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 we brought Clinton Brown onboard, and created a superb team.
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.
Clinton is 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 added that the best advertising is word of mouth, and he hopes 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.
“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!”
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.”
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.