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Excellence in Multi-Family Construction and Facilities

RELEASED ON 4/3/24

Adrian and Jospeh delve into how Shane Nemmers spearheads Venterra Realty’s strategic growth and sustainability, overseeing a diverse 25,000-unit portfolio across seven states.

[Intro Voiceover] (0:00 - 0:22) Welcome to Multifamily X podcast series, Masters of Multifamily Maintenance Conversations. Ready to engage in essential dialogues exploring the multifamily universe alongside top industry leaders? Join us as we explore fundamental conversations for the multifamily space.

Let's dive in.

[Adrian Danila] (0:23 - 1:12) Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of Multifamily X podcast, Masters of Maintenance. Today's podcast is possible thanks to our friends from AppWork, our sponsor. I'm your host Adrian Danila and today my co-host is Joseph Mac.

We want to welcome our guest for today. Our guest for today is Shane Nemers. Shane is the Vice President of Construction and Facilities at Ventera Realty.

Welcome to the show, Shane. Thanks for having me, Adrian and Joseph. It's a pleasure to be here.

Shane, I want to start by asking you to share a little bit of all your journey in property management. Well, all of it, really. We want to.

So just walk us through your journey in property management. How did you start in property management? How did you start in maintenance?

And then how your career progressed?

[Shane Nemmers] (1:12 - 23:14) I was doing HVAC work and commercial refrigeration, both industrial, doing new construction, doing service-related calls and whatnot. My journey into multifamily was supposed to just be a stop, quite frankly. The ebbs and flows of the HVAC industry, you're working 70 hours or you're working 30 hours in terms of trying to become more of an even flow and a budgetary consistency.

I answered an ad in a newspaper that a property was looking for a maintenance tech who had HVAC background and could also do renovations right on my house. I applied. I got the job.

It was with Waterton Residential, and that was in 2001. I quickly was moved from a technician doing just the HVAC work and doing some of the renovation work to overseeing that whole process. I quickly started overseeing all the HVAC work.

This was like a 630-unit property, so it was a kind of large property, and the renovation work. So I had those teams scheduling those teams. It was really exciting in nature.

I thought, wow, this is pretty cool. That took about a year or so, and that project started winding down. So just in my head, I was getting nervous again.

I actually went back to HVAC work for about three months, and Waterton called me, and they were getting ready to purchase a property, another large property, about 750-unit property. They called me and wanted me to oversee the whole game, to come in and be the service manager, oversee not only the unit renovations, but all the exterior cabinets. So I thought, hey, awesome.

I did that. I came back to Waterton. I actually spent about 13 years with Waterton, and that trajectory in my career was just amazing.

I can't say enough to Waterton. I mean, they gave me an opportunity after opportunity after opportunity. So going back to that 750-unit property took a couple years for that to come to fruition, and we wrapped up all the interior and exterior projects that were in that capital budget.

And then they offered me a position as a regional, what we call the capital expenditures manager who oversees the HVAC projects. So I did that, and then I reported to, at the time, we had a vice president of construction. He was an amazing guy.

He taught me a lot just in terms of how he planned things and how he looked at things through his lens. He was a really good individual, and he would always tell me, he said, you know, I can build anything, he said, but maintaining it takes a special breed. And I always took that to heart, right?

Because from a maintenance perspective, we're, you know, jacks of all trades, and sometimes masters of none, and we have to know enough about everything to get us by, right? So I always took that to heart. Fast forward, he ended up taking another position in another company.

Waterton elevated my position to what they called the national maintenance manager. So I oversaw all of maintenance for our whole thing. About that time, we were close to, I don't know, 27,000, 28,000 units for Waterton.

So we were pretty large and growing at that time. And that would have been about 2005, 2006. And then with him retiring, we had like a regional element of HVAC work, and every region was kind of doing their own thing after he left.

And after a year of taking the maintenance level of our company and making sure everybody was doing things consistently, setting up purchasing programs, setting up preventive maintenance programs, all those things that were, again, kind of one-off in nature and everybody doing what they felt best. We brought them consistency and even some technology at that point. You know, we put things online and we had digital checklists and stuff.

That was really cool. We created a scorecard so each and every regional maintenance manager could go in and rate their profits, and then we would reward accordingly, right? So every quarter, we had a reward for the highest score, et cetera, et cetera.

So that was just a way of recognizing a job well done, which was fantastic. The consistencies we created with maintenance and the inconsistencies we were having in CapEx, I was given a new role as National Capital Program Manager. And I oversaw both CapEx and maintenance, which was really cool.

And developed some of those similar traits for the CapEx world, as we already had established for the maintenance world. Waterton was predominantly garbage sale. Come 2008, right around when the time the economy was getting ready to tank, Waterton purchased in Chicago presidential towers.

Give you a quick oversight of presidential towers. It's like 2,346 units. It's four 50-story towers.

Takes up two city blocks. At the time, we didn't take one bite of the elephant. We swallowed the whole elephant at one time.

That was a new endeavor for us. I learned a whole lot from that experience. Waterton also, they ended up buying many high rises in downtown Chicago, in New York.

They fenced it up. It was a great experience. And my trajectory actually changed after.

We got through that time of the economy. So fast forward to 2010, 2011. Presidential towers was purchased in 2008, 2009.

And it was going along well. And we refunded. We were going to dump all this capital money into interior unit renovation, mechanical systems, common areas.

So I took a position that was, instead of it being a national position, I then went to presidential towers. And I was basically the operations team. So that was a huge undertaking.

I love that because we flew in condensing units up onto the roofs. And then in 2014, I decided to go in a different direction. And at the time, Riverstone was still around.

This was right before they got purchased by Graystar. And I joined them as a regional maintenance manager. And I had responsibility for the Midwest division and the Southeast division.

If you figure there's 52 weeks in the year, you're traveling every week, right? You're only seeing the property once if you're lucky. But it was a really good experience.

And then, like I said, about a year after being with Riverstone, not even a year, twice a month, we were bought by Graystar. So then with Graystar, Graystar at that time really didn't have a regional maintenance component. But purchasing Riverstone, they were able to establish it.

And we did establish it. And I was in a position where I was able to work with the folks that were transitioning from Riverstone to Graystar and the folks that were already at Graystar. We created a new dynamic.

And then I was also given the opportunity, because of my construction background, to oversee construction. And I still had the Midwest and the Southeast. But then I also had the mountains.

So I was over in Colorado, where they had a central office, as Riverstone had a central office in Colorado. And then Graystar took that over and grew that exponentially, quite frankly. But my time with Graystar, again, great, great experience.

Met a lot of people, worked with a lot of people. Fantastic organization. A completely different dynamic, though.

When you're working for a third party, you've got 50 different bosses, right? Because every investor, every owner, they want an equal amount of your time. They want to pick up the phone, and you have to be available.

You really have to put in the time. Again, when you're spreading out over those time zones, you're always starting early, and you're always staying up late. It was probably 2016, and I went to Buckingham companies out of Indianapolis.

Quite a shift in dynamic. When Graystar bought Riverstone, they went from like 250,000 units all the way up to 500,000 units, where they grew like double the size of right now. They're close to 100,000 units by now, because they're international and everything.

But when I joined Buckingham, they were right around 10,000. And I was given a position of vice president of construction, GAPEX, we called it, and facilities. So again, doing what I really like to do, which is both the construction and GAPEX side and the facility side.

And again, had the opportunity of developing some systems and making us more efficient as a maintenance team, but then also creating training systems and what we call pathways to success, and taking technicians and giving them a path forward. Trying to get into the minds of the maintenance folks that this is a career. It's not just a job.

It's a career. As you all well know that there's many instances where maintenance folks don't ship for $0.25 an hour, right? You're thinking, wow, I mean, there's 2,080 hours in a year, and that $0.25 doesn't add up to a whole lot. I've established programs where we work, train the individuals, and we invest through ownership. I've been really blessed to have good owners, including with Ventera right now, where we've created a similar path point with Buckingham. With Buckingham, I was there for, oh, four years.

Really loved it. Again, we grew from 10,000 to about 14,000 units. They are a developer by trade.

In fact, that owner, Brad Chambers, he's now running for the governor of Indiana. He developed properties, took them out of the ground, and then decided, okay, I need a property management company now to manage these. He went that route where he was a developer and construction guy, and then went into property management, and then created that aspect.

They're a wonderful company. But I left them, actually got an opportunity to come down to Florida where I'm at now. I live in Orlando, and I joined a military housing called Corbius, Corbius Military Housing.

We had Army and Air Force bases. I'll tell you, I never served this country, but it was a wonderful opportunity to serve those who serve our country. It was fantastic.

I get to meet so many individuals that just, I mean, what they do on a daily basis is completely different than what you and I go through. Tip my hat and thank them for their service. That was a little different, though, because those Army and Air Force bases, they're set up a little bit differently.

They're a lot like single-family homes and duplexes and quads, so you've got like a city that's actually operating like a city because you've got a guard and you've got a fence going around it. You're actually operating a city within the compound, right? We were just the housing side.

That was a very interesting step in my career. I learned a lot, but I was only there a short time because, unfortunately, when COVID came, there were some changes made with Corbius, and many of us higher-level folks that were in the organization were let go, which I get it. I understand.

It's a business, right? It's all business, and COVID didn't help anybody in terms of operating, right? Even the military, on that standpoint, and that's when I was blessed to have an opportunity to work for Prime Residential.

Prime Residential is strictly West Coast. I still lived in Orlando. Give you a little brief history of my personal life.

My wife and I are still in Orlando. We have custody of our two grandsons. They are 14 and 10, legal court-appointed custody and truly blessed to be able to have a position that we can provide for them, but I was going back and forth to the West Coast.

My wife was staying here, doing all the things that she had to do to take care of them, so I would be gone for four or five weeks at a time, which was very difficult. The Wonderful Opportunity Prime is a fantastic organization. In fact, they own one of the largest complexes in the United States.

I think it's the second-largest multifamily complex in the United States. It's called Park La Brea in LA. Most of the 4,000 units, it's got 12 mid-rises that are 12 stories tall, and then it's got a bunch of two-story walk-up type things, and that was actually developed in the 1920s and 30s for when the folks from World War I, and then it was expanded upon in the 40s and World War II when the folks were coming back from the war.

It was developed strictly for military housing that weren't necessarily in the military anymore. They're coming back from the war, and then it found its historic point with the movie stars, because in the 50s and 60s, the movie stars started living there, so it kind of got its name for that, and today, it still has a historic nature, which is really kind of cool, but some of those buildings actually have wooden guns, which tells you how old it is and how difficult it becomes in maintaining things like that.

You're held to some of those historic requirements, but very cool, nonetheless. I did that, and then obviously, it got very taxing on my wife and I when I was offered this position with Venterra. I took it.

They're based out of Houston. We are about 25,000 units right now, and we are in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. We have a very large footprint in the Houston and the Dallas and the San Antonio markets, and then we're in Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, Daytona, and then Atlanta, Lexington, and then Nashville.

On my team, I'll go into my team a little bit, too, on what I actually do and what I oversee. I kind of gave you a history. Our owners are fantastic.

So our owners were actually technology. They were technology by trade. They developed software in the 90s.

They sold software in the 90s, and then they started buying properties in the 2000s. So in terms of property management companies, still pretty young. John Peresi and Andrew Stewart are our two owners and founders.

Fantastic guys. And John will always tell us, we're growing, and we grew a lot in a short amount of time, but he always emphasizes that growth doesn't give you great. You don't grow and then get great.

Your greatness brings growth. That just instills kind of how we operate and how we roll because we don't have real true responsibility to a fund or anything like that. He goes out, and they raise money.

They raise capital. We don't have to spend X amount of dollars in any one given year. But like in this past year, we purchased seven properties last year, and they were all newer development properties from developers who had aspirations of developing these deals and then getting rid of them at a high price point because they're mercantile builders.

And that's what they do. They don't operate. They lease them up to a certain point, and they get rid of them.

They weren't because of interest rates and the economy and everything else. They weren't getting what they were asking for. And most of those deals we bid on initially, and then we weren't in the final, but then they never came to fruition as a sale.

So months and months later, they all came back to us. And then because of our ability to close, the brokers know that. The developers know that.

We were getting deals when a lot of folks weren't, which is fantastic. To give you a little bit about my team, I have 29 individuals on my team. That includes our GAPX folks.

That includes two directors, our admin team, and our project managers who are in the field. The facilities team, I have a director of facility, actually a senior director of facilities. And then he has seven regional maintenance managers who are on our team.

I have an engineer, and then he has one person on his team. I have design services. He is a director of design, and she has one designer who helps her in everything that we do from a design standpoint.

And when I say a design standpoint, that includes all things, unit renovation, exterior, we're doing a clubhouse, or we're doing a pool area. They have their fingerprints all over them in terms of selecting those materials and those finishes and whatnot. We just recently brought on to our team a chief financial officer.

I was overseeing procurement, but it made much more sense for now for procurement to go to the finance team. So my first year here, we had procurement. I had a director of procurement, but now he is with our chief financial officer, which makes much more sense in terms of the big picture.

We are completely responsible for our CapEx project. Last year, we spent about $26 million on CapEx projects. That translates to about 630 projects of various nature.

We are doing unit renovations. We just started doing, with our facilities team now, we're doing unit renovations. Our regional maintenance managers oversee the unit renovations.

And then like in the case where we're starting to get an appetite for occupied unit renovations, it's kind of a twofold thing, right? So we started doing it. We had an opportunity to bring in hard-surface countertops in the kitchens and the bathrooms, and then change those plumbing fixtures and the shutoff valve and all that.

So we did that, and we're doing it occupied. It's working out fantastic. There was a lot of hesitation and angst in the beginning because people were like, we've never done that before.

It's crazy. You're out of your mind. After we started getting going and we had that communication and our marketing team was awesome because they're the ones that create those communications that go out to the residents and they're selling it.

So before we even get to that particular unit, they've already been communicated to, they've already been sold on how great this is going to be. So from a marketing perspective, our team is phenomenal. We would not be able to do these occupied unit renovations without them.

And then obviously the onsite team, they're the ones that live it and breathe it every day. They're knocking it out of the park. We're actually going faster than we thought we were.

We're getting, from a resident feedback standpoint, the residents are absolutely excited about it. They're looking forward to it. All that angst and anxiety is now coupled with applause and let's do this some more.

So that's exciting. And then two of the new deals that we got this past year, there was an issue with tub and shower surrounds. So we had to go back and unfortunately we had to go back and put in some of the units that didn't use the correct backer board on the tile.

So we had to go back in and correct it. So that's a little bit different from a marketing perspective because we're not upgrading. It's a brand new property, right?

So now we have residents who moved in because it's a brand new property. And then, oh, by the way, we got to come and tear out a shower wall and put up a very similar looking tile. So it's going to look relatively the same.

But we're doing that. And again, because of the way we communicate with our marketing team, our on-site team, we are, in this case, giving the residents a concession for the inconvenience, obviously, but that gets residents on board and they understand. So from an occupied standpoint, we are now, I wouldn't call us well versed, but we're more versed than we were a year ago, right?

And we're in a good position, right? So now we're underwriting things and plans to take us to that next level. From a maintenance perspective as well, the seven regional maintenance managers have kind of dotted line supervision currently to the maintenance managers.

So again, we are doing everything we can from an investment standpoint into our individuals in the field and our maintenance technicians. And that's through training, that's through making sure that there is a true pathways to success that they can be in. And it's a process and it's a program and there's a start time and there's an end time to it.

But that just gives them that sense of being put into a position that if an opportunity comes around, they are now much more qualified. And you made a quote the other day, Adrian, I saw it on LinkedIn and I say this all the time where that person asks you, why are we spending all this money on training these people? And the comment is, well, what if we don't?

What if we spend all this money on training these people and they decide to leave? And your comment is, well, what if we don't spend the money and they stay? That's a very true statement.

And we try to live by that. So we try to better our folks because the better they are, the better we're going to be, the better everything's going to be for the resident experience. So we've invested in that.

We've also invested in tools. And we're trying to do that to alleviate some of the turnover. They talk again about people leaving for 25 cents, et cetera, et cetera.

And that's industry wide. That's not a very specific thing. That's industry wide.

Everybody feels it and sees it every day. So we're trying to establish other methods of that investment, right? So at the end of this year, we rolled out the tool bag.

So we partnered with Lowe's and we got backpacks that are specifically designed to carry tools. And then we fill that backpack with tools, X amount of dollars for each person at each level. And then the person can pick out those tools.

It's not necessarily a standard. Here you go. The person gets like an allowance and they go on our website and they can pick out those specific tools that they want or they need.

And then it's got the Ventara logo on again, working with marketing and Lowe's. And we got our logos on these backpacks. We got a little QR code on the backpack to do that.

If the maintenance technician has an idea in the field, he or she hits that QR code and they can put it right in. They can put the idea right in and it goes right to our system. It's awesome.

They can even speak to it in their phone, right? And they can, they don't have to type. They can speak to it and then it translates it and sends it out.

So just from a technology standpoint, we're just trying to make ourselves as efficient as possible and trying to capture everything we can from our team. They're our reason for success.

[Joseph Knaack] (23:14 - 23:33) What a journey. Thank you for sharing that. You know, a lot of different roles and positions.

So looking back at all the different roles, which transition and roles created the most growth to prepare you for the role you're in now?

[Shane Nemmers] (23:33 - 25:18) That's an excellent question. It's also a very hard question because I got to look at each one of them as an opportunity that allowed me to grow, that makes me who I am today, right? So like at Waterton, I had half a dozen different positions in the 13 years I was there and every position was like a new transition with the same company, just a little bit different.

But still, again, a new transition and lots of learning. Every step along the way, Riverstone to Greystock to Buckingham, Prime Residential to Ventura where I'm at today, every opportunity has had its different opportunities, different learning aspects. With Ventura right now, I'm very excited to be here again.

I can't say enough about the ownership group, you know, because they're in technology and because they came from where they came from, they also realize that it's okay to fail. It's okay to make a mistake. It's okay to pick yourself back up because when you're doing those things and you make that mistake, you're learning something.

Because you took yourself out of that comfort zone, that's the biggest challenge to anybody in some cases, just getting somebody to get out of their comfort zone. And to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. And it's like, what if I fail?

Well, if you fail, we're going to learn. We were in a meeting the other day and my boss said, you know, Thomas Edison said that he didn't fail a thousand times to create the light bulb. He learned a thousand ways not to make the light bulb.

It goes with our everyday thing. We're not making mistakes, we're not learning. And I can say I've got 20 plus years of experience in this industry and I tell this to my team all the time.

Yeah, I have that experience, but that means that I've made the mistakes. So now I can help you learn without making the mistakes. And if we do make a mistake along the way, it's okay, because I've made plenty of them along the way.

[Intro Voiceover] (25:19 - 25:22) And now a word from Sean Landsberg, co-founder Appwork.

[Adrian Danila] (25:23 - 25:40) The ideal experience from an end user perspective is the Uber experience. What I mean by that is that you put the app in the hands of anyone who would know how to video, they should be able to figure it out and order an Uber. How is that Appwork providing that type of Uber experience for maintenance?

[Sean Landsberg] (25:40 - 26:35) We've done a lot of research behind each and every end user of the product, whether it's your property manager, your leasing agent, your regional manager, your maintenance supervisor, and your maintenance technician. And we did a lot of research behind them. And for example, the app is used by maintenance supervisors and maintenance technicians.

So we have to build a profile around them, who they are, how they think, how they're going to interact with the app. And we have to design it in a way that requires little to no training. Like you said, we use Uber as our model.

Aside from incorporating features, such as reviews and other really cool components to the Uber style, it was designed behind the same concept of Uber, whereas when somebody goes to call an Uber to take them from point A to point B, there's no how-to videos or even instructions. Oh, hey, let's teach you how to use Uber. It's you download the app and you know how to use it.

So that was the same thing for us. We use that from a design perspective. We need this to be as simple as it is to call an Uber.

[Adrian Danila] (26:38 - 26:54) For those of us that look up to someone like you, for those in the industry that are desiring to move up into their organization to become Shane one day, what are some great pieces of advice that you would have for those? Make sure that you surround yourself with the best people.

[Shane Nemmers] (26:54 - 28:02) Make sure that you are always learning. You need to learn and you need to laugh and you need to love every day. When you do those things, your personal life will take care of itself and your professional life will take care of itself.

When you surround yourself with the best people, they're going to learn, you're going to learn. You're all going to feel comfortable being uncomfortable and you're all going to feel comfortable learning from the mistakes and getting better at what you do. In doing that, you have to let everybody at the table, right?

Everybody comes to the table. Everybody's comfortable at the table. Everybody knows that they're going to be heard.

The key for when you get that promotion, you're going to learn a lot more with your ears than you are with your mouth. You've got to be open. You can't dismiss things.

You've got to take it to heart and you've got to listen. You've got to be willing to sometimes take a chance on whether that's a person, whether that's a process, whether that's a product, and then own it. I would say that too.

You've got to own it because you're going to make a mistake and own it.

[Joseph Knaack] (28:02 - 28:17) Don't throw anybody under the bus. How has mentorship in all your roles played pivotal in your career development and can you share some instances where a mentor really had a significant impact on your path?

[Shane Nemmers] (28:17 - 30:46) We try to instill that today, especially on the maintenance side, right? So whether you call it a buddy system or a mentorship system, it's basically the same thing. We're trying to get people better.

We're trying to get people who are more seasoned with people that are more new to it. I had so many mentors along the way, both in kind of a mechanical and planning and construction facilities role, but then also those that I was blessed to have people that I reported to take me under their wing, right? So chief operating officers, executive vice presidents, and all the different places that I've been at.

I was blessed to have a report that would take me under their wing and not only give me clear expectations in terms of what they expected, but also gave me insight and advice on how to get there. I could come to them and say, look, I'm struggling with this. And we would talk through it.

Kind of going back to the first question, when you get that promotion, you've got to also be that mentor to those that report to you. But then you also have to be able to go and ask those questions and go to somebody, whether that's in your company or outside your company. I mean, so many relationships that I have are maintained from many, many, many, many years ago.

It's just amazing. It's hard, again, to kind of quantify it and single out one or two separate things because there have been so, so many of them. And again, to talk about giving a chance, right?

So going back to Waterton, I was given a chance. I was given an opportunity. I found myself in positions where I've been able to extend that to others and not only be that mentor for them, but also show them and give them an opportunity that they may not have gotten.

That's also, in terms of mentorship, that's kind of also how I measure my own success is by looking at not only the success of my team, as a team, that truly is success, but at the individuals that make up the team, because everybody's got their own story and their own trajectory. And when I can help them along their way, that is a success. Whether they stay with, like in this case, Venterra, or whether they move on to something else, if I know in my heart that I helped them get there, I'm going to applaud them from the side because that's the best way that I can be their mentor is just supporting them, allowing them to flourish in their role.

[Adrian Danila] (30:46 - 30:59) Who were or are the most inspirational people in your life, the people that affect your life in the most positive way in work and in life in general?

[Shane Nemmers] (30:59 - 32:02) In life in general, the most important, there's two women, my mom and my wife. I've only been married once. We've been married.

We've been together for 23 years, married for 21. The grandkids that I have are a result of her sticking by me. Again, I went from Chicago.

We were in Chicago all of our lives, and we went to Indianapolis, and then we came down to Orlando. She came with me every step of the way. She allowed me to do what I felt I needed to do for my career to better ourselves, and she followed me all the way, and she stood behind me.

Yeah, we talked about it, and we would have conversations, but she was behind me 100%. My mom, same way. Talk about making mistakes.

I've made plenty of mistakes in my younger years. But just that support and knowing that it's unconditional, right? I think you probably saw my dog in the background running around a little bit.

A dog shows you unconditional love. How many people can you say in your life that give you unconditional love, right? That's what I can tell you definitively about my wife, and my mom, and my kids.

[Adrian Danila] (32:04 - 32:48) That means so much. Yeah, I love the unconditional part, and I also love when pets are coming into the picture, because this is what it's all about. It's life, right?

We don't try to sanitize here anything. We're just trying to show life real the way it is. So I'm actually very excited when I see a pet here and there.

You know, one time I had a cat that actually came, like, jumped on a desk of my guest and ran in front of—and I don't do editing. It's supposed to be this way. Like, we don't want to make life look, you know, any different than what it is.

These are real conversations, you know, very natural, organic. So I love when I see the pets coming into the picture. Yeah, no, it's awesome.

That's awesome.

[Shane Nemmers] (32:49 - 33:54) In any position, you know, when you have a responsibility authority, there's sometimes you have to have difficult conversations with people, right? And you're trying to make them better. You're trying to get them to see things.

I mean, I go back into my career, and I actually had an executive vice president who I reported to who was very, you know, frank with me. I let a couple things slip, and she called me out on it. You know, at the end of the day, I ended up thanking her for it, and I was better for it.

You know, there's times where you got to have that difficult conversation, and you've got to put aside any type of personal relationship, and it becomes, this is really what's going on here. And if you're not seeing it, you need to see it, because we need to do this, and you're doing this, and let's not do that. It's hard to single out one specific thing, but I just look back, and I've just been truly blessed with the people that I've reported to, having ownership groups that I've been under, and then having teams that ultimately report to me that I've just been truly blessed with, and I can't say enough about.

[Joseph Knaack] (33:54 - 34:17) It's amazing, your journey, as you explain it, starting from HVAC technician and creating this amazing career in multifamily, what are some pieces of advice that you'd give to someone on the fence, thinking about popping into multifamily, but doesn't know where to begin, but has a skill that's really needed, specifically in our maintenance field right now?

[Shane Nemmers] (34:18 - 35:43) I would say that, think about the fact that it's the apartment industry, right? And everybody needs a place to live. If you don't like the mundane, and you like doing something different every day, this is the place to be, because every day is different.

You're going to talk to people you never thought you'd talk to. You're going to meet people. You're going to meet people's pets.

You're going to meet individuals who are sometimes not having the best day, and you're going to be able to maybe make their day. This is a fantastic industry, right? And there's just so much to learn.

There's so many opportunities. This is such a large industry, but it's so small. It's such a small industry for how large it really is.

And when you think about the players in the industry, and you think about the people in the industry, it's amazing. You're going to make so many relationships that you'll cherish for the rest of your life. You're going to just have an opportunity that you're not going to have in other industries if you choose multifamily.

From growth and opportunity to training, I know so many individuals that started in maintenance and ended up going to leasing, ended up going to regional manager positions. I know folks that have done it the opposite way, where they started in leasing, but they really liked maintenance, and they found their ways to become a manager. In fact, my senior director of facilities started out in leasing.

It's a wonderful place to be, really. It truly is. And I would choose multifamily.

[Adrian Danila] (35:44 - 35:51) We're on for a short period of time. At least that's what I believe. So I want to talk about legacy.

How do you want to be remembered?

[Shane Nemmers] (35:52 - 37:52) Giving people that report to me and giving people around me that opportunity to become successful. If someone has a trajectory that takes them in a growth pattern, I'm going to be on the sidelines applauding. I'm going to stand back and I'm going to say to myself, I'm going to say, okay, this person started here, we did all these things, and now they're up here.

And that's fantastic. Having successes and having failures as a group, understanding that it's okay to fail and learning from our failures. If I'm remembered as one who allowed that to happen, then that's all I can ask for, because I ask that from all of those that report to me, that they treat their teams in a similar way, and that we strive for the same goals, and that we have to support all of our people.

And sometimes that means you need to go down a level or two to understand what's happening. So for me, I get true enjoyment out of visiting sites and walking with the groundskeeper and the term tech and the service tech and understanding not only their personal life, but what's taking them, why do they show up for work and what motivates them? What do they want as their next step?

And some folks are just comfortable where they're at, and you try to push them a little bit and get them to want more, and that's good too. But again, I want to be remembered for supporting those individuals, again, listening. If somebody can say, yeah, he was very approachable, and I could go and talk to him about anything, that's what I'll do.

I've been blessed with some very large teams, and that's all I can ask for, is that they feel that I treated them fairly, good, bad, or otherwise. Again, sometimes those conversations are difficult, but at the end of the day, I'm going to treat everybody fairly, and I'm going to listen to them. And even if we agree to disagree, we're going to walk away from that table in lockstep with one another.

[Joseph Knaack] (37:53 - 38:23) I've been on the supplier side for two years now, but you're inspiring me to hop over to the maintenance side for you. Honestly, you seem like a great leader to work under. One of the questions I had is, Ventera is tech forward, so I love hearing that.

What are some of the technologies that you're using for your maintenance team to streamline efficiencies and create just a better workload experience for both the resident and the employee?

[Shane Nemmers] (38:23 - 40:10) In true fashion of our founders, John and Andrew, we have our own proprietary property management software. It's called M-CASA. It's like a yardie, it's like a real pig, but it's proprietary.

We have what's for our maintenance team, we have what's called Pocket M-CASA. On their phone, they can get their work orders. They can do all those things that the big yardies and the real pages have with their cell phone stuff.

We have that as well. And we like to think it's a little more intuitive, just because of what our folks can do. They can get that next work order, they can put it in as it's completed.

We are obviously trying to enhance that because I think that's one of the biggest opportunities left in our arena is technology and how that technology becomes more predictive in nature, which allows us to be more proactive in nature. So we are working on those types of things right now. And I'll go back to that kind of correlation between the high-rise and mid-rise environment and even the industrial environment, and then the garden-style environment.

In those kind of plant-type applications, you have the BASs, right? From a proactive standpoint, you have building automated systems, which give you the health status and monitors the health of your mechanical equipment. We're in the garden-style atmosphere or the arena.

We don't really have it because each unit is its own individual plant, right? You've got a condenser unit, an air unit, or a water unit. How do we get that technology now to become more predictive in nature for a 300-unit property that has 300 small plants?

We're working on those things very aggressively, and we're hoping to bring that to the forefront to make us much more efficient at what we do.

[Joseph Knaack] (40:10 - 40:35) There's a lot of nice and shiny, beautiful technology solutions out there. It's easy to get sold on the idea of it working. It's an interesting perspective because I never knew Venterra was a tech-forward company before this conversation.

It makes sense why they have the centralized leasing platform, the website. That seems like it has a downstream effect for you positively, right?

[Shane Nemmers] (40:35 - 42:12) Absolutely. That was the big lift over the past couple of years is that centralized leasing effort. That's the big talking point in the industry is the centralization, whether it's the inside house, which is the leasing, or the outside house, which is the maintenance.

Companies are trying to utilize, whether that's a product that they're buying, how they're trying to do it, how they're positioning themselves, how they're either taking things on a more regional basis. We're taking the elephant one bite at a time. We're starting with the leasing side of it, and we're going to see how that transcends.

We can do that with maintenance. It's going to be a whole lot different with maintenance than it is with leasing, I believe. When you get into those types of platforms, we've got to ensure from a maintenance perspective that all those mobile leasing efforts, whether that's the access control, whether that's the amenity spaces, however that prospect is going to get from A to B to C within the community, has to be operationalized.

You can't settle for 90% efficiency, right? Because that means one prospect out of 10 had a failure. Whether that was an access device that didn't work or something, you can't live with it.

We've really got to hone in and make this work from the leasing efforts. In the background, we are working on the what-ifs around maintenance and looking at things and maybe even pilot a few things here and there. But we're definitely taking this at a pace that allows us to make some small mistakes or mistakes at a smaller level and then learn from them before we roll it out portfolio-wide.

[Adrian Danila] (42:12 - 42:26) Let's look ahead a little bit. Let's talk about things that you see as biggest challenges and also opportunities for us as an industry in 2024 and beyond that.

[Shane Nemmers] (42:26 - 44:49) I think one of our bigger challenges, like in the immediate, right here, right now, 2024, we've got more new products coming out of the ground or buying this year than forever. It's like a record-setting year with a number of units coming online this year in 2024. Couple that with the economy and a lot of the underwriting models calling for rents up here when the actuality is the rents are down here.

So from an operational perspective, properties aren't necessarily cash-flowing as they were underwritten because of the economic conditions. So those challenges as operators and maintenance folks, we now have to be very cognizant of that with our efficiencies and with our cost prudence, having those responsibilities. But the opportunities surrounding those, we get through 2024, there's not a whole lot in terms of production of new units left, right?

Because they're all coming out this year, 2024. So in 2025, that's going to be a completely one-eighth. There's still going to be things coming out of the ground but not delivered in 2025, right?

So now we're going to have that surplus again. Hopefully, the economy bounces back and interest rates come down and things become more lucrative in terms of that aspect. But then because of the challenges we've had operationally, we'll be able to continue to operate at that more efficient mode, right?

And then I think it'll be really good for everyone. I would say another challenge to that from a maintenance perspective is how the EPA finalizes the HVAC transition to our 454B, I believe it is. Which has a chemical makeup that includes propane and butane and it's highly flammable.

And there's different requirements around new construction and there's different requirements now around single one-off replacements. So I think, again, kind of turning the clock back to when the R22 was phased out and 410A came in and people actually, instead of replacing that condenser unit, they started replacing the compressor components. I think we're going to be back to that, which to me is we can be efficient and again, I go back to cost prudence.

And if we can replace that compressor and keep that thing going and not have to do a whole change out, we're doing what's proper.

[Joseph Knaack] (44:49 - 45:09) You touched on your maintenance training at Venterra. How does that get built out when the new hire comes on board? Is it like 30, 60, 90, 120, 180, 365 kind of plan?

Or is it what are your expectations or what do you want and then you work backwards? That's an excellent question.

[Shane Nemmers] (45:09 - 46:47) So we have different types of training modules for people coming in on the new. And I didn't mention this earlier, but it's a good segue into this. We just partnered with Interplay Learning, which is the virtual training.

So if you have the VR goggles, you can actually be like you're right at that condensing unit or that water heater. Or you can be on the computer. Different places have different things.

And sometimes people bring their own device to kind of make the experience even that much better. But we have those types of training things that are part of the ombud. The pathways to success is a little bit different in that you have to want to apply for that.

And then you have to go to who you report to. And that person who you report to has to nominate you for the program. We only run it a single time during the course of the year, right?

It's kind of an annual thing because it takes us that long to go through it. But then it's the individuals that truly want to be in the program. So two different types of things.

Everybody gets the onboarding and the 30, 60, 90, 120-day type of thing, and then the follow-ups. And then again, people are coming in a different level, right? Because if people are coming in with universal certificates or type 2 certificates from HVAC, they've already come in at a higher level, right?

We also do one of our RMMs teaches a monthly CPO class because he's a proxy. So not only do we have internal proxies for the CFC certification, we also have it for the CPO. We offer those classes typically monthly, but it's provided in-house by one of our regional maintenance managers.

And then the people have to actually sign up for those courses.

[Adrian Danila] (46:47 - 47:12) Shane, thank you for taking the time with us. Thank you for the amazing conversation. Thank you for the wisdom and insights that you shared with us today.

Any final words? Anything that you want to add in concluding our meeting, our conversation today? You want to answer any question you wish I would have asked and I didn't get an opportunity to, or anything that you'd like to say?

[Shane Nemmers] (47:13 - 47:41) I'll just close out by thanking you, Adrian, thanking you, Joseph, for this amazing time. The time went so fast. So I really appreciate your hospitality.

I appreciate the invite. I actually look forward to seeing this as it comes out and as it's aired. And I want to thank you for all you've done for the industry, whether that's Multifamily Chronicles or Multifamily X, I thank you for all you've done.

[Adrian Danila] (47:42 - 47:56) I appreciate it. Thank you for your kind words and for your support. Of course, you're on mute.

It's kind of like the most common thing. If you're not on mute one time during one hour conversation, you haven't done it right. Joseph, any final words, sir?

[Joseph Knaack] (47:57 - 48:26) No, nothing other than wow, like really amazed at what you have put together at Ventura, the type of leader you are and the mindset you cultivate. And also a lot of respect for you taking in your grandkids. I was adopted by my grandparents, so I totally know how that is in that household structure.

So a lot of respect to you and what your family built and you have built personally and professionally. Thank you, Joseph. I appreciate that.

[Adrian Danila] (48:26 - 48:56) And yeah, your grandparents did a good job. Thank you. Everybody, thank you so much for watching another episode of Multifamily X podcast, Masters of Maintenance.

I'm your host, Adrian Danila. Joseph, my co-host. And I want to thank again, Shane Nemers for being our esteemed guest today.

I also want to thank our sponsors from AppWork. They made this broadcast possible. We hope to see you back here soon.

Have an amazing day. Thank you, guys. We'll see you.