Guest Estate Manger Series

Dear Mr. Woodley: Butler Q&A (Gifts From Principals)


“Dear Mr. Woodley” is the column of Estate Managers Coalition resident butler, Crispin Woodley, who will answer your questions about all things “butler-esque.”

From proper introductions to thieving guests – to handling undermining children – to how to let Madam know that her outfit is simply inappropriate, Mr. Woodley advises with the knowledge and flare of European etiquette and protocol which only a fine butler understands.

Edited by guest estate manager Martha Lockie.

Dear Mr. Woodley,

My boss is always telling me, “Take my Tesla out for a spin!” or “Join us for dinner;” and last week he offered me the use of his Malibu beach house for my upcoming birthday party. Even though I would love to use the beach house, my instincts tell me this may not be a good idea. And, I don’t want to be rude or seem ungrateful. I was wondering what your advice would be?

Thank you,

Anxious in the Palisades

Black matte tesla Los Angeles

Dear Anxious,

One challenge Butlers and Estate Managers face when working for HNW individuals is resisting the temptation to accept gifts and favors. However, handling this without integrity and restraint can spell death for those in our profession. Europe and the U.K. are more formal societies in this respect, and people are naturally wary of an overly friendly demeanor. Principals overseas are expert at practicing boundaries so this type of situation rarely arises. This is, however, commonplace in the U.S. and my experience is that saying no in the most creative and polite way, then immediately changing the subject is the best reaction.

I had a Butler friend in Beverly Hills, we’ll name him Harold, whose employer was giving him gifts and allowing him to drive the Rolls Royce. Everything was fine for a few months until one day his boss came home screaming about a dent in the car. Harold insisted he was not responsible and knowing his integrity, I feel confident vouching for him. His boss deducted the cost of repair from Harold’s paycheck, which was a substantial sum. Harold felt powerless to challenge him – which was proper as we are trained to “take it on the chin,” and accept consequences with grace.

Things didn’t go much better for Harold after that. His employer was now having him work 14 hour days and when Harold attempted to offer reasons why he was unable to stay late, his boss would reply, “Oh I see, you like me enough to take my gifts but not enough to give a little extra time.” Harold’s boss was a perfectly lovely man, however it is still a part of the human condition to give expecting something in return. Harold is no longer under his employ.

When being presented with gifts and favors, I have found it most effective to say things such as: “Thank you very much for your kindness sir,” or “you’re too generous madam, I couldn’t possibly,” Couple this with an excuse or change in subject like: “Shall I begin packing your suitcase now?” or “Honestly madam, I would rather use my car as it fits in the tight parking spots better and I won’t have to drive around for an hour to find a sizable space.” It’s always best to keep the relationship between staff and principal professional. After all, we are in the home, we are not of the home!


Dear Mr. Woodley: Butler Q&A (Estate Manager’s Dress Code)



“Dear Mr. Woodley” is the column of Estate Managers Coalition resident butler, Crispin Woodley, who will answer your questions about all things “butler-esque.”

From proper introductions to thieving guests – to handling undermining children – to how to let Madam know that her outfit is simply inappropriate, Mr. Woodley advises with the knowledge and flare of European etiquette and protocol which only a fine butler understands.

Edited by guest estate manager Martha Lockie.

Dear Mr. Woodley,

I have a butler/estate manager friend who works on a large property in Beverly Hills. I saw her out and about town the other day and assumed it was her day off given the attire she donned. She was wearing a white, off-the-shoulder concert tee-shirt, black jeans with holes at the knees, short black biker boots…and….ahhh…she wreaked of Patchouli oil!

I said hello, asked how she had been and what she was up to. All was well; she was doing some quick errands for her principal who was back at the estate.

I was shocked – she dressed as if she was about to go to a Gwen Stefani concert at the Forum and she smelled like a hippie at Woodstock.

Mr. Woodley, please help me understand what she must be thinking and what type of principal she works for, who let’s her dress this way!?


Confused from the valley.

street style black ripped jeans white t shirt

Dear Confused,

This is an interesting question and the answer has many different components. The true art of butler service in a home is founded on discretion, and a reputable estate manager will follow the same guidelines. “Discretion,” makes service professionals to think of being close-mouthed about the details of their principal’s home and personal life. Yes, this is a fraction of butler service, but how a butler dresses; their manners and the boundaries they establish are a part of discretion as well.

The Mr. and Mrs. are at the apex of the home’s hierarchy, thus none of their staff should outshine them. This means that no butler takes any attention away from him or her, whether it is positive or negative.

Practicing restraint requires a hefty dose of self-esteem, an inner resource of character and wisdom. A well-trained butler has a solid sense of self without needing or seeking acknowledgment on a job well done or a compliment on their appearance (neither a reprimand). A high-quality butler is practiced at the art of being inconspicuous yet at the same time, indispensable.

The butler and estate manager are representatives of the family, often the first person an outsider comes into contact with before meeting the principals. Because one never gets a second chance to make a first impression, it is always important to look one’s best. Here are some guidelines for establishing a positive presence in the home so that no unnecessary attention is given:

  1. Depending on the formality of the home – wear a suit or business casual attire. This means a classic look, understated and definitely no holes (get classic style here).
  2. Women, please never wear perfume and men no cologne (but do be freshly bathed)!! This includes using very strongly scented shampoo, conditioner, deodorant or lotion. Nothing should take away from Madame’s perfume or Mister’s cologne, as they are the kings and queens of the castle. Also, scent is such a personal taste and your employer may not like your perfume or worse, they may be allergic to it. It is best not to aggravate them.
  3. Leave the jewelry at home and wear it on your day off; simple earrings, a dainty necklace or a watch or are fine. But big bling-bling chains, rings, fancy diamonds that scream, “Look at me,” or anything nicer than what your employer’s wear is far too “conspicuous.”
  4. Plain face, light makeup and hair pulled back is tastefully appropriate for women. Clean-shaven and hair trimmed to a conservative (yet fashionable) length is suitable for men.
  5. Nothing too revealing, too short, too exposing (women) or too tight (women and men).

The butler is one of the few remaining gentilities we have left in the reputable home.

Even if your principal behaves casually and allows you to dress in a very casual manner, don’t do it! It will come back to haunt you, I promise. Sooner or later your employer will feel his or her generosity has been taken for granted and you’ve given them a reason to dismiss you. A butler lives by a code of integrity and discretion; aggravating, inciting jealousy or being obsequious has no place in the world of private service.

How To Enhance The Security & Safety Of Your Principal


Post by guest estate manager Martha Locke featuring Estate Managers Coalition member Precision Security & Protective Services (PSPS).

I wanted to find out more about Precision Security & Protective Services (PSPS) and understand the ways I could enhance my principal’s security, so I asked certified instructor and member of their Special Weapons and Tactics Team, Vince Vaicaro.

This is what Vince had to say.


Martha: Who is Precision Security & Protective Services and what is your background?

Vince:  Precision Security and Protection Services is owned and operated by four Law Enforcement Officers with over 60 years combined experience.
Martha: Tell me about Precision Security’s experience.
Vince: We have over 40 years combined experience in Private Security and Protection details ranging from: planning and deployment of security at the Academy Awards to Estate protection.
Martha: What types of security do you provide?

Vince:  Everything in the private sector from all Armed Security needs (estate protection, event planning and protection, etc.), unarmed security needs, background investigations (full background checks to pre-employment screenings and drug testing), full service Cyber Security, ranging from assessments, monitoring and reporting. We also conduct training classes for civilians in topics ranging from Emergency Preparedness to Cyber Security Classes that will open their eyes to how vulnerable they really are and provide them with a wealth of knowledge.


Martha: If a principal does not have a security team on staff, what are some tips to protect the home and grounds?


Vince: Each property will bring different challenges when it comes to protecting the home. There are so many variables when it comes to each location’s vulnerabilities. There are also many  ways to find the weak points in security. In today’s world protection should be looked at from multiple angles. You may have the best automated security system there is, but if you are not monitoring and protecting your network (that everything runs on) then your security system is useless – because it can easily be taken over from the outside. One form of security is not enough today. If you want to protect your estate and feel safe, you need layered security.

Image via Hollywood Reporter | The Agency Real Estate

Martha:  Is an alarm system enough to prevent intruders or is additional security a good idea? If so, what?


Vince: You will deter a good portion of criminals with a basic alarm. However, if an offender understands how alarms work and knows how much time they have until local Law Enforcement Officers arrive, then the alarm will do little to stop them. Alarm systems that are backed by a second form of security will really add to the protection value. Security alarms help protect from the “crimes of opportunity” {when valuables – purse for example – are left in vehicle in plain sight. The window will get smashed and the item is taken quickly.}  The crime would’ve never occurred if the valuable was locked in the trunk, and not easily accessible. During interviews of suspects involved in these types of crimes, they openly admit that if nothing of value is in plain sight, they will move on until they locate valuables that are.  Residential burglary alarms present a hurdle that criminals do not want to overcome, which deters them from attempting to commit crimes in these homes. Criminals will continue to move on until they find and locate that target with easy access and very few, if any hurdles to overcome.


Martha:  Is it a good idea for an estate manager to take some sort of self-defense class?


Vince:  It is a good idea for anyone to take a self-defense class, as long as you remember that it is self- defense and should only be used as a last resort. The best self-defense class will touch on self-awareness. It is more important to be aware of your surroundings and keep yourself from stepping into a situation where you will need to protect yourself. There are so many teaching points in regards to self-awareness that will help you in making those decisions to always put yourself in the right place.  These are all points I really drive home in my Emergency Preparedness class.


Martha:  If I am out in the public with my principal and a suspicious person approaches them, what can I do to protect them immediately?


Vince:  There are many scenarios that could occur with this situation. First, this depends on the principal: Are they well known? What is the threat level towards them, their family, etc.? What are they comfortable with and how far do they want to let things go before any action is taken?  Clearing up these few topics ahead of time will help you to draw up a course of action so you are prepared.


When you decide that you need to remove your principal from the area, the process of removal / extraction and or protection takes place. This can go many different ways also.


Martha:  What do you believe makes Precision Security so successful?

Vince:  The close bond we have formed has helped propel us forward as a team.  Not only do we work extremely well together, we really love what we do and it shows. When you love what you do, you want to improve upon it and strive to be the best you can be.  This is our key ingredient to the success of Precision Security Protective Services!



Guest Estate Manager Blog # 22nd Installment in an on-going series created to give other estate managers in the community a voice to talk about whatever is on their mind. Enjoy!


How many times have you come across a housekeeping team member using one of their most popular cleaning product being used on everything with one rag??!! I think it happens more times than we like to admit. As a E/H Managers, it’s up to us to catch these horrendous acts and stop it from happening in the future. The misuse of cleaning products costs the principals thousands of dollars in ruined finishes and replaced furniture. There is a simple colorful solution to this common problem that’s easy to implement, yet takes very little effort.What I’m about to describe is based on my experience being in the domestic service for over a decade or so. Every time I started work in a new to me estate, I saw this problem. One rag, one cleaning product used everywhere on everything! Most of the time it comes from inexperienced housekeeping members or whatever, you as the reader see it fit. I’m not here to point the faults but to introduce solutions with little effort and simplicity for everyone to follow. Color-coding is the solution. There are several online vendors that sell 100% cotton color-coded rags.In the past, I ordered several dozen of about 5-6 different color coded rags for the house for the different surfaces and uses around the house that require different types of proper cleaning products. Next, I created a little laminated cards that showed which color is to be used for what surface and which proper cleaning product. These cards get attached to cleaning baskets or on the insides of the the cleaning supply closet doors for everyone to see and reference it. What that allowed me to do is the following:

1) seeing from a distance if the proper rag is being used

2) forcing the housekeeping crew to switch to a new rag if done with one kind of surface, or purpose

3) in case a surface is ruined or discolors your butt will be covered.

A step further can be taken where you can even color code and match the cleaning products with the rags. Again, find a vendor online that sells spray bottles with different colored sprayers. Put on some rubber gloves pour the cleaning products to the color coded bottles and now everyone will be educated that red rag goes with cleaning product from a red bottle. Lastly, instruct your housekeeping crew that one rag has the cleaning product (wet), wipes clean, the other( dry) wipes it clean.The initial set-up will take few minutes of your time but the cost to replace ruined and discolored surfaces in the futures will pay for themselves. Crisis solved!