With a client list that includes A listers, captains of industry and royalty, Polo & Tweed is no ordinary recruitment agency. Instead it has forged a global reputation for finding and placing the crème de la crème of domestic staff, whether that be butlers, chefs, housekeepers, nannies, chauffeurs, estate managers or security.
Polo & Tweed is the creation of entrepreneur Lucy Challenger whose head for business saw her managing an array of start-ups before the ink was even dry on her graduation certificate. One of these was a domestic recruitment company for whom she continued to consult for a number of years. By now married to former Olympic high jumper Ben Challenger, she decided to take a sabbatical following the birth of her son in 2015. But as Lucy recalls, her former business dealings had other ideas. “The contacts I had made over the years tracked me down on LinkedIn asking me to help find them staff. I kept refusing until I finally gave in to one client in Monaco, promising to help find them a nanny. Before I knew it, I had multiple clients and no staff of my own or anywhere to work from. So, I had to do everything in reverse. I had to find an office and I had to recruit staff. Polo & Tweed was founded in November 2015 and five years later we have a base in Mayfair and a global network.”
The role of the modern domestic professional is a million miles away from that undertaken by their colleagues of yesteryear.
One wonders for instance how Downton Abbey’s Mr Carson would adapt to the role of today’s butler whose duties may not only encompass welcoming guests and planning, designing and executing dinner parties and events but conversing in multiple languages, dealing with employment documents, operating security systems, chauffeuring or even fixing the loo! Not surprisingly it can take years, and sometimes decades, to master the art.
The relationship between master and servant may have changed beyond recognition over the decades, but that doesn’t mean a client’s desire for excellence has diminished.
“Many still want their home run like a 5-star hotel,” says Lucy. “They expect there to be a turndown service, the linen to be dry cleaned every day and for fresh orange juice and newspapers to be delivered in the morning. All the things that make a certain lifestyle, our clients want. So that’s why there’s such a demand for domestic luxury service. Whether it’s a full-time housekeeper and cook or a big team of staff comprising everything from a butler and multiple housekeepers and maids through to an estate keeper.”
Lucy leaves no stone unturned when it comes to matching her clients with the perfect candidate. “Those candidates come to us from around the world. We have a reputation now, so people find us organically, whether that’s through word of mouth, our social media or our website. When a candidate joins our books, we first verify their references. Following a preliminary call and fact-finding questionnaire, we then meet them face to face because in domestic recruitment you have to have a match of personalities. It cannot just be skill based. In an office someone goes to work, they do their job and they go home. In a home you can be around intimate or vulnerable situations, so staff need to be not only efficient but loyal and discreet. So, it’s our job to make sure they are. Obviously they have to be good at what they do, but at the same time if their personalities don’t match, then the placement is not going to be a success. The phrase ‘What the Butler Saw’ springs to mind – discretion and personality match is the way to make a perfect match.”
Needless to say, Lucy and her team have received their fair share of unusual requests over the years. “We’ve been asked to source butlers who can bake and butlers who are trained in yoga. Some of our clients required around the clock glam squads, from hairdressers and make-up artists to masseuses. We’ve recruited for a dog nanny – someone whose sole responsibility is the four-legged member of the family who is in essence the principals’ baby and gets treated as one. One of the weirdest requests was for 45 butlers – male and female – to attend the first ever music festival in Riyadh. Sadly, the same event has been cancelled this year due to COVID but what an amazing experience it was for our chosen candidates to serve the royal family in the VIP boxes. All being well, we are excited to be sending our wonderful butlers back to Riyadh in 2021.”
For those at the top of the game the rewards are huge. Reveals Lucy, “Nannies can earn £80,000 and butlers in excess of £100,000. We have placed very specific positions paying up to £250,000, so it’s an incredibly lucrative career. Some roles come with free accommodation and the opportunity to travel the globe, often by private jet and yacht. But it’s vital to remember that those jobs also require a huge commitment both in terms of time and effort.”
The rest of this editorial will be published at a later date