In our Hospitality ON issue (No 308-309), we interviewed professionnals of the hospitality industry around the world. We present here Cédric Depaepe's point of view and thoughts on his job, Chief Butler at Conrad Bora Bora Nui.
Could you tell us about yourself and your background?
Originally born and raised in Belgium and a geek at heart. From a very young age I started playing around with computers and this set the tone for the following years to come. I studied in it and upon graduating started working for an international consulting company where I had my first career in customer service.
Following 5 years of working and developing my career I felt a burning desire to do more. By now I had lost my appetite in what I was doing, and my desire was to help people more as I was right now but maintaining the same quality output of work. After extensive research I decided to combine my passion for etiquette and my desire to help people and turn this into my career, as a butler.
I resigned from my position and enrolled in a butler training programme where I received a formal British butler training. Completing my training I was offered a position as a Butler in China, which I accepted, and I left Belgium 2 weeks later never looking back.
Why did you choose this specific career?
The core of my satisfaction at work for me is knowing I am helping people and it is my personal desire to help people at the highest level. There was only one possible way forward in my eyes, which was becoming a butler in either private service or hotels. At this very moment I have been fortunate enough to have done both and understand the intricate differences and benefits of either one.
I always say I am one of those people who do what they truly love so it does not feel like I am working at all. Because I do what I am passionate about I find nearly unlimited energy to continue to challenge our guest experience delivery on a daily basis.
What exactly are you doing daily?
As head butler I have a very varied day that starts early in the morning until late at night. I am also part of the front office management team, so my job is not limited to the butler team as I also lead the other departments.
I love coming in early for work to go through all the reports, arrival report; opera reports & incident reports are the most important. Knowing what I will focus the team on for the day is extremely important as I prefer to give them a structured day with clear expectations. Afterwards I plan out the arrivals and departures for the day to ensure we have sufficient coverage with the team.
For every single arrival and DEPARTURE, I will be present to meet with our guests. While supporting the butler team in will engage with clients personally and introduce myself. It is very important to me to know our guests so when I meet them in the resort we can further engage and develop our relationship.
In the morning I will visit breakfast to meet with guests, attend the morning meeting with management and do inspections of the hotel grounds to ensure everything is in good condition. For our VIP’s I will also do pre-arrival room inspections during this stage of the day. Usually, our first arrivals start coming in by now, around 9AM, and I support the Butler team in providing a smooth arrival experience.
From there onwards I split my time between spending time on the floor with the butlers directly as well as connecting with the other FO teams, i.e. operators, porters, FO agents & concierge team. Sharing information as we receive it during meeting with teams.
Do you have any funny stories or anecdotes that you are willing to share about your working experience?
What I truly love about the work I do is the people for whom we get to make a difference and sometimes this results in unique friendships. I have a few guests with whom I have connected over the most random topics, from sneakers they were wearing to interest in astronomy to love for bubble tea! To this day I keep in touch with these guests and wherever I go, they come to visit. This is the type of friendship no other job can provide and a level of satisfaction I have yet to find anywhere else.
What skills/human qualities are necessary for this position?
Perseverance. Discretion. Passion. Humility. Without these you can never be successful in this position. To be in service to other people means you must put your own needs and desires aside in order to achieve happiness for others. That means you must be the type of person that becomes happy by making others happy.
To do this on a daily basis, most of the time without people knowing what exactly you do for them and with very little recognition of your work requires a certain mindset and personality.
I couldn’t say which one is the most important, but I feel these 4 are key to becoming a good Butler.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of your work?
Not one day is the same, not one day can be repeated and every day is different. That means that no matter how much you prepare yourself, unexpected things will happen. This is both an advantage and disadvantage of the job and requires a large amount of flexibility.
The truest advantage though is the contact you have with other people and the freedom to engage and build relationships. You learn so much from the people you get to meet on a daily basis, from their life experience and that is invaluable.
A last word for people interested in your job.
Be yourself. Always put your own personality in your service and make things your own. It is all about people and you are a person, too. To connect with a PERSON, you need to be yourself. Be in service, Be yourself.