Robert Wennekes (1958) grew up in a hard-working hospitality family. Destined to follow in his father's footsteps, Professor Wennekes found the hospitality industry not satisfying. In his early twenties, he started working as a butler, personal assistant and executive manager for an American billionaire in the USA. Professor Wennekes stayed with this employer for six years. He then moved back to Europe. Professor Wennekes moved to Austria where he became head butler for one of Austria's most prominent families. Later Professor Wennekes became head butler at the American Embassy in Germany. There he received an official framed certificate from the US White House for "Outstanding Service".
Professor Wennekes left the US Embassy when he was recruited by Egon Zehnder in Germany to head up a division for the recruitment and training of domestic staff. He headed this division for three years and then acquired it. This was the start of his own recruitment company. In 1999, Professor Wennekes recognized the great difficulty of finding high quality and professional butlers for his clients. As his clients were depending on him for the recruitment of such staff, Professor Wennekes decided to use his experience and knowledge to open The International Butler Academy so students could then be placed with his international clients. Today The International Butler Academy is internationally recognized as the number one school in the world for the recruitment and training of top butling and private service staff.
The many reference letters on this web site speak for themselves. Located at a beautiful estate, The International Butler Academy offers a superb training program. The outstanding and devoted trainers see to this. Graduates are the Academy's ambassadors. These devoted individuals are passionately dedicated to service. The training is rigorous and tough, but the end-result is a professional butler who understands the meaning of being on another person's agenda. The International Butler Academy stands for something. It is the real thing and not a copy. Uncompromised integrity is our way of life. It is hard to beat. The Academy has been an overwhelming success ever since. The International Butler Academy has positioned itself as the most outstanding training Academy and consulting company of its kind in the world.
Because of Professor Wennekes' astounding experience in the butling and private service profession, he has undertaken a leading role in this specialized field in the world. He gives seminars on The True Art of Service around the world and has introduced butler service as a profession to China. He has traveled around the globe to protect the integrity of the butling and the private service profession. He has consulted with many international families and businesses. Needless to say, Professor Wennekes is one the world's most sought-after consultants in the private service, hospitality, and property management field. Over the years Professor Wennekes has given countless interviews and has appeared on television countless times also. Subsequently, Professor Wennekes is an expert in Public Relations. He is asked his professional opinion every time the service profession is in the news.
Over the years, hundreds of journalists and TV crews have visited The International Butler Academy to research articles or to make documentaries. As a spokesperson and professional consultant Professor Wennekes has represented many corporate clients to the media, particularly in China. Professor Wennekes and his team of ultra-professional staff of consultants and trainers are able to service a wide variety of clients. Clients include five-star hotels and resorts, cruise ships & private yachts, foreign embassies and large corporations, and of course many private families and family offices, including the Royal Family of Jordan. Private clients include movie stars, rock stars, Royal Families, heads of state and others. It would be most improper to list names of private families, but the Royal Family of Jordan kindly allows us to mention their name as a client. A number of corporate clients are listed on our web site also.
"What an exciting time we live in! Never before in history have there been so many professionals employed in private service. I am proud to serve on the Board of the two most prominent butler and private service organizations in the world and that we are able to contribute to the success of the many outstanding families and companies we work with. The future looks bright indeed. Even with the current economic crisis, our profession is nevertheless growing rapidly. I do hope that employers, staff, companies, potential students, and others, recognize quality and integrity, and are not fooled by the many charlatans active in this very difficult profession. Education is my passion and I am pleased to say that our school's contribution to the success of modern butling is relatively great."
This is just one of many quotes from Professor Wennekes, who himself worked as butler and personal assistant for more than sixteen years before he became butler trainer and consultant to some of the wealthiest families and companies in the world. All in all, Professor Wennekes has been in the butling and private service profession for more than 38 years. He is known as the "World's most famous butler" and as the "Ambassador of service". Professor Wennekes has incredible knowledge and insight into the service industry. Sometimes assignments go above and beyond what would be considered standard. In one such case, Professor Wennekes spent six full weeks at the Qasr Al Sharq Hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he trained 300 staff members and he assisted the management team with the opening phase of this stunning property. He received his Professorship of Hotel Management at Sanda University in Shanghai, China (October, 2016).
Professor Wennekes: "I get so much enjoyment from working with so many different nationalities. Our clients truly are the leading families and companies in the world. Our expertise and our sensitivity to local customs and culture allow us to work in any country in the world. The assignments we do in China are probably my most favorite. I consider China my second home country. The people are so friendly and hospitable. Their desire to advance, to improve and their desire to learn is so heartwarming. I feel we have a very special bond with the Chinese people. We are able to bring so much to our Chinese clients. We have our own professional school Chengdu, Sichuan Province. I am thrilled that we work alongside with local Chinese professionals. Please call me in case you are interested in working with us or if require further information. It truly will be my pleasure to serve you."
In 1995, Professor Wennekes was elected Chairman of the Board of The International Guild of Professional Butlers, a position he holds to this day. The Guild is dedicated to promoting and protecting the interests and reputation of its members, and of the private service and butler profession. The Guild was founded as a governing and regulating body to protect clients and members from the vast number of charlatans and copycats in this profession. The Guild also informs the general public about the private service profession. The Guild has approximately 8.000 members around the world. Regular membership is free. Executive Membership is by invitation only.
Note: researcher, author, publicist, and documentary maker Tamsin Walker (United Kingdom) was a guest at The International Butler Academy for one complete training program.
The archetypal air-headed Bertie Wooster type might have gone out with his era, but the reliable and inimitable style of his butler, Jeeves, is a tradition which is far from consigned to the annals of time.
Rising imposingly from the flatlands of the Netherlands, near Maastricht, close to the German border is an ancient estate from where an equally ancient tradition is being nurtured, albeit with a modern touch. The International Butler Academy is a top-notch school which takes great pride in turning out a select number of first-rate butlers to pay service to the world's richest and most famous. On entering the building, what first strikes is the sense of ordered calm. A number of black-clad, unassuming characters offer a quietly warm welcome, with a reserved politeness which immediately draws a boundary between them and their visitors. They carry with them an air of distance, coupled with an evident willingness to please, which for the unsuspecting, verges on intimidating. It is indeed a different world. But what is the world of the modern-day butler all about? "It's about providing a service," says Robert Wennekes, who founded and runs the academy. Whilst that sounds easy enough, it soon becomes apparent that the 'service' to which he alludes is an all-encompassing way of life, a mindset into which budding butlers are either eased or squeezed depending on their own attitude to the job. Having the right attitude, I am told, is what makes an excellent butler stand out from the crowd.
"Of course we teach our students the technical aspects of being a butler, but what we really focus on is attitude. Without the right attitude, you will not succeed," says Wennekes, himself a butler for many years. When he hung up his tails and white gloves to run a placement agency for butlers and estate managers, he soon realized that the demand for quality staff far outstripped the supply. So, ever the pragmatist, and a devout believer in 'the very best', Mr Wennekes saw only one solution to the problem. "I realized that if I couldn't find those top people for the top jobs, I could train them myself." And that is precisely what he did.
The school opened its doors for the first intake of willing servants back in 2000, and has been running three courses a year ever since. It's clear on meeting Mr Wennekes that he doesn't suffer fools gladly, nor will he tolerate any sign of incompetence, laziness or inflexibility. "Many of the students who come here think they are flexible, but their perception of flexibility is different from mine. They might believe that if they work every day from 9 until 6 o'clock they are being flexible, but if I ask them to work 16 hours a day, they would probably say no." Well, they might say "no" on arrival at the academy, but by the time they leave after eight weeks of rigorous training and sleepless nights, they do so with a whole new understanding of the word 'service'. "If you do not have a service heart, you will fail," Wennekes states flatly.
But at a cost of 14,500 euros for ten weeks of hard, and to quote the boss 'superb' training, failure is not a thought that most would-be butlers attending the school wish to entertain. And for the most part, they leave the school armed with their diploma, a suitcase full of knowledge and the prospect of gainful employment in a luxury home at an equally luxury location somewhere in the world.
For many, the leap into private service is of quantum proportions. The students, both male and female, range in age from 20 to 60, come from all corners of the globe, and bring with them career paths which deck the spectrum from gardener to lawyer. In talking to them, it becomes apparent that what they have in common is a love of people, and a willingness to please. Whilst for so many of the world's population, it's all we can do to make the family dinner night on night, these people belong to a world of their own. They see no barriers to giving up a huge chunk of their own existence in order to be omnipresent for somebody else. They are not phased by the idea of having to cancel their days off or their holidays in order to be there for their lord and master, they have no issue with having their own lives play second fiddle to that of someone else, in short they are simply willing to enter a life of servitude. And whilst that life, in the 21st century, is a far cry from that of 'below stairs' butlers we know from the likes of P.G Woodhouse or films such as 'The Remains of the Day', and 'Gosford Park', there are of course similarities.
The world of modern-day butling is small and intimate, but not closed. "There are a lot of rich people out there looking for good staff," Wennekes assures me. What they want is loyalty, quality, dedication and discretion. Mr Wennekes knows his stuff, and it is precisely this which he is at pains to pass on to all of those who cross his threshold.