We’re all familiar with the concept of a housekeeper, a private assistant or a caretaker – but just what is an estate manager? Here at Riveter Consulting Group, we recruit and place estate managers in households across the US, and in our time in the industry we’ve come to understand that there are a number of specific skills and duties that go into mastering this role.
Estate manager is perhaps the most widely used term in the household staffing. Some other variations may include “director of estates,” “director of properties,” and “chief of staff,” but with a clear picture of the estate manager’s functions and a working definition of “estate,” it is easy to see who truly fits the position. A common abbreviation for those in the industry is “EM.”
WHERE DOES AN ESTATE MANAGER WORK?
As suggested by the job title, an estate manager is hired specifically to work on an estate; in other words, a large household with multiple buildings and often several hundred acres of land.
Because an estate is larger and more complex to manage than one household, an estate manager differs from a house manager in terms of skills and experience.
WHAT DOES AN ESTATE MANAGER DO?
An estate manager is in charge of the upkeep and day-to-day running of a private estate. They should oversee maintenance, supervise staff members, and manage budgets and events. Typically their work is focused outside of the primary home. This is because land management is a vital part of the role.
Many estates run as a business, and an estate manager is expected to help with the management of that business. Whether the estate operates as a farm, a wedding venue, or a residential complex with private tenants, the estate manager must be able to keep on top of all money coming in and out.
If the estate owns animals and livestock, the estate manager may be responsible for overseeing agricultural activities. They are expected to ensure that the land is being used to its full potential – whether for farming, commercial, or private purposes.
Estate manager is the top level in the household. He or she works directly with the owners to plan and execute the overall management of property and service. Estate managers typically set the service standard and are responsible for the hiring, training, and ongoing management of staff required to meet the service needs of the household. In addition to personnel management, the administrative functions are many.
Based on the size of the property the estate manager may wear many other hats or delegate these functional areas to dedicated experts in the employer’s stable. Interfacing with accountants, attorneys, curators, captains, pilots, architects, financial advisors, and more is par for the course.
Common direct supervision tasks may include screening and overseeing outside vendors, contractors, construction projects, maintenance of grounds, collections, autos, yachts, private planes, etc. With multiple properties, most EM’s travel ahead of their employer to get a property ready for their arrival and bring the staff up to speed on any necessary changes or service requirements.
An estate manager may also be called upon to plan and execute events for the owner. This could range from a simple dinner for eight to a grand, formal gathering for eight hundred. For this mode an EM would regularly connect with top caterers, event planners, temporary service staff, and entertainment agencies. The levels of “hands-on” involvement can vary, but to truly exemplify the estate manager title, the details of service are executed primarily via management, and not as a service provider.
Other responsibilities include nurturing the relationships and protocols in all areas to minimize principal exposure, and to ensure quality service and product delivery. Whenever possible, cross-train to empower staff, control labor costs and promote the lowest possible turnover.
An estate manager may also be required to represent the principal, family and guest priorities within the local and extended community with discretion, gracious yet confidential behavior, intuitive and empathetic service to extended family, friends and neighbors, charitable institutions and professional service providers. Nowhere is the private service manager’s code of ethics more important than here. Expect high standards of behavior in all estate staff.
WHO DO THEY MANAGE?
Staff members managed by an estate manager can include household staff, groundskeepers, security and vendors – this all depends on the estate in question.
Smaller estates may require an estate manager who also takes on an active role in the family home; therefore they may be required to manage and oversee private chefs, butlers and other service staff within the household.
WHAT SKILLS SHOULD AN ESTATE MANAGER POSSESS?
The ideal estate manager is a jack of all trades; someone professional, personable and polite, who isn’t afraid to get his or her hands dirty.
A financial mind is a big plus, as is experience with project and budget management. Many estate managers will also be expected to have a detailed knowledge of facilities management, and experience working on the land, in some cases. However, the specific skills and experience required will differ depending on the placement.
The top estate managers in the industry are some of the most well rounded workers. The unique combination required to succeed in this position is rarely found in other professions. Important abilities include:
- highest level of personal service experience with private families and/or individuals
- well educated in luxury items such as fine art and antiques
- proper social etiquette and cultural knowledge
- acute business skills in areas of finance, computers, planning, and organization
- human resources management
- leadership and motivation skills
- independent and team project management
- creative and intuitive thinking and problem solving
- up to date on applicable technologies and global communications
- negotiating skills
- often multi-lingual
- service training for private and/or hotel environments