Experience the joy of service at The Homestead

When you imagine a luxury safari holiday at the best safari lodge in South Africa, you expect an extremely high level of attentive customer service. And what you will encounter at The Homestead is certain to outshine anything you have previously experienced. We made sure of that when Leon Liebenberg came on board as our Head Butler, and created a superb team that includes his long-term professional associate — the man who mentored him when he was just starting out: Clinton Brown.

When asked what he liked about his new job at The Homestead, Leon said “I love the company values; love the people; it is a totally new environment. It makes such a difference to look forward to work!”

For Clinton, the job at The Homestead was an experience he couldn’t pass on. He said “I thought — I don’t know what I am in for, but for me it was an experience. I thought, I need to try this! I guess a lot of the guests would be used to five-star hotels, and top-of-the-range safari lodges, but not the combination of the two. I think that not many would be used to private butlers in a safari lodge.” Clinton’s view is that the butlers in The Homestead have to give guests the space to experience the tranquillity they came for, while embellishing their stay with excellent service.

Leon is focused on attention to detail, and takes immense pride and delight in offering great personal service to clients. This meticulous, caring and endearing man believes in acquiring and honing the skills he needs, as well. For Leon, high-end customer service consists of giving happiness to his guests; making sure that they experience the joy of service at The Homestead.

Clinton is equally dedicated to providing unparalleled customer service. He said “We are coming up with out-of-the-box scenarios as we have been given carte blanche to be creative. We are coming up with subtle touches to surprise the guests and make them feel special and leave them with a special memory. It could be something very delicate yet memorable, especially the night before they leave.”

Clinton reiterated that the best advertising is word of mouth, and they hope to help The Homestead get the word out about how wonderful the experience is at the best safari lodge in South Africa, by providing the guests with memories they will always cherish and want to share with their friends when they get home.

Leon says “Being a butler for me is not just a job, it is a passion. I like what I do — for instance, surprising a guest with something unexpected like a song or a barbeque, to create a beautiful romantic experience with their partner. I would maybe decorate their suite with candles and flowers. I think it is very important to wow the guests. It might sound stupid, but I just think, just do it, just to see the look on their faces when they think “Wow! That is the best!”

Leon adds “I have had some guests asking me to help with their wedding proposals and of course I love doing those sorts of things.

I also go to the guests and suggest special romantic things they could do for their partners, from bouquets of flowers and spa treatments to private barbecues and helicopter rides. I enjoy arranging romantic events for guests.”

Leon discovered his flair for customer service while he was a boy. His grandmother was the manager of a renowned estate, and his mother was the manager of a large hotel, and he used to go there and help her out at weekends.

After school he took a year off and decided to travel in Europe. He came back to South Africa and got a job with a catering company. The company catered private functions for extremely high-profile people such as Nelson Mandela, and key politicians in the South African parliament. He enjoyed it so much he decided he wanted to do that full-time. So, for two years Leon immersed himself whole-heartedly in food and beverage catering.

Leon wanted to continue traveling, so he took a job on the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth II for the Cunard Line, as a Maître Steward and then went to work in Dubai for Madinat Jumeirah and looked after notable names such as Michael Schumacher.

“I went around the world twice on ships, so I’ve managed to travel. After a couple of years, I wanted to feel solid ground under my feet again, so I went to work in the Maldives. At that time, it was a very new experience as I had forty-one butlers, two assistants and one head butler, working under me. I worked for Island-Hideaway, which is part of the Lily Hotel Group, for about a year.

“The Maldives was very tough,” he said wryly. “It is great for a holiday but work-wise is very tough.”

Next, he got a job in the Seychelles. “I was the senior butler there for Raffles on Praslin Island, I looked after ten villas, which kept me quite busy. But I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Clinton Brown’s route to becoming a butler was rather different. He said “I joined the South African Navy after school and became a Petty Officer. I was in the Navy for 10 years. I was in the catering department and we catered many high-end dinners for the ‘top brass’. We did a lot of banqueting service. We had to be very conscious of confidentiality because of political sensitivity. I left the Navy and after a while went into the Merchant Navy.

After 2 years in the Merchant Navy, I went into the corporate world and spent 3 years as a realtor.

I then looked around for something new and I became part of the opening team of Table Bay Hotel on the waterfront; one of the largest in Cape Town and 5 star at that.”

After a few years Table Bay unexpectedly made him a butler. Clinton said “I didn’t ask for it and I had no butler school training, so I asked if they would bear with me if it didn’t work out, and they said just go ahead, you can do it. So, the very next week I had VIP guests. I can’t mention names — even now, years later, there is a sort of confidentiality clause. So, I used my common sense, minded my p’s and q’s, and asked them what they might like. A week later I got the gratuity tip and thought, this is not a tip, it is a salary — I think I can do this!

The hotel sent me to butler school in Cape Town at their own expense. If I boil it down to one word, the art of being a butler is ‘personality’. There is nothing like the human connection. Of course, you have to keep your professional distance. I can meet a total stranger, and literally within a few seconds, I know how I can engage with them. I often work with whole families, and get thank you messages from their little children as well. That is a reward in itself, although of course I do not deny that gratuity is very welcome!”

Leon Liebenberg has also looked after many famous people, celebrities, and high-net-worth individuals. And it is that supremely high level of customer service that all of our guests will enjoy at The Homestead. It is one of the many factors that will make the luxury safari holiday in South Africa, at The Homestead, so very special.

When working with high profile guests, Leon said “I don’t care where my guests come from or what their beliefs are — a guest is a guest and I treat all my guests in the same way. There is nothing nicer than when a guest leaves and they smile at you and say, ‘You know you made our holiday special, and we will definitely be coming back.’

I have looked after the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and several extremely high-profile people over the years.

After time in the Seychelles and Ghana, Leon Liebenberg did hear about a role back in South Africa that caught his imagination.

‘I got a call asking if I would be interested in working in South Africa. I had been waiting for an opportunity to work in South Africa. They said it was a new luxury safari lodge, and on my bucket list of the places I want to work was a ‘safari lodge’. When I checked out The Homestead website I said ‘wow!’ and did some research, followed by interviews. When I got the job offer, I was over the moon.

I consider myself extremely lucky to be part of The Homestead team. I love my job and I love the fact that The Homestead is a place that operates on the same values as I do. We are such a great team; everybody is so professional, and we are all working together. It makes a really big difference. I soon realised that the company looks after their employees. I have never come across anything like this level of caring for the staff. I believe it is something special.

Oh, and a fashion designer making our uniforms — that doesn’t happen every day! I think uniforms are very important. My team and I will be so proud to put on The Homestead tailored uniforms.”

Our butlers see eye to eye, because Clinton Brown himself says “I always say that you never get difficult guests. You just get challenging guests.”

Clinton Brown said “I had been in contact with Leon for many years. I had guided him at the start of his career. He told me about the opportunity with a property in the middle of nowhere — The Homestead. Leon said they were looking for butlers to join the team at The Homestead so I joined on the 19th of January, and started on the 20th of January.

Clinton Brown adds “I am a born and bred Capetownian, although I had the privilege of travelling the world.” Talking about living at The Homestead, he said jokingly “It is quite a sight when an elephant just walks over to the site.”

Leon Liebenberg said enthusiastically “When I first saw The Homestead site and the suites, I was like a kid in a candy store. Wayne Scholes gave us a tour of The Homestead and the old ruins, and I thought — this is something unique.

I feel like telling everyone what we have in this country; the people, the culture, the landscape, the wildlife. I am so proud of South Africa.”

South Africa is indeed beautiful, rich, and varied. The Homestead is changing people’s perceptions one life-changing adventure at a time, through luxury safari holidays that take them deep into the South African culture and landscape. And The Homestead is very proud that Leon and Clinton are part of the team which helps bring wonder to our guests each day.