From the everday family needs to world travel, real estate, entertainment planning and beyond. When your holdings and interests are a global affair, you need a management team that are beyond reproach. We sit down with Managing Partner & Estate Management Specialist Mario Seiler from The Modern Butler to see what it takes to service an A list clientele in 2021.
When was the company founded and why?
The company was founded in 2011 as a comprehensive concierge service, a sort of one-stop shop to provide clients everything they need to actualise their lifestyle visions and needs. We understand the client’s style, preferences, and habits, and are able to centralise everything, so that staffing, travel, scheduling, billing all flows through a single manager: Modern Butler.
Can you tell us a little about your background in the industry?
My background is in luxury hospitality. I was in charge of guest relations, functioning as liaison between the hotel, the guests, and the city. It put me in direct contact with celebrities, Fortune 500 CEOS, politicians, royalty – truly the highest profile, affluent travelers in the world. Eventually I accepted an offer to work with one of the regular hotel guests to manage all aspects of their home and lifestyle.
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What services does Modern Butler provide?
Modern Butler provides luxury lifestyle support – essentially, comprehensive personalised concierge services. That includes estate management – so day-to-day operations, maintenance, household manuals, drawer-to-drawer relocation, staff hiring and training, chefs and menus, oversight of design and construction projects. It also includes event planning, real estate, transportation, travel, and security. Our clients also rely on us for referrals to an enormous variety of vendors and services.
How has the pandemic affected your service offering?
Naturally, we confronted the same issues as everyone, but on behalf of our clients. That meant dealing with disruptions in supplies, materials for construction projects, and staff and vendor management issues. It also meant that our work sometimes shifted from managing people and systems to managing emotions. And of course we had – and continue to have – great concern for the health and well-being of our clients, staff, and vendors.
How do the majority of your clients find you?
Word of mouth.
What are your clients looking for in a management services provider?
Our clients have a clear vision of how they want to live – and they can afford to do so. They just need to find someone who understands them and their lifestyle and has the capabilities to help them realise their vision. Trust is central. When you’re so intimately involved with the life of a household, you know everything from financial status to dietary preferences and sock size. Discretion is absolutely critical.
Is every client’s needs truly different or is there a standardised set of programmes?
Everyone wants the house clean, the lawn mowed, and the TV working, but our operations are totally personalised to the client’s preferences. For example, some people like to see staff around and others don’t; some want to be involved in daily decision making while others would rather not. In addition, when it comes to estate management, houses and their occupants are unique. Some properties require a lot of maintenance; others need less care. These things are affected by house and household size, location – beach versus city, for example – age, materials used, and, of course, lifestyle: entertaining, travel, short- and long-term guests. At the end of the day, everyone wants to be understood and taken care of.
How do you see the company growing in the future?
Modern Butler has grown so organically, adding services as our clients’ needs and our own capabilities expanded. When we founded the company ten years ago, real estate wasn’t on our radar, but it was such a natural fit, we recently added it to our offerings. In the future, we anticipate expanding our services to places where a large number of our clients have property, such as Palm Beach, Miami, and London. We also envision a Lifestyle product line.
Would you say that the Modern Butler offers more of a diverse arrangement of services than its competitors?
In general, our competitors, if you can call them that, specialise in particular services, such as staffing, event planning, travel. Modern Butler handles all services, including household management, under a single “lifestyle” umbrella to streamline the client’s life.
How would you describe your role in your clients’ lives?
We wear many different hats, so our clients tend to see us as experts in all things home and lifestyle. We are the trusted butler, who can actualise their vision in a stylish and sophisticated manner. They can ask us anything, any time.
Is the team familiar with the latest real estate trends?
Definitely. We have an interesting approach to real estate: we understand it from the inside out. We know what works, where problems will arise, and the most effective way to solve them. We have managed construction, remodels, and moves. We work closely with an enormous list of very skilled and trusted vendors, and have a huge network of clients and colleagues. We’ve been staging homes for years without calling it staging. Plus, of course, we have deep local knowledge of neighborhoods and all their amenities.
What are the most difficult aspects of the job?
Our clients’ lives are not 9-to-5, and this is not a 9-to-5 job; we are always on and always available, at least via phone and email. Being successful at what we do means that we are deeply integrated into our clients’ lives. If a pipe breaks in the middle of the night, they don’t call the plumber – they call us. So turning it off at the end of the day, coming back to your own life and leaving theirs, requires some skill.
What do you love about it?
Definitely the variety. One day we are knee-deep in the sewer basin and the next day we are sampling food at the The Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakesh for an upcoming event we are planning.
Let’s talk about security and background checks. Is there a Modern Butler security program in place or does it depend on the needs of the client?
Everything is personalised to the needs of the client. Some clients prefer onsite armed security presence 24/7, while others rely on home-protection technology to keep them safe. If a client wants an armed guard, we can provide one. Of course background checks are very important to protect family and property, including collections of art, antiques, vehicles, etc.
Every property we manage we stress the importance of having proper emergency supplies, from the correct fire extinguishers, to earthquake kits, water supply, as well as first aid and AED training and equipment, and proper emergency plans in place – what to do in case of fire, medical emergency, earthquake, intruder, for example.
How do you keep an active roster of staff available for your clients?
We have an extensive roster of people we have worked with, from chefs and chauffeurs to landscape designers and housekeepers. We continually touch base with our favourite workers and interview new people to add to our capability network, so we’re able to respond quickly when a position opens.
What are the advantages of using your estate management service compared to hiring a full-time employee?
A household has many moving parts – each one needs to fit perfectly and function at a very high level. But on a day-to-day basis, even in a large household, most staff are required only part time. Few households need a full-time chef, gardener, or house manager. With our lifestyle management services, we put staff and systems in place to handle the household’s typical requirements, but we also have the resources in place to step up to full-time when needed. Also, most of our clients have multiple properties throughout the world and we manage the big picture to minimise disruption and facilitate their comfort wherever they are in residence.