In this feature article, I have had the opportunity to interview Mr Sheikh Ashraf, Butler at BUTLER’s Butler Department, and find out more about his experiences.
The hospitality industry has long been associated with a multitude of advantages and disadvantages, from working in glamorous environments to the lack of work-life balance. In this article, we explore how BUTLER is different from the hospitality industry in general, and also what Mr Sheikh Ashraf thinks about his career at BUTLER.
Qn: Could you give a short introduction about yourself and your current position in BUTLER?
Sheikh: My name is Sheikh Ashraf, I am 26 years old this year. I’m currently one of the butlers working at BUTLER’s Butler Department. I help take care of the property and lifestyle management aspect of Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) and High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI). A brief introduction of what I do: I work with a team of housekeepers and supervisors who helps to maintain the properties of our esteemed clients to an impeccable standard of operation and maintenance.
Qn: Besides Property and Lifestyle Management, what are some other services that the Butler Department provides?
Sheikh: As a Butler at BUTLER, we make the impossible possible. Our clients can come to us with any request and we will have to do our utmost best and utilize our company’s vast resources to get the job done, from securing VIP meetings to flying on the next flight to Italy and back to procure the item that our client requests. My life skills were also put on the test once when my client requested for me to cook up a meal for him and his guest. I immediately rolled up my sleeve and jumped straight to the kitchen, and cooked a fabulous meal with the ingredients in the kitchen. The BUTLER department has the resources of the company and therefore you feel like a superhero when you get things done for the client at speeds that they are also shocked at.
Qn: Could you share with us some of your hobbies outside of work?
Sheikh: I often go hiking in the mountains on weekends! Although mountain hiking can be challenging, it is a particularly exhilarating experience at the same time, especially once you reach the peak. I challenge myself to scale mountains in neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Indonesia or Hong Kong.
Qn: What was your background and was it relevant to your journey at BUTLER?
Sheikh: Absolutely! I have always had a passion for cooking since young and have received my Diploma in Restaurant and Culinary Operations. I then started working at the back of the house to the front of the house – following which, I was offered a scholarship by Marina Bay Sands to further cultivate my leadership ability, after which I took up a 6 months overseas internship to South Korea. I met with one of the top sommeliers in South Korea and was given a lot of exposure on the subject on quality and consistency, for instance, the quality of the fine dining experience from the moment of preparation to servicing, and the experience that is expected of the restaurants to give to the client from the moment of reservation, every fine detail is listed and documented. This has given me a significant runway at BUTLER as I was able to understand the expectations of the clients and also for myself to deliver the expectation.
Qn: Why did you join BUTLER and has this broadened your perspective, knowledge and learnings?
Sheikh: Absolutely! I joined BUTLER in 2017, back then we did not have a BUTLER department yet, as we were still a small company that provided housekeeping services. I saw the potential of the company, and joined in as a housekeeper in the East Coast area in Singapore. It was a total career change to a stigmatized industry, however, I find it completely untrue at BUTLER and even to this day, I find it to be the best decision of my life. I recall back when I was interviewed by the CEO – Poon Da Qian himself. He told me about the Butler vision to bring the hospitality experience to people’s home and lifestyle and to inspire people by creating jobs, careers, and opportunities that were promising and fulfilling. I worked as a housekeeper for more than 6 months before the department was set up, and I was promoted to become a Butler in the BUTLER Department in 2018. Today, I am given the opportunity to manage some of the most expensive and exquisite properties in Singapore, and that has broadened my perspective and aspiration in life manifolds. I report to my Head of BUTLER for any matters and lead a team of my own.
Qn: Could you use three words to encapsulate your experience working at BUTLER thus far?
Sheikh: Dynamic, Energetic, Passionate.
At BUTLER, we stand for service excellence in everything. I work closely with my team and we are extremely resourceful to get things done to perfection. We are always on the lookout on how can we improve this or do that better for our clients.
I have been very blessed to be exposed to the world of our esteemed clients and help them to free up invaluable time, sometimes we have to do the footwork and I’ll always be on the move right away.
What we do at Butler expands and pushes boundaries into a brave new world. We discover new approaches and work with new innovations and styles that are in my opinion light years ahead of the industry, because of this I am able to see things in different angles today and it is no longer just a job, but a lifelong passion, learning, and rewarding career at BUTLER.
Qn: Would you recommend BUTLER to jobseekers?
Sheikh: Yes, at BUTLER we are fast-moving and quick-witted. It is not for all, but if you are looking for exponential growth, personal development and a rewarding career, this is probably the best company in Singapore and globally.
With the above, we further asked Mr Sheikh Ashraf on a few research questions.
Qn: Career progression opportunities are a key factor influencing job-seekers in their job search, with 42% of Singaporeans indicating so in a 2018 survey by Randstad . Out of all the companies in the local hospitality industry, what made you choose to join BUTLER over the other more established players in the industry?
Sheikh: It’s the potential of BUTLER – offering a wide array of services in the comfort of one’s own home. When we first started, BUTLER was called Butler-in-Suits. We focused on housekeeping, but if you look at it from a different perspective, there are so many other services that you can introduce to the homes aside from housekeeping. With homes, there are more things for you to touch on. It all starts with a single step – first: housekeeping, second: above and beyond. So the potential was what drew me to BUTLER.
Qn: Apart from the rich employment prospects and training opportunities, a survey by Zeno Group of more than 4,500 individuals globally, including professionals working in Singapore, found that a staggering 87% of respondents said they want to work at a company where they “feel like part of a family” . Did you possess similar sentiments when you were first job-hunting and has BUTLER made you feel like part of a family?
Sheikh: Lending from my military background — National Service (NS) what I enjoyed the most was the family-like culture that we cultivated among ourselves. During my time in NS, I wanted a good understanding of the ground and had the opportunity to get close to everyone. As the Section and Platoon IC, my philosophy was that everyone needs to be positive, be realistic, and only to look at your neighbour’s bowl to see if it’s full. I saw that it was effective in ensuring there was teamwork, respect, selflessness and communication in the team.
Coming over to BUTLER, I was able to exercise that. When I was a housekeeper, I got the chance to form my own team and we established the same family-like culture. It provided the team a secure and positive environment to work – where it no longer feels like work anymore. The team here is truly a second family!
Qn: The same survey also found that 54% of respondents in Singapore said they “do not know what their company truly stands for or represents” in terms of corporate values and the company’s mission . What do you think BUTLER stands for having worked here for a few years?
Sheikh: To me, BUTLER stands for progress. From an employee’s point of view, it is a platform where people from different backgrounds and walks of life can work in a secure and positive environment where everyone is genuinely kind and helpful. In the perspective of our clients, it is a service that frees up their time to do what they love. In BUTLER, anyone can be somebody if they work hard, and work smart. BUTLER also embodies the drive, because all of us here are motivated to strive for success and serve with excellence with a clear goal in mind. We want to inspire the uplift workers to become leaders of tomorrow, to be inspired and bring a positive outcome to their families and community. The company’s vision and mission statement are also very clear and well resonated with every employee of the company.
Qn: Under the Hotel Industry Transformation Map (ITM) announced in 2016, the local hospitality sector has been seeking to build a strong pipeline of talent over the last few years, which includes redesigning jobs to make them more appealing to the younger generation . This is notably aligned with BUTLER’s efforts to distinguish its jobs from the traditional perception of the hospitality sector by making them more professional and more financially stable. Do you think that this has had an impact on drawing more employees to join the company?
Sheikh: I would say yes, to a certain extent. BUTLER gives employees the opportunity to meet customers in their own homes and get personal with them. Over time, our workers are able to study and observe different styles of working and preferences from clients for any given situation. We become more confident in ourselves and naturally would want to develop ourselves to provide more professional services. The work-life balance at BUTLER is a huge draw, working 9 am to 6 pm on weekdays is a rare opportunity -, especially in the hospitality industry. It gives our employees sufficient time on the weekends to spend time with their own families. Not to mention, our jobs are also financially stable and provide higher-than-average wages as compared to standard hotel housekeepers.
Qn: According to the same Randstad survey mentioned earlier on, 68% of Singaporeans yearn for more attractive salary benefits when looking for a new job . To meet this, the hospitality industry has adopted a progressive wage model to increase workers’ wages through upskilling and higher productivity in line with the guidelines published by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) . BUTLER also believes in upskilling its workers to tackle wage inequality — what do you think of BUTLER’s dedication to upskilling and training its workers?
Sheikh: I believe that this gives everyone an equal opportunity to learn — everyone can learn as long as they are willing to. BUTLER’s training is specific and focused, ensuring that training is adequate and relevant, giving you more opportunities for you to grow. I will have to admit, the BUTLER team is also very open-minded, encouraging critical thinking and idea-sharing. BUTLER in itself is a platform for equal opportunity for everyone to learn from the day you first join the company, regardless at any age, gender or experience.
Qn: Lastly, what is some advice you would like to give to all the job-seekers out there, especially those who are hoping to join the local hospitality industry?
Sheikh: If you have drive, open-mindedness, passion and want to enjoy a healthy work-life balance with your family over the weekends, this may be the place for you. It is a dynamic environment to work in with a good place to spread your wings, stretch out — try different things. Enjoy the journey. BUTLER is a place for you to grow and develop. Realise your potential here!
If you are looking to join the local hospitality industry, look no further than BUTLER because we are currently hiring! Join us today and become part of a vibrant team that is on a mission to change the way people live.