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The Importance of Relationships in Multifamily Maintenance


Transformative Power of Technology
Electronic Locks: A Game-Changer
A National Forum for Maintenance Leaders
Building Maintenance Leaders
Employee Retention Strategies
Hustle, Vision, and Flexibility
Growing with Unwavering Support

Jason Fein, National Maintenance Services Director with Camden Property Trust, discusses key topics in multifamily maintenance, including relationship building, implementing technology, building leaders, and advice for young adults.

[Adrian] (0:22 - 1:14) Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of Multifamily X podcast, Masters of Maintenance. This podcast is followed by AppWork. Our friends from AppWork, we want to thank them for their partnership.

AppWork, if you don't know who AppWork is, I strongly encourage you to check out AppWork's website and see the great solutions that they're offering for maintenance, management, and for time-saving solutions for your maintenance teams. With that being said, I'm going to go ahead and introduce our guest for today, Jason Fein. Jason is the National Maintenance Services Director with Camden Property Trust.

Welcome to the show, Jason. Hey, Adrian. Jason, for those in the audience that don't know you or don't know all of you, please tell us a little bit about your background, a little bit about your journey in multifamily.

[Jason] (1:15 - 2:17) I started off in the multifamily industry after a brief period of working in the construction field. I was living in an apartment complex, and the manager asked me if I wanted to be a maintenance tech, and that's how I got into it. I haven't gotten out of it.

It's been a great career. I've had a lot of opportunities and growth, and I had the chance to be a project manager for our rehab. I had a chance to be a facility manager and do capital projects, and now I am the National Maintenance Services Director with Camden.

My role is to help support the onsite teams, the people that mean the most to our company, because they're out there taking care of the residents and making sure the property looks awesome. I enjoy what I do. I enjoy being able to find opportunities, and I enjoy speaking about it.

This is the second time you and I have been able to get together and talk. I've got my own podcast, the How to Speak Maintenance, with the Texas Apartment Association. Every opportunity that I have, I like to talk about maintenance and how we can be better or how we can support our people.

[Adrian] (2:18 - 2:35) You mentioned your podcast. I've been also, I guess, on your podcast a little while ago. I want you to share some more details about the podcast.

You're the host. Please tell us about how the idea came about a podcast, and how did the idea evolve? What are you doing over there in more detail?

[Jason] (2:35 - 3:40) We had a podcast about maintenance hiring, and it was all about the relationship. We got into conversations about the relationship between the office and maintenance, and how the best opportunities that we have to collaborate together are when the office team knows how to speak maintenance, and vice versa, when maintenance knows how to speak the office language as well. It's that impact between each other and how it's this relationship.

We work together, and if the office knows what the maintenance team is working on, they can help better support it. I think we made a comment in the call and said, it's great when the manager of the office knows how to speak maintenance. What we've been doing after that podcast is every month we get together and we talk about maintenance-related items, and we try to break it down and make it so that anybody that's listening, whether it's office or leasing or anybody, contractors, if they're listening, they can be able to better understand what the maintenance employees are going through, what they're working on, so that they can learn how to speak maintenance.

[Adrian] (3:41 - 4:14) You're the National Director of Maintenance for Camden. Camden has been known over the years as one of the best places to work, not just in multifamily, but nationwide, at the national level. So that tells me great company culture, right?

I'd like for you to share some things, some insights from your experience with Camden. Why is Camden a great place to work? What great things you have going on at Camden from a maintenance perspective?

What are some great programs, some great initiatives that you would like to share with the world? Maybe somebody else is listening and they could pick up on best practices from you.

[Jason] (4:14 - 7:59) Any property management company, multifamily company, they're performing the same function. Residents live in the apartment, we've got vacant apartments, we're turning them, we're completing the service requests, we're performing this function. And if you come to work every day and you just do that function over and over and over again, then it just becomes monotonous.

And it's important to be able to get your employees to understand that they're empowered and give them the opportunity to make decisions and then celebrate the wins and make sure that across the country, we're celebrating the wins and the things that we're working on to make our properties more efficient or make them improve the curb appeal, whatever it is. As a National Maintenance Services Director, my role and my team's role is to make sure that we're sharing it out. Give people kudos, recognition.

Make sure that somebody on the East Coast is seeing something that's happening on the West Coast. And that guy on the West Coast might say, Wow, a VP on the East Coast got me an email and said nice work. It's that little recognition.

And it's also encouraging our onsite leaders, our supervisors and our community managers to take the time to recognize their people. They're there every single day. Make sure that they're giving support and they're giving recognition and they're saying, Hey, nice work.

Why don't you let's have lunch together. Let's sit down and break bread and be able to recognize what we've accomplished as a group. That's where I think Camden has been kind of leading the way.

I've worked with other property management companies and they have similar things, but I'm really seeing a lot of it at Camden. It starts at the top with the senior leaders, and then you've got the district managers in every market going around. I mean, sometimes they're even stopping the leaders in the market.

They're stopping to go by and drop off ice cream and make sure that the maintenance team gets a little bit of a break above and beyond their lunch break. Hey, stop, let's all get together and come to the office and cool off. And you can be able to talk with your leaders as a person.

So now all of a sudden the leadership is accessible. Some of the things that we're working on is trying to make sure that the onboarding process is as smooth as possible. It's really important that making sure that in that first 30, 60 days, it can't be chaos.

I know that as time goes on and you have that open position and you're waiting to fill it and you finally get somebody to go through background. They put their two weeks in with their last company. Now all of a sudden you've got them on site.

You're like, yes, I filled it. I got to get this person going because I got a bunch of tickets in turn. I don't know about you, Adrian, but one of my first days, you know, one of my previous companies, it was, oh, we're so glad you're here.

You got your tools. We'll grab a bunch of emergency exit lights. Go around the property.

And I didn't know the people. I didn't know the property. I didn't have access.

I didn't have keys. They didn't give me a golf cart. I ended up grabbing my own car and just driving around.

And if I wasn't resilient, if I was looking for culture and all that stuff, I might as well. If I was looking for this new company where people are coming in there saying, hey, welcome to the company. Take a break.

Let's get you your videos. Let's introduce you to the team. Let's really let you soak in everything about what we're about before we start giving you a bunch of service requests.

That's important. That's what we're working on, trying to figure out ways to get people in, let them get acclimated, make them realize that they made a good decision working with us. And then if we have leadership that's there supporting them and recognizing them and making sure that they're accessible, then all of a sudden now, if I'm a maintenance tech, I feel as if I'm wanted.

I feel as if I have a place. I feel like it's more than just a function. And now, you know what?

I probably might stay for a while. I think that's one of our big pushes right now. It's because everybody's looking for maintenance employees.

[Adrian] (7:59 - 8:18) I want to talk next about technology. What do you do from a technology standpoint? Let's take technology first.

Then I'm going to say better processes, more efficiency, bringing in more efficiency. So let's take them one at a time. I want to start with technology.

If you could share some things that Camden does when it comes to maintenance-related technology.

[Jason] (8:19 - 10:49) I grew up in the maintenance era of dry erase board and carbon copy service requests. I don't know if everybody knows about that stuff, but that was the way in the past. And now, we need to get our employees more and more into technology because if we can be able to fill out data, we can put data into some sort of Yardi or MRI or whatever, then we can be able to take that data and be able to extrapolate it and put it into a new tool that can be able to say, your property is 20 years old.

The water chemistry coming into your property is full of calcium. In this market, a booster pump or a boiler or a cooling tower needs extra chemicals. You need to do water treatment.

Maybe we can start to dig in and be able to see, according to our service request history and according to the data we have about the water chemistry makeup of the city that you're in, we need to do something else because your ticket counts are going up on plumbing and we're having more clogs and we're having more pipe breaks and more pins. So we need to do something else. Now, with Internet and AI and all these other technologies out there, I see this endless possibility where maybe there's a system that once a month or once a week or a quarter, whatever, spits out a little report that says, here's the efficiency of your employees.

This is what's going on with your building, according to age and according to the chemistry and all the different factors that are affecting your build. So here's some recommendations based off the other information that's out there on the Internet. I mean, that'd be amazing.

And then maybe you can partner me up with some vendors that are doing that kind of work. I've seen all too often where we just do that function, come to work, and we wait for that service request to hit us. And then we say, I'm going to do the service request.

And I go to properties, even in Camden, where I walked in and I'm like, hey, guys, what's going on? What do I need to help you with? And they're like, man, we get paid all the time.

And I'm just like, well, what are we doing about it? They're like, nothing. I just know we're going to get a penalty.

Why would you want to do that? Why would we want to sit back and just wait for penalties? Let's use technology.

Let's use the data. I'm always trying to tell my employees, when you close out a service request, make sure it's as accurate as possible. Put in as much data as possible.

Put how much time you put into completing that service request. Put in information about what parts you use. Put it all in there.

And if we can get that data from our maintenance employees, then we can be able to take it and be able to build out something that could help us future-proof our community.

[Adrian] (10:49 - 10:55) Centralization. Quick question. Is it a real thing you're telling us, or is it just a boss work?

What's your opinion on that?

[Jason] (10:56 - 12:05) Don't call it centralization. It's more just grouping, right? Grouping assets that are close in proximity.

Grouping teams. Connecting resources. If you have two properties.

Last company I worked with, there was two properties that were right down the street from each other. They were two separate communities. They had three people at each community.

Now, if the supervisor went on vacation and then a technician called in sick, now I've got maybe a green technician that's at a 100-year-old building working by himself. You've got a property down the street that could potentially be able to send somebody over, but they were so focused on their bonus and their metrics and how losing a person would impact their efficiency. What if we group the two properties together, and now all of a sudden their bonus is incentivized on the whole?

Roll the properties together. It actually helps me financially if I go down and help make sure that that property is staying afloat while that supervisor is out on vacation and that technician is sick. Centralization might be scary, but you can spin it any way you want.

It's grouping or netting. I find that there's opportunities there with that.

[Adrian] (12:06 - 12:29) You mentioned to me on our previous conversation the project that your company took on. Implementing 100% of all the properties using the e-list lock system. I want you to speak on that.

Just kind of explain the origins of that idea. How did it evolve? What type of impact does it have on your maintenance operations currently?

[Jason] (12:29 - 14:07) There's all sorts of electronic locks out there on the market. I know that RealPage has one, and there's tons of different companies out there. I've got a keyless lock on my house as well.

The efficiency that it gives us is amazing because we now have the opportunity to be able to not have to drive 20 minutes to the office to get a key to go into an apartment. Before, if I took a key and I went to the door and the key didn't work, now I had to drive back to the office. Then I had to drive back to the apartment.

That's time-wasting. Now, if I was at the apartment and the lock is functional and the batteries are being changed on a regular basis and I open up my phone, I click a button, now all of a sudden I can get in the apartment and I can be able to do a fire inspection or a service request. It's amazing.

The amount of time it's adding back to our employees has been substantial. You just carve out 10 more minutes of everybody's day. You give somebody 10 more minutes.

You do that six times, you got an hour. That's where the efficiency comes from. Then on top of it, the residents have an added benefit because they can see who is in their apartment and when.

Now, the residents get the benefit of the log to be able to see who's been in their apartment, and they get a PIN code so they can be able to put in a thumb lock tab on them, like the one we chose and did, so they can be able to walk into their apartment and push in a code and they can get into their apartment. They don't have to use their phone. That's the piece that everybody gets scared about.

What if my phone dies? You're just like, well, who's going to give you the PIN code? Most of the time, as soon as I show residents the PIN code, they're happy and they rock on.

I'm a big fan of the lock, electronic locks.

[Adrian] (14:07 - 14:43) Our field maintenance and facilities management, it's a complex and evolving field. It evolves all the time. One of the reasons why I started this particular podcast is to bring maintenance leaders just like you, to share those best practices, to share the wisdom, and with the hope that others will hear about.

What are some other ways, Jason, that you could think that we could impact the industry outside of just conversations like the one you and I have right now? Do you have other suggestions that could make an impact in our industry on a manual site?

[Jason] (14:44 - 16:35) There are so many opportunities for us to be able to build new tools or to build new avenues for us to be able to share our best practices or share what we're going through. These freezes in Texas have been across the country, but Texas has been fighting with it for the past couple of years. It's a lot.

There might be some small property management companies out there that haven't done anything because they've taken care of the leaks that popped up and they've gotten their properties back online. But what do they do after that? During the summer, during the spring, summer, and fall, to be able to maybe winterize their property and make it a little bit more free.

Imagine if we had a forum where we can take some of the best maintenance leaders across the country. We can get on a call. I don't know if it's monthly or quarterly.

I like talking maintenance, so I can probably do weekly. But we can get on a call together, and maybe we can have a topic going into hurricane season. In May, we could have a hurricane topic.

That way, if somebody was listening or if somebody was in the call and they were part of the conversation, then they can be able to say, Hey, I haven't even started working on getting prepared for hurricanes. Now, all of a sudden, they say, Wow, I'm going to take some of these tips, and I'm going to go to all my properties and set up hurricane kits or do this or do that, and make myself a little bit more prepared for these freezes. In November, we'd be sitting down and talking about potential risks and areas where we might be exposed to these freezes, and how have other people taken the steps to be able to fix it.

So I think that beyond technology, just human interaction, conversations, maybe it's a committee. I don't know. Adrian, I feel like you'd be the best person to be able to corral us all together with your platforms, and maybe we can be able to kick this off in the new year.

[Adrian] (16:35 - 18:00) For the record, for all of you in the audience that just witnessed this conversation, this is one of the most brilliant ideas that I've heard of in the recent months. Jason, I say let's do it. Let's create this forum.

You and I start this initiative, and for the record, I will take charge. We're going to create this committee, this forum at a national level with maintenance leaders to talk about our challenges and opportunities, how to make things better for us as an industry and make a bigger impact. Are you in?

I'm in. I'm committed. I'll do it with you.

Everybody watch us. There's a forum coming. A national maintenance forum is coming.

It's coming your way. It's going to happen, and we're going to make it happen soon. Jason and I will initiate it.

Jason, maintenance leaderships, and how do we create more leaders? Let me just ask a specific question. For individuals that are watching this conversation, or even for employees within your organization, they're looking up to you.

They're looking up to people, to individuals like you that have succeeded in their career, and they reached the top of their career. They're national maintenance directors. They're vice presidents of facilities.

What are some pieces of advice that you would like to share with those that are aspiring to make a career out of maintenance, and they want to reach the top, just like you did? What are some very valuable lessons that you have learned along the way?

[Jason] (18:00 - 21:05) The most important thing that I've learned is to just be curious and to have a great attitude. You come in. You have a good attitude.

You work hard. You ask questions. Be comfortable saying, hey, I don't know.

That's one of the things that I think every maintenance employee struggles with, at least a lot of them do, is they're proud. They come in, and they say, oh, I know maintenance. And then maybe they come in, and they have to show that they do actually know everything about maintenance.

And that's the thing. As maintenance employees or service employees for these large multifamily communities, we're expected to know so much, right? Painting, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, everything.

So the chances of somebody knowing everything are pretty slim, but the pride is always there. So take the pride. Put it off to the side.

Be proud of what you can do and share it with others. Bring others up with you as a maintenance tech. Bring other maintenance techs up with you.

Help them, and your viewers will see that. They'll see these employees. They have five maintenance techs.

Four of them come to work every single day, and they do their tickets, and they go home. They do the tickets, and they go home. Imagine you've got this one technician that comes into our shop, and he's hungry or she's hungry.

And they say, hey, give me more. Let me help you get a bigger piece of the property. Let me do something outside of what my daily responsibilities are.

And you might get told no two or three times, but then maybe the fourth time they're like, all right, sounds great. Let's see what you can do. Do it.

Kill it. Go do it and work hard and do it. And you might mess up a little bit, but guess what?

You're messing up under the guidance of your supervisor. And if you have a good leader, if you actually have a good leader that's with you, then they're going to take that moment as a learning moment. And they're going to say, all right, brush yourself off, you know, messed up a little bit, but it's okay.

We're all here still, and I got your back. Now all of a sudden you're learning as a maintenance. Then as a maintenance supervisor, you know, everybody comes to work and they're like, okay, I got tickets to turn.

I got my employees. Make sure everybody's doing the right thing. What can I do that's above and beyond that?

Like, how can I get involved in budgeting? How can I get involved in taking my property and walking it and really analyzing it and saying, you know what? Our HVAC units are this average age, and my water heaters are this average age, and this is how many window leaks I get.

And then taking the data and crunching it together and putting together a report for your bosses that says, hey, this is the health of my property. Every time you have a position, what else could you be doing? What other things could you be stretching out and trying to get uncomfortable with and learn from?

And then guess what? It's just another tool in your tool bag. I'm a big fan of come to work, have a good attitude, just help others and stretch out and see what you can do.

And you'll be surprised. You'll look back and say, wow, as a maintenance tech, I really did a good job. Or as a maintenance supervisor, I really kicked butt and took names.

One thing that I took out of your last answer, right?

[Adrian] (21:05 - 21:58) There were many, but the main thing that I took was learning, right? A process of ongoing learning. I want to talk about how we approach learning and training, right?

And for the most part, most companies out there do blanket training. What do I mean by that? Someone builds a curriculum that's being enforced on all of their maintenance employees with no variation of that.

They're telling maintenance employees, you have these six or 10 classes that you're going to attend, you're going to take this year. Instead, maybe allowing some room for the employees to say, this is what I want to learn more of. I don't think this is like most useful for me.

I feel pretty confident in this area of maintenance. I think I should be focusing more on other areas. Do you think that blanket training is an effective way of training?

[Jason] (21:59 - 26:49) I don't think that's a great way of training. I remember when I was a maintenance tech, there was this company that I worked for, and they had a board up on the wall. And it had all the names of the employees.

And then it had these classes. It had plumbing, electrical, HVAC 1, HVAC 2. And then if you took the class, you got a green dot.

We were super laser focused on trying to make sure we had all of our green dots across the board. Now, is that smart? Is it intelligent?

Is that a good way of giving training to our people? I don't, I didn't think it was. I was just putting the dots on the board because I'm competitive.

And I wanted to make sure that I got all my dots done before everybody else. And maybe that could give me a promotion to grow. Now, we need to do something different.

I imagine if you take an employee life cycle, right, with the company. When they start with the company, while they're there, and then maybe at the end, right, when they're leaving. Let's take that whole lifespan and let's say, okay, let's figure out what period do I need to give my employee different training?

Like, and how can I figure out what they need during those different periods? Because their need at the beginning is going to be different than in the middle and near the end. It's important for us to sit down and try to figure out how can I develop prescriptive training for each individual.

You take an employee when they first start in the company, and you give them those couple weeks. Maybe it's 11 weeks. In the first week, you focus on plumbing.

Take them up to make an apartment. Break down an apartment. Hey, this is how the water comes into the apartment.

This is a shutoff valve. This is CPVC or this is copper. And you start talking about angle stops, right?

And you start talking about how different process and fixtures work. And as you're talking, if it's somebody that's been in the industry a long time and they really do know a lot about plumbing, what are they going to do? If you're talking remedial plumbing with them, you're talking about, hey, this is how water flows in.

If I was in that apartment, I'm like, hey, let me show you what I know. Now, instead I show, hey, you got to exercise this valve once in a while. This is how the water goes through and blah, blah, blah.

I know it's fresh and fitting. If I came to work at your company and I did that, you can cross it off and say, Jason's pretty good at plumbing. He knows his stuff.

Now, all of a sudden, if you break down an HVAC unit with me and you're like breaking it down and I'm not jumping in and I'm not talking, maybe you ask me a couple questions. Hey, what is this? Now, all of a sudden, I'm like, I don't know what that is.

It's okay if you don't know. Now, I know what your weakness is. Not even weakness, what's your opportunity for learning?

Now, all of a sudden, I can say, maybe I got a sheet and I can be able to fill it out and say, Jason's great at plumbing. He's great at electrical work. He's got minimal experience with appliances and HVAC.

Oh, my goodness. Now, all of a sudden, I know you as a person and I know where my opportunities are to give you some training. Now, all of a sudden, I can be able to say, okay, you know what?

In your first quarter with us, I'm going to dig into refrigerators. I just want to break down refrigerators with you. I'm going to take you in a shop where maybe we have an old refrigerator and I'm going to open it up.

You can get your hands dirty when there's no resident standing behind you and you can be able to learn how does the Freon go through the system? Where is the evaporator coil and how does the air flow through the unit? And if I don't have air flow, what's going to happen to my fridge?

You know, it might be cool in the freezer, but what's going on with my fridge? Now, all of a sudden, I can start to diagnose problems. Now, all of a sudden, after the first quarter, I got a little bit more training.

And if every quarter, I give you a little bit more, a little bit more. After a year, maybe all of a sudden, you're great at appliances. Now, next year, I'm going to start tackling HVAC.

And now, all of a sudden, as a supervisor, I'm developing my people. And now, after maybe three years, this person is amazing. They can do a lot of different things.

And now, I'm working on leadership with them. Now, it's not hard skills, soft skills. Now, all of a sudden, I'm going to take them and I'm going to, like, show them how to be organized.

I'm going to show them how to do great. You understand what I'm saying? Supervisors need to take ownership of their people and understand exactly what are the opportunities to grow and then find opportunities to give it to them.

And I think we've all gone through the classes, right? Everybody's a different type of learner. You have visual, auditory.

You've got kinesthetic. Visual learner, do I need to read it? Do I need to hear it?

Or am I going to get my hands on it? Most of us are probably kinesthetic and just need to get our hands on it. Maybe there's some auditory people out there that just need the YouTube video and they just need to hear it and then they'll go get it.

I think that's the other piece. Companies need to look at their training platforms and come up with different tools because everybody's different. You can't just bring everybody into an eight-hour class and then push them out into the world and say, hey, you guys are all great at appliance repairs now.

Go hit the road. You can't do that.

[Voiceover] (26:49 - 26:53) And now a word from Sean Landsberg, co-founder, AppWork.

[Adrian] (26:53 - 26:59) What are some things that differentiate AppWork from all the other maintenance workflow apps that are out there available?

[Sean] (26:59 - 27:54) For us, it was about creating a solution that solved their own problems. And in order to get to that end goal, we had to first create a maintenance management software, which is the foundation of our product and the basic of our product. But our product is so much more than that.

Our product is built, again, like I said before, about solving our problems. That includes the data behind the technicians, all the data behind the entire maintenance process and how we display that data, how we capture that data, the data integrity component behind that. How we make sure that that data cannot be influenced by anybody within the organization.

We also have the gamification component. How we take maintenance and turn that into a game, make it more motivating, more exciting, more engaging, which helps improve your maintenance efficiency. We're seeing technicians being able to complete more work orders in a day than they were able to do before.

They're more motivated than they were before. Their customer service is better, which obviously impacts resident retention and so much more.

[Adrian] (27:54 - 28:59) If I'm someone from outside looking in, right, and I'm looking at Camden, and I just heard you giving your last answer. I'm thinking to myself, if this is how the person at the top of the organization thinks about their employees and investing in their education, where do I sign to work for Camden? You got it.

It is to you and your company. And this brings me to the next topic, which is recruiting, right? What's Camden doing to recruit great talent?

And secondly, what we as an industry could do better and or different to attract talent? Because it's kind of an understatement that we as an industry are suffering on the maintenance side, a tremendous labor shortage as we speak. There's long, long, long lists of open positions throughout the industry.

And maybe Camden is different, right? But I want to hear that from you. So what's Camden doing differently or better or both from a recruiting perspective and what we as an industry should do different or better to attract more and more qualified and better talent?

[Jason] (29:00 - 33:07) That's a tough question because there's different pieces of it. Finding the out-of-the-box maintenance tech that's certified, CTO certified, EPA certified, 10 years of experience, even far between. I think the whole industry has realized that that's not very common.

Most of the time we're getting somebody that's green. Maybe they come from a different industry. Maybe they just saw your ad online and they just applied and they're just like, I'm going to change light bulbs.

And I got a couple of screwdrivers home. So, I mean, I can do it. But in the end, you've got to figure out how do I attract out-of-the-box people?

Maybe that's through incentive programs like referral bonuses or through putting out your benefit package so people can be able to see it on LinkedIn or things like that. Maybe there's somebody that has great experience and they're just like, you know what, I'm just looking for something with a little bit better benefit. I think one of the things that I've been seeing happen in the industry is tech schools.

They'll go to tech schools and talk at tech schools. Somebody might say, oh, I just want to be an HVAC tech. And recently, I had the opportunity to go talk at a trade school and they gave us about an hour and I pumped it up.

And I was up there and I was selling it hard. And I talked to the whole team and I said, look, I never thought of this as an industry that would be beneficial to me and my family. And it's been great.

And the opportunities and growth and people that I've met and what I'm doing. And by the time I was done, these kids that were like laser focused on, I'm just going to be an HVAC tech. All of a sudden they were like, where do I sign up?

How do I sign up for this program? You got to get out there. You got to put yourself out there.

If you're not hustling and getting people, getting in people's faces and being excited about it, they're not going to want to join. They're going to, oh, I got to be on call and I got to unclog toilets and paint walls. No, I'm good.

I don't want to do that. But talking about the opportunities of helping residents and bonding and doing projects with your hands, being outdoors and helping your fellow maintenance employees get through the day. I mean, that's a cool stuff and that's exciting.

That's what I'm doing today. I'm at a property with my team and we're working on some projects and they're excited. We had some breakfast this morning and that's what gets me engaged is being out in the field and doing work with these guys.

I think the next piece is you got to grow talent. Maybe you're getting a lot of green employees. What's your training program?

Do you have an apprenticeship program? Do you have any sort of program where somebody that's really green, they come in and they can be vulnerable and they're like, I don't know anything about maintenance. Like how do I, what do I need to do?

And now all of a sudden you've got a pipeline of potential maintenance tech that after they're done with the program, they're EPA certified, they're CPO certified, they have some basic knowledge about maintenance. If you want to give them a job, then give them a job. That's the cool stuff.

So now you're building a pipeline. You're trying to get out there in the field and get people that didn't even know about your career or that industry. And you're trying to pump them over to the multifamily.

And then on top of it, you're telling your employees who might have friends, Hey, we have a referral program. Like if you know some guy that's out there and want the new opportunities, then have them come over. I think one recently we, we had an opening in one of our markets and everybody was nervous.

It was an older property and it has a lot of units and a big team. And the supervisor was leaving and everybody was nervous. Oh, what are we going to do?

What are we going to do there? HR was looking through their system going. I don't have any candidates right now that are, that can fit that bill.

Community manager went out of their community. They drove down the road and there's a couple of properties right next door. And they saw me and this guy and they said, Hey, you know, anybody looking for a supervisor job?

And they said, yeah, I don't like saying we're poaching, but you know what? Just put it out there and people are doing it to us. And so we're just going to be able to say, Hey, look, you know, get out there.

Right? So you're talking to trade schools. You're talking to people down the street.

You're trying to get your word out there to everybody. I think that's the best way to attract talent.

[Adrian] (33:07 - 33:55) It's a free market. I don't think there's anything to be ashamed of. You know, you want to try the best, be the best.

The best will attract the best. It's up to your competitors to do something better than you do. Make their employees stay.

You make it attractive enough for them to cross and come over to your new team. The position onboarding and some great things that you do at Camden. The way you do onboarding, new personnel, employee retention.

Onboarding is an amazing and extremely important part of the employee retention. Basically, you start retaining them the moment, even before they walk into the door as new employees. Tell me about some great things that Camden is doing to retain their current employees, especially maintenance employees.

And then tell me about where you see opportunities for us as an industry to do better to increase the employee retention.

[Jason] (33:56 - 36:01) It's all about data. I think you need to understand why are people leaving? The exit surveys are always a good option to be able to find out why are people leaving?

You know, if you don't understand why people are leaving, then you don't know you have this problem. Then you don't know what to solve. So it's important that any company is analyzing why are people leaving?

What's the time period? Is it people that are, you know, zero to six months? Is it six months to a year?

Is it more tenured people? Am I losing people that are over 10 years that have been with the company for a long time? Those are all things that you need to take into account if you're trying to build a retention program.

I need to make sure that I understand what my people want. Otherwise, if I'm running around just handing out ice cream saying, hey, everybody, come on. Like, I appreciate you.

That's not what they're looking for. Maybe. Maybe they are.

Maybe some people are like, man, you took the time out to give me ice cream. But then other people are like, I don't want it. I want money.

You know, I've also seen it where you give somebody money and they're like, well, that's great. But, you know, I won't grow if there's no growth in a market. You know, because there are some markets that are smaller and they have like four or five properties, maybe six.

Everybody's hunkered down. Nobody leaves. So nobody's leaving.

There's no growth. So do you feel stagnant? And then somebody down the road stops by and says, hey, you want to be a maintenance supervisor?

Like, yeah, I do. You know, that's part of it. How are you going to retain that person if there's no growth?

They're looking for growth. I don't want to dangle any carrots in front of their faces. I don't want to.

I don't want that. Like, I want people to be excited about Camden. I want them to be, to want to work here.

And I want whatever they're looking for from Camden, I want to try to give because that's important. So whether it's competitive wages or opportunities for growth, maybe not even growth. They're happy in the position they're in.

They just want opportunities to connect with other properties. They want to travel a little bit. Maybe it's just giving them an opportunity to go help out at other properties from time to time.

I don't know. You got to figure out what's going on in your market. You got to get the pulse of your people.

And you have to sit down and try to say, all right, I got the data. What am I going to do about it now?

[Adrian] (36:01 - 36:25) Jason, what are some key changes that you observed in service operations last year in 2023 compared with the previous years? Are there any changes that you've seen? And then what are you seeing for current year for 2024?

Can you name or can you point some emerging trends that you find particularly exciting looking ahead?

[Jason] (36:25 - 39:07) Technology to me is the biggest change that I see. There's a lot of opportunity there. I know that there's a lot of different technologies out there with smart thermostats and smart locks.

And now now there's refrigerators out there with cameras in them and they link up to your Wi-Fi. I don't know if you're seeing it or not, but I was this morning put out this video. It's called Day in the Life of Glass.

It's amazing. I don't know if you're seeing it or not, but it's this whole video of technologies in houses. If this person wakes up and goes to a hotel like Glass, it's like, you know, all of a sudden opens up.

They go in the bathroom and they're touching their mirror and their schedule is coming up while they're brushing their teeth. They're in the car and their dashboard lights up with all sorts of information about their car. I think there was one part that scared me, the countertop.

They took their phone and they put their phone on the countertop and then it linked up and they could take all their photos and spread them out on the countertop. The countertop is digital as well. And I remember sitting there saying, I'd hate to get that service request that the countertop isn't syncing up with their phone.

I mean, I know how to pay departments and I know how to fix plumbing, but I'm not an IT guy. I'm like, man, in the future, our maintenance employee is going to have to be more IT based and be able to fix refrigerators that have cameras in them and sync up with Wi-Fi. It's interesting.

I drive Harley and I've got one and I bought it and it syncs up with my phone. And I remember I took it to the shop one time and it wasn't, I was having problems with it syncing and they fixed it. They put a new radio in and the guy, the technician there was just shaking his head and I said, what's up?

And he said, man, I just remember when driving a motorcycle, driving a motorcycle. Now all of a sudden there's like, I got to be an IT tech to link up your phone and hook it up with the Wi-Fi and blah, blah, blah. But it's like where we're going.

But I find excitement in it because if I can start to better understand my building, then I can start to understand what sort of capital needs I have. What should I do in the future to be able to future-proof my community? I think that's exciting.

I think there's some other changes such as Freon. That's another big change. It just got pushed back to 2026, I heard.

But there's these competing Freons and there's different companies that are using different types. What is the right type? Which company should I go with?

If you go with one company or one type of Freon, now all of a sudden you're locked in with that vendor. They're locking you down and you can't change. Otherwise, it's going to be a big financial burden to be able to make that change.

But it's exciting.

[Adrian] (39:07 - 40:26) It's good stuff. I'm glad that you're on a side of optimism when it comes to what the future holds. I'm of the same opinion.

Every single, I guess, thing that we could look at from our standpoint of, well, we're behind the real world. That's an opportunity for us to catch up with the real world, everything that's happening. And by the way, the Corning video that you mentioned, I'm not sure if they have the latest version of it.

But I've seen a version about 10 years ago. It described almost everything that you did. Maybe they just did an updated one.

But the very first one that was very similar to what you described came up about 10 years ago. And I was looking and just shaking my head because this is really possible. It's not just something that's from a science fiction book.

And when you think about a lot of the stuff that we would have seen in the 70s and 60s inside fiction movies, it's actually technology that we're using today. They imagine it back in the day, not even as a fiction, right? It was science fiction.

So it was kind of like borderline. And today, that's like common thing. That's common technology for us.

How amazing is that? Apprenticeships. Is there any value to apprenticeships?

Is Camden having any initiatives on that side? What would be the benefit for us as an industry, if any benefit, to have apprenticeship programs?

[Jason] (40:26 - 41:04) I'm a big fan of apprenticeship programs. Like I said earlier, that's your pipeline. If you can start an apprenticeship program and you can get somebody in and give them some training and see what their work ethic is like, then now all of a sudden you're building a pipeline for future maintenance tech spots.

I'm a big fan of it. And I highly encourage others to do it. I've been working with Texas Department Association.

They're building up a guide for apprenticeship programs. Anybody can go on the Texas Department Association Education Foundation page and you can be able to see guides and resources and things to try to help you build your own apprenticeship program.

[Adrian] (41:04 - 41:48) So I'm a big fan of it. Thank you for sharing the resources. Everybody that's watching, check out the resources if you're starting or considering starting an apprenticeship program.

One of the things that people don't talk a lot in a public arena, Jason, is failure. Because I think most people are afraid or ashamed to share failures that they have. The reality is that failure is part of the life.

It's actually part of the process of becoming successful. That's just my personal opinion. I want to ask you to share some of the failures that you have along your journey.

How did you turn those into wins? Just share with us something that I think most people will be embarrassed to share.

[Jason] (41:49 - 46:06) My first maintenance supervisor job I had, there was a utility box with rooms on the side of every building. And it had these old tracks with the wheels on top and these big heavy doors. And you moved them out of the way and that's where the meters were and the telephone box.

They were falling apart and it was a mess. And the construction team came in and ripped it all down and put these new boxes in. They painted these big doors.

It was T111, like unfinished T111 siding. They did it and they gave it to me. And they never painted the doors.

It wasn't part of the scope of work. I never figured out why that wasn't part of the scope of work. I was a supervisor.

I was brand new. I was in my early 20s. And I was all tickets and terms.

That's all I was. As a technician, that's what I was rewarded on. You come to work, you do your tickets and terms, you go home, you have a clean dashboard.

Guess what? Congratulations. You did an awesome job.

Well, no one ever taught me, hey, when you become a supervisor, it's much more than that. It's not just tickets and terms anymore. It's tickets, terms, walk the building, take care of curb appeal stuff.

There's a whole list of things that aren't on a checklist or on a dashboard. And so my bosses came to me and said, when are you going to paint those doors? And I think it was like 16 doors.

I'll go get the paint. I'll get it done. I'll get it done.

I promise. Well, guess what? Every week I came in, I had a lot of tickets.

I had terms. I had move outs. The trash was a mess.

I think what I did wrong was I said, I'm waiting for this perfect week where I can be able to go out and paint all the doors. And I was looking at the scope of work and saying, it's 16 doors. How am I going to paint 16 doors when I got all this stuff going on?

So every week, my district manager would come out and say, Jason, you need to paint the doors. I'm like, I know. I know.

But I do what I promise. And then I come into work the next day, do the same thing. A month went by and the doors weren't painted.

The boss came in, same story. Jason, when are you going to paint the doors? I'm like, I can't find time.

Like, I don't know what's going on. Like, I just take his terms. The trash is a mess.

And it's just me and one other guy. So I'm just giving him excuses. Could I have done something?

This is what I learned. Like, could I have done something? Like, could I have painted one door?

How about this? Could I have started on the doors that were closest to the entrance? So when my boss came in, he would see, like, I'm starting.

Like, I'm working on it, right? So instead of him coming in and seeing these unfinished doors, and he's like, Jason, he would have came in and seen one door was painted. How long does it take to paint one door or two doors?

And that's the thing. And that's what I learned as my first supervisor position was nibble at some of these projects. There's never a good week where you've got all the time in the world and you can go and do all your HVAC PM.

I was talking to a supervisor at a property. It's 900 units. And he looked at me and said, Jason, I don't know when I'm going to be able to do the filter changes and the PM.

And I said, well, let's sit down and do this mathematically. How many units do you have? And he told me and I broke it down by 20 working days.

I divided by 20 working days. Now, all of a sudden, I had a per day count of the number of units I needed to complete to be able to finish my PM in one month. And then I said, OK, how many maintenance employees do you have?

And then we divided that out. And it came out to be like five units a day per person. And I said, how long does it take to do one unit PM?

Like, go in, really do a thorough PM, clean the coils, clean out the condensate drain, put the pan tab in, filter, maybe check the smoke detector, look around for any sort of water damage, right? Like, how long does it take? He said, I don't know, 15, 20 minutes.

I said, OK, you need five apartments. Like, how long? How much time is that?

I said, just do it in the morning. Come in the morning, do your zones. Everybody knocked out five apartments.

Now, guess what? The rest of the day, take it in turn. So you're not losing any productivity and we're getting our PM.

So through my story of getting, I did get written up for the doors. So I got written up, but I learned like nibble at it. And after a while, all of a sudden you're going to look back and you're going to be done.

Or you're going to be like three quarters of the way done. You're going to have eight more doors. You're going to say, I'm done with this project.

I don't want to do it anymore. So then you're just going to go tackle the rest really quickly and just be done.

[Adrian] (46:06 - 46:28) You basically, at that time, learn the answer to the question, how do you eat an elephant? One by the time, right? A young person getting ready to enter the real world, you know, they're out of school, high school or college, wherever they finished, they're ready to actually enter the real world and just make it a real world.

What are some pieces of advice that you have for them?

[Jason] (46:28 - 48:39) My son is going through that right now. So my son got out of high school last year and he's done with his first semester and he's going through it. And so I'll tell you exactly what I've been telling him.

Hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle. Right now, you are living at home. You don't have the bills.

You don't have a family. You don't have all these things that are going to be taking your time and your money. Whatever your goal is, whatever your vision is of the future, sit down and start nibbling at it.

My son wants to be a music producer. He wants to be a DJ. I'm always encouraging him.

What have you done in the past week, month, you know, quarter to get yourself where you want to be? I even have him visualize it. OK, so let's say in two years, he's going to community college here in Houston.

After you're done, imagine the day after you get your certificate. And you're like, I got my AA, I got my certificate. Yay.

What's the next day look like? What is the next awesome day look like? Where you're like, my dream is coming to fruition.

What does it look like? He's like, I'd be going and doing this or I'd be going and doing that. I'm like, OK, great.

You have the vision. Now you have a year and a half to try to make it happen. Maybe a lot of kids, you know, they get out of high school and I'm going to start working.

I'm going to start making money. It's going to be awesome. Blah, blah, blah.

Maybe you just get sucked into the wrong job. And guess what? Now you get promotion.

You get more bills. You get a family. And all of a sudden, guess what?

Now you might get stuck where you were. When I got out of high school, I wasn't looking to get into the apartment industry. I wasn't.

I wasn't like, I'm going to go paint apartments and be a maintenance supervisor. I was flexible. And I took the opportunities that came to me and it helped me in the end.

But I also made the best of it and said, you know what? I got a couple of years in this industry. Let's kick it up a notch.

Let's see where else we can take this. And that's the thing I'm trying to teach my kids. Have a goal.

Work towards the goal. Have some flexibility along the way. Once you've kind of nailed it down and you're in a rut and you're in that groove, figure out a way to be the best at it and figure out a way to just bring and deliver on excellence every single day.

And it'll pay off. It always does.

[Adrian] (48:39 - 48:51) Jason, I want you to share who was the most influential person in your career and then in your life. It could be the same person or it could be two different people. And why?

[Jason] (48:52 - 50:37) Good question. I got a couple of people. I've had some good bosses.

I've had some bad bosses though that were influential as well. The bad bosses were influential in a way because I was able to look at them and say, I don't ever want to do that. So influential is not just the great things that I learned.

It's also the bad things that I saw that I don't want to duplicate. I had a boss. I worked at Sony and I was a forklift operator.

And this guy, I was a temp employee and I really wanted to be a full-time Sony employee. And I was working for the temp agency and he kept his hair dangling in front of me all the time. Jason, you keep doing what you're doing.

You're going to become a full-time Sony employee. I was like, man, I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it.

And every day I had this computer on my forklift and I could be able to track how many orders I pulled. I could track the pounds. I could track the pieces.

And I had a couple of other guys that we always competed. At the end of the day, we'd race to the computer to go see who had the most pounds, who had the most orders. And man, we were doing it.

People were just... We were running circles around people. And it was fun.

I enjoyed it. That guy just kept dangling his hair. And every time a spot opened up, guess what?

Somebody else. And I kept saying, hey, when's my time? I'm doing more work than all these guys.

And they're like, well, Jason, just keep doing what you're doing. And one day you'll get there. I remember that because I don't want to do that to my employees.

Anybody I'm around or I'm with, I want to be completely open and honest and say, hey, look, put this extra effort in. It might get you somewhere. It might not.

But if you try and you work hard, then you're going to learn and you'll be better for it. And then in the end, it might pay off. 99.9% of the time, the people that I tell that to, they do get promotions. They do get growth.

[Adrian] (50:38 - 50:45) If you were to pick one person in your life, right, that made the most positive impact in your life overall, who would that person be?

[Jason] (50:45 - 51:58) My wife is very... She supports, you know, what I want to do. There's been things that, you know, each move that I've made, I've moved my family from San Diego to LA, LA to DC.

I moved my friends, my family from DC to Houston. And if my wife said, no, I have friends here. I just want to stay here.

Then I might still be in San Diego. And when I was in San Diego, I was competing with people that had a lot of tenure and a lot of knowledge. And I just didn't feel like I was going to go anywhere.

So telling my wife, you got to move. Let's go to LA. Let's make a move.

Let's change the scenery. Let's get this going. She said, okay.

And we did it. I remember driving home when I got the job offer for DC. And I went home and I was freaking out.

I was like, how am I going to tell my wife? Like, what am I... How am I going to tell this?

This is across the country. And we don't have any family in DC. And I got home and I told her and, you know, it was a long conversation.

But in the end, we moved out there. When I got the job with Camden, it was, if I take this job, I might have to move to Houston. And she was like, I'm in.

Let's do it. My wife is my rock, my support. So she's awesome.

[Adrian] (51:58 - 52:05) Jason, amazing conversation. Yeah, as always. It's a pleasure having you on.

Any closing thoughts for today?

[Jason] (52:05 - 52:52) Life's short. Take every moment, whether you're at work or at home. You know, the pandemic, I think, really took a toll on a lot of people, like mentally and mental health wise.

And you got to find the people that you can trust at work and in your personal life to be able to commiserate with and to enjoy time with. And if you're not enjoying time at work, then you need to analyze whether you're in the right business or the right company or with the right people. And these moments, Adrian, like with us talking, I enjoy these.

So I appreciate you filling my bucket for this past hour. And I look forward to doing it again. And I also look forward to starting up that committee with you and revolutionizing the way we share information.

Likewise, right back at you.

[Adrian] (52:52 - 53:39) I do want to say that I do want to hold each other accountable to start an initiative. It is so important to share knowledge. It's so important in best practices.

There's so many success stories out there that it's a shame that we're not doing a better job exposing. My podcast is trying to do that. It's my main goal.

But I think that we should create a bigger platform. And your idea is absolutely brilliant, I have to say, on bringing other leaders into the conversation, creating this conversation platform and putting the content out in the world for everybody to see. Jason, what are some ways in which our audience could get in touch with you and reach out to you?

[Jason] (53:39 - 53:59) I'm on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a really great way to reach out and send me a message. I'm also at Camden.

It's jfine at Send me an email. I'd love to hear from you guys.

And if you ever have any thoughts on topics that we should cover in our committee, then I'm all ears.

[Adrian] (53:59 - 54:26) Everybody, thank you so much for watching another episode of the Family X podcast, Masters of Maintenance. We want to thank our partners from AppWork for sponsoring this podcast, for making it possible. And again, thank you all of you that watched us today.