Giovanni Lodigiani: On Butler’s role and Household Management
Giovanni Lodigiani, born in Turin, Italy, spent his teens playing football for Juventus FC, went to work in the press-office and public relations until the mid ‘80s, gained a law degree, moved into music business producing records in top London studios, then specialised in business administration in England at the School of Management-University of Bath, became an international media executive, did a teaching stint at Exeter University, then decided to become a Butler & Household Manager.
Giovanni Lodigiani is today a world-class professional Butler & Household Manager/ Estate Manager/ Director of Property/ General Manager of Properties, with high-profile international experience either in private service as well as in the hospitality industry. He is one of the most qualified and experienced as well as one of the most well-regarded private service industry professionals on the international market. Together with full-time employment assignments, he occasionally works on training and consulting projects for private households as well as for premium hotels, boutique hotels and resorts. He has worked in UK, Russia, USA, Italy and Persian Gulf where he managed the royal palaces of the Royal Court of Bahrain as Deputy General Manager of the Palaces Department.
— What an unusual career path! What inspired you?
— When I changed career I looked for something close to my personal interests: interior design, arts, housekeeping, house maintenance, clothing care, entertaining guests and, most of all, organising people and resources. The job of Household Managers is to organize people and resources, so who better for the job than a former business manager with formal English butler school?
— How has your education and diverse work experiences helped you as a Butler?
— Modern household organizations can be rather complex environments; they can be proper commercial enterprises whose scope is not to make profit but to spend resources for the good care and maintenance of the property. The more complex the organization the more complex the role. The manager is the expert bringing the knowledge on site, making employer’s life easier, so it is important that he is educated, qualified, competent and experienced. A formal management background is extremely helpful and this is something employers should search for during the recruitment process. This is not a job for “practitioners”.
In 2017 has published the first part of an innovative household management textbook, “Introduction to Executive, Property, Estate & Household Management”, a breakthrough publication bringing a completely new approach to household management studies, with a strong business administration oriented perspective focusing on organizational and operations management studies. In 2021 has released the Complete Volume edition dealing with household management organizational design models and the main distinctive management responsibilities. The third edition of this textbook has been published in 2023.
— You have worked in UK, USA, Russia, Italy and Persian Gulf and must have experienced different environments, work habits and requirements, regulations and cultures.
— In Russia I had the first really important assignment setting up a large impressive brand new property in Moscow (Barvikha) with about 30 members of staff. In this project I had the opportunity to build the household organization from the very beginning. I had a great support from the family and the language was not an obstacle at all. In Bahrain the Royal Court is incorporated into the government organization, so it was a job dealing with “power” in the real sense of word; it was a strongly administrative-oriented role dealing with all the other departmental offices of the Court, the biggest royal court in the world. A great experience in a really extraordinary country moving forward very fast. In Italy I had a most enjoyable assignment for a Russian owner transforming a private home into the most sought after resort of Lake Como: a great refurbishment project involving a large number of contractors, suppliers, members of staff, with a complex property management organization structure.
— A Butler’s role is surely a sensitive one. How you manage the fine line between getting the job done and remaining in the background?
— It is all about the “frame of mind”. Butler training is about creating the frame of mind more than everything else. In real life, the Household Manager is in the background with regard to service operations but very much in the “front line” as far as management duties are concerned. Opposite to the corporate world, household management is a job where there is no absence of decision-making; in this job managers take executive decisions every day and that is why management education and background – as well experience of life and human nature — is so important.
— Are there common misconceptions about the Butler’s role?
— Surprisingly most owners still do not know what a Butler is and, more importantly, what he can do. For those who have invested in large properties, the smart and only thing to do is to hire a trained Butler & Household Manager. The running of a property involves a wide number of competences: personnel, housekeeping, administration, finance & accounting, facilities maintenance, purchasing, suppliers management, care of arts, food & beverage, events organization, just to mention the most important ones. You would not try to run a corporation on your own or with unskilled employees, so the same principle must apply to the “House Corp.”
— What is the content of your household management textbook?
— In the first part of the book I explain the fundamental concepts and principles of private service. In the second part, I deal with the main Household Manager’s responsibilities and I present few essential household management organizational models that can be applied to different settings. The general idea underpinning the work is to associate Household Management to the corporate relationship between the Owner-Shareholder and the Household Manager-CEO of the “House Corp.”. It is a book full of insights from many other disciplines such as philosophy, arts, literature, sociology, history, psychology, pop culture… there is lot more in household management than properties! A book for everyone interested in the world of homes.
— Do you have interesting stories to tell?
— Obviously I cannot report private stories because that is not why employers need a Butler. I can say that household management and private service generally speaking is certainly a good perspective to see the world from. Household Managers, like all managers, face critical situations all the time but sticky situations add spice to life and we learn from them.
— What do you recommend to property owners in the search for a Butler & Household Manager?
— I strongly recommend to search for educated, trained, qualified, competent professionals in every department of the household. We deal with employers’ most cherished possessions, so you need to choose the best (always better to be over-staffed than under-staffed). I also suggest to look at Butlers as consultants: we can provide an enormously helpful consulting service on property layout before the completion of renovation/restoration projects in order to align the property layout to the needs of service operations as well to advise on the future state of the household organization.
— What are your projects at the moment?
— I have completed a two-years promotional tour for my book that has taken me to UK, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland. Now I am ready for a new full-time employment assignment for a good employer anywhere in the world. Of course I love Russia and the Russian people and I will be happy to return in that wonderful country too.