Interview with an Estate /House Manager
Silver Swan Recruitment recruits for a number of private households and estates worldwide. The private household industry can offer a very rewarding and lucrative career and can provide the opportunity to travel the world. Working in a private household can often be challenging as no two days are ever the same, however, this variety helps to make roles really enjoyable. You become an integral part of the family and are relied on heavily to keep the household running smoothly. To give us a little more insight into the working world of Private Households, we have interviewed an extremely experienced Estate/House Manager to better explain what it’s like to work in such a prestigious role.
Russell Orford has most recently worked as an Estate/House Manager for a UHNW client based in London. He oversaw the running of their 5 homes worldwide – 2 based in London, 3 overseas.
How did you start working in Private Households?
I spent 12 years in the Army in the Scots Guards, wearing the red tunic and Bearskin Cap. This gave me a large number of skills which were incredibly useful and transferable to the world of Private Households. When I left, I helped a friend of a friend with their maternity cover managing a house for a Titled Couple in Chelsea. I loved the variety of the work, and coming from the Army, I thrived on doing a good job and making things perfect.
I had a brief dabble in ex-military recruitment which really helped me understand where my skillset was, but most importantly how the job market works. The benefit of a good, tailored CV and understanding what good recruiters can offer you, both as a client and a candidate.
I then landed the job which started everything for me, managing a very large house, for an UHNW businessman with bordering OCD tendencies. The standards were incredibly high and he was extremely demanding – not unreasonable, but everything was either perfect, or it was wrong.
In your experience, does the role of Estate/House Manager differ among households?
I think the role of Estate or House Manager covers such a wide range of responsibilities that it can only ever be different due to different requirements. Some require cooking, some a little housekeeping, others need a real hands-on approach, while others want a more set back managerial style.
What is your typical day?
There is no such thing! I have my standard things which I would do on a daily basis, checking the whole house, fixing the dressing room (resetting all the hangers, to be equally spaced etc). I would also make time to speak to all the staff every day, to ensure they were happy, knew what they were doing, and also felt connected and supported.
When it comes to my workload, I would class it as a good day if I got to complete 50% of the work I planned to do that day. There are always changes, always problems to fix and last minute immediate tasks given by the Principal.
What challenges do you face on a day to day basis?
The biggest challenge I find is staff disagreements. As in every workplace, there can be disagreements between staff members, and this will always come down to you as an Estate/House Manager to fix. Just yesterday I had two housekeepers in two different properties have a row, and both handed in their notice before 0900. Not my favourite morning, but after some listening and talking they are now both staying!
What do you find most enjoyable in your role?
I love doing a good job, and fixing problems, whether it’s staffing, technical, logistical or sourcing hard to find items. I don’t look for praise, but am very pleased when there is no criticism – if there is nothing wrong, then everything is right! (I have been pulled up for the length of the wicks on candles which have already been burning for an hour!).
What do you think makes a good House/Estate Manager?
The ability to adapt to anything, listen to everybody but make your own decisions, hear everything and say nothing. You must be there first, but put yourself last, behind not only your Principal but also every other member of your staff. It is an amazing privilege to be in the position to work in the incredible houses we are allowed to serve in and to manage a team of people whose sole aim is to make someone’s life better. It’s not always easy, but when you get it right, it’s perfect.
Fancy working in a Private Household?
If you have some good hospitality experience and feel you have the right personality traits to suit working in a private home or estate then please get in touch and we will help you either find a new opportunity or secure your first role within a private estate.