fix it….. Be good to your team and vendors, they will have your back if you do…. Also you are not the client, the stuff you take care of is not yours, do not speak as if it is or act as it is….never ever for one minute cross the boundaries and use their stuff, they might say it is ok, but just don’t do it.

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

Q.   What do you love most about your position?
A. I enjoy working for people that appreciate my hard work and all the skill sets I bring to the

I love to be organized and the principal I work for enjoys the organizational skills I daily demonstrate that every drawer, every closet, every nook and every cranny is organized as well the variety of vendors I organize and oversee professionally. I also love to cook and my principals enjoy all of the culinary delights that I place before

Q.   What three primary gifts do you bring your employer?
A. I bring administrative skills;
Organizational skills
Event planning

One problem that I faced early on as an Estate Manager is that you must be allowed to run your own staff. This must be made clear to your employer; otherwise you cannot effectively run and maintain the household. If your staff will not follow you and your training you learned at Starkey is not allowed to be implemented, the end result will be a poorly run household, even down to how to fold a proper towel. You can not be a one man band. It takes a team effort to manage a large estate.


Q.   What three primary gifts does your employer bring you?
A. A gift of laughter; my principal is always happy; we enjoy a good laugh together many times and we both find humor in so many things, so many times.

She listens to me; she relies on my knowledge and expertise in construction, event planning, picking out clothing.  I love the fact that she trusts me to make vital decisions for her.

Never being critical of me, but constructive and allowing me to manage the staff and never

We have a well-running and well-oiled estate that runs as a result of this.

Q.   Now, after this quality of time in Private Service, what is your definition of a Service Heart?
A. Waking up every morning and looking forward to going to work and enjoying the job that I am doing; making sure that every single desire that my principals require are met with expedience, perfection and love.

Q.   What technical or psychological skills have made you most successful?
A. Having had human resource training has allowed me to manage my staff in a kind and loving way, knowing that they appreciate and respect me for the way I deal with them. Having had a large construction background has allowed me to build things from small jobs to large jobs and knowing that I am getting the best dollar for my employer, with the job done properly and on time. My skills for entertaining; floral design to food prep. I can create venues from fairy tale princess birthdays to elaborate parties encompassing all decorations down to small romantic, intimate dinners.

My computer skills have really helped me; I am able to create any excel or word template to draw out cupboards, cabinets when doing inventories. Computer skills are vital.

Q.   Advice you give to all those new in Private Service or looking to enter private service?
A. Be patient, even though we want to give 110% all the time and be the best that we can and be try to be perfect in all that we do – it’s impossible; no one is perfect. As long as you are giving the best that you can be satisfied with yourself. Always be ON your principal’s agenda, even though you think you can do it better or faster.

Q.Your additional thoughts!
A. Being in private service is a privilege. We grow close to the people we work for because you genuinely create feelings and emotions toward them. Never abuse these special things such as time and trust that they give to you.

Be thankful and happy at the end of each and every day so that you can look back and say “job well done!”, knowing that you have given your very best.

Try always to stay within your boundaries.

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.

mansionI also remember coming to a place in my business growth where I was completely overwhelmed and simply did not know what to do. I went to my then female banker, and with a tear in my eye, asked a series of questions. She sternly replied, “I am not your business consultant. Go to the business section of a book store and research all that you might want to learn.” She turned and walked out of her office. I felt rebuked, but it was the best advice anyone could have given me. 

My first book was on simple accounting. My second book was on basic business practices and hiring. They saved me and Starkey. Administrative skills used to be primarily writing a well-written letter. This has been transformed into writing a well written e-mail. Good Administrative Standards and skills are all about effective communication and organization. It is essential that you have good systems and procedures as platforms for accomplishing many of the tasks that actually hold the container of your business or the Business of Private Service and supporting your Principal’s lifestyle. That will take you, as Household or Estate Manager and all your staff, out of crisis mode! 

At Starkey, I have the business of education, the business of placement, the business of publishing, a non-profit that provides scholarships and the business of owning a 13,000-square-foot historic residence. Each business requires a unique set of administrative skills and specific Administrative Standards to uphold. These include: appropriate phone and door answering, computer software for schedules and for collecting database contacts and vendors, procedures for hiring, dismissals and other HR requirements. It also entails health insurance, appropriate interview questions, business etiquette and protocols, identification of risks for insurance and liability, budgets, functional chart of accounts, accountability procedures and timelines for payables and receivables, identification and approximate costs and care of collectibles, profiles of staff and their position descriptions, qualified instructors and support vendors. It’s business, and it’s also the Business of Private Service!

I have made a few 1,000 mistakes over the years. I have quit Starkey twice only to discover when I continued to sign pay checks, my staff kept going. They loved Starkey. I have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to fraudulent activity as I did not always watch closely. My business lawyer informed me several times I was naive and trusted way too much. I paid dearly for this weakness. My biggest administrative lesson, one I learned the hard way among many others, was to “Trust, but always Verify.”

I also have done some things right. I always kept my vision and my intention of helping to create a Private Service Profession. The most important thing I did was to hire enough of the right staff, and in that I have indeed succeeded. Many of them were better than me in a variety of skills, and that’s what you look for. Don’t settle for anyone but the best, which is not always easy.

roseThe business of Private Service will only succeed when you learn to put your service heart aside and be practiced and consistent in performing your administrative duties, and by putting functional service systems into place. Private Service Managers must have approved procedures for your staff and vendors and a good service flow for performing tasks. They must take the time to hire the right staff, provide real and time-oriented position descriptions, Zone and create customized Task Sheets with your Housekeepers and Maintenance staff, develop the weekly Day in the Life for your effective time management, and maintain good communication with your Principal. Always be aware of these most important priorities. They change often.

When systems and functional Administrative Standards are in place, you have the creative time and energy to think outside the box, and be a leader and great problem solver. Administrative Standards placed within your overall Service Management Plan make you a true manager in Private Service.       

The Real Cost of Turnover in a Private Residence


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.

It is very important to take the necessary time to write a real Position Description. Fluff will not serve the rehire process or your efforts in the process.

Consider if they have been trained in Private Service, and if their salary requirements are in line to as you sort through resumes. Higher end clients prefer to use an experienced Private Service recruiter or an Institute such as Starkey as they should be expected to pick the high 2-3 candidates that actually fit your requirements and because the industry is unique and excellent Private Service professionals are rare.

Overall replacement of one staff person can take up to 30 days or more. Do not rush the process! Competent hiring practices for private staff are not the same as corporate practices.

When a Staff employee exits employment, be sure to change access codes, obtain keys, cell phones, other equipment and property, change passwords where required, notify security personnel, retrieve credit cards and other financial instruments in their position during the course of their employment. Also, if provided to the employee you will collect autos, facilitate vacating residential property, and processing the final pay. This can take from 2 days to 2 two months to complete determining on policies and agreements.

Now let’s explore the Financial costs with paying your Family Office Representative to complete the above work. The cost of the Representative’s salary could exceed $25,000 for their time during the process plus utilizing a placement agency paying up to $50,000 when hiring a higher end professional. This overall process of termination and hiring can easily exceed $100,000. False starts and bad hires can double this figure.

There is no amount of monetary value that can be placed upon the Emotional loss of a trusted and valued primary Staff employee. Everyone in the family from the children, the principals, and the grandparents will experience the loss. Primary support is no longer there. With new support not privy to the not so obvious, the many special relationships and agreed to duties that had been developed to meet the needs of the family are lost.

The remaining primary Staff employees, trusted vendors, and other support persons will also have to start over with communicating how their work is completed, the expectations, and the emotional value held by the Principals. This also takes time, which the Principal will be billed for. Starkey estimates this could cost your high net worth Employer an additional $50,000.

Security is at its weakest point when new primary Staff employees have to be replaced. These primary Staff employees may include the Household or Estate Manager, Executive Housekeeper, Private Chef, Nanny or Driver. Overall financial cost is a minimum of $150,000. Hire well!

Households without basic personnel policies further place themselves at risk. Specifics include:

Use of Illegal and Legal Drugs and alcohol; remember marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington
Absentee policies
Dress codes
Theft policies
Sexual and other Harassment
Safety and use of equipment policies

If the private principal employs more than 15 staff employees, there are other federal guidelines that must be adhered to Confidentially Agreements
Basic procedures including where to park, which bathroom to utilize, which doors to enter and exit by, where to store their purses/bags and hang their coats and which rooms within the home are off limits

However, if you write it, the policy must be carried out or you further place yourself at risk! In summary, hiring and terminating Staff employees is an expensive and time consuming and tedious process. Do it right and do it once!


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.


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.


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. I have spent 30 years in the world of Private Service, educating and placing our Starkey Certified Household Managers, Personal Assistants, and Butlers in private homes on a world stage. I have learned over and over again that “Service is the Art of Meeting a Specific Expectation”.  However, a perspective not often considered is if service is to be successful, it requires both a giver and a receiver.  I can work diligently to provide a service to you, but if what I am giving is not what you want, service will not take place.   


Here are my tips on how to get what you want in service:


·         First on the list is Learn to ask for help. Sometimes we believe we are super human. Maybe it’s because we are self made and have created the most powerful nation in the world. However, we are not super human, and frankly, our quality of life will greatly improve when learn to ask for help!  


·         Know exactly what you need and don’t be afraid to ask for it. Today’s service providers know they must think outside of the box to customize service to meet unique needs.


·         What if you do not know what you want?  The number of choices available today has quadrupled from what our parents had to work with. Don’t pass up the opportunity to say to a service provider, “Be my person of possibilities. Let’s talk about what is achievable here!” 


·         Say thank you, and say it often.  Service providers serve people, not companies.  The most appreciated response to a deed well done is a simple but heart-felt, thank you!  You can also add the occasional $10 spot while you are at it. Service providers are generally not yet appropriately compensated. Remember, Service is first and foremost, a relationship! 


Should you have other questions about Service as an Expertise

, don’t hesitate to contact me.


Mary StarkeyMary Louise Starkey

Starkey International Institute

First Lady of Service




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See the BellaCura Newsletter Here

Testimonial: B. Drummond

There are no words to express how ridiculous these accusations are. This seems like an act of an individual that wants to shame and misjudge a woman that has worked hard to make her name and brand in this country, a woman that has been the aide of and for so many members of the African American community and many others from various countries myself included.

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Testimonial: J. Bates

Starkey International, is the best Estate and Household mngmt program in the country and arguably the world. As a graduate of both the standard and advanced course; as a practicing manager of a 50k sq ft primary and multiple residence operation; having a degree in hotel/restaurant mnmgt and been in military service for 24 years I feel fairly qualified to make these following statements.

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Testimonial: Johnathan RG

You are one of the most the most amazing person I had meet in my life, kind, caring compassionate, I experience this wonderful thing I have learned a lot from you is sad you are experience this situation, as a person of color make no sense for me , we love you Mary Louise Rohl Starkey
Johnathan RG

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Testimonial: T. Brown

Mary Louise Starkey has changed countless people’s lives,many colors,races,poor,rich -she has purpose and is kind helping our great military and the USA and many other nations....she is a family lady raising wonderful children and helping friend,relatives
T. Brown

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Testimonial: J. Stravoscoufis

"You and your team showed me so much kindness and understanding. You also taught me skills that I use every day in every and your team were a big inspiration in my life and a force for good. I would like to thank you for all your effort and true friendship you showed me. You are a class act and I cherish my memories at Starkey all the time."

J. Stravoscoufis, Starkey Class of 2004

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