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In this episode, Josh Hayes, Regional Maintenance Director for Weidner Apartment Homes, shares his journey. Hayes offers insights into managing large maintenance teams and multiple properties.

[Adrian] (0:23 - 0:58) Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of the Multifamily X podcast, Masters of Maintenance. This podcast is brought to you and powered by AppWork. Our friends from AppWork want to thank them.

Our guest today in the studio is Josh Hayes. Welcome to the show, Josh. Thank you for having me.

Josh is Regional Maintenance Director for Weidner Apartment Homes. Josh, to begin with, I want to ask you to introduce yourself to the audience. Tell us a little bit about yourself and about your journey in multifamily.

[Josh] (0:58 - 4:09) I started in this business in 2004. I got hired on as a groundskeeper. I had a family friend of mine ask me if I was interested in doing it.

My thought was I was going to be mowing yards and corn weeds and things like that. I did all that growing up and I was like, absolutely. I did it when I was a kid, so now I get paid to do it.

I started out as a groundskeeper at a property in Colorado Springs. Within a short few months, I realized that it was something that I really enjoyed doing. Not just the groundskeeping aspect of it, but even just seeing the changes in the apartments with the make readies and whatnot.

I started to ask my service manager, what can I do more to learn more? He basically said, once I get all my stuff passed out for the grounds and make sure the property is looking good, then I can start getting make readies, learning how to paint, fix sidings, and things like that. From there on, it just took off.

I worked at that property for 3 years, then moved to another larger property as the lead service tech. We had a new service manager and I was going to be the most seasoned service tech on that team. I did well there.

I went to doing a new build, so I've done new construction as well. I really enjoyed that aspect of it, seeing something completely different being built from the ground up. When I went on that property, we had 3 buildings and a couple of pads.

Then within 9 short months, it was a full property. After that, I started my first service manager position, working at Kenwick Pointe Apartments in Colorado Springs. I was there for a year until it sold.

The funny thing was, Widener was the one that bought it back in 2011. I had an opportunity to join them back then, but I had a really good career path with Riverstone at the time. We did another new build with them in Colorado Springs, then moved to Denver, where essentially, it was considered where the big guys went.

You conquer Colorado Springs, you move to Denver with the big properties and the nice new properties. I was there for a really short time. I was presented with an offer to go Pioneer, North Dakota.

Riverstone just started acquiring properties in North Dakota. I was one of the first service managers up there. When I left, we had roughly 15, 16 properties up there.

I oversaw about 8 of them, then moved to Oklahoma. I got a job as a construction manager with RADCO Residential doing CapEx projects. That's where I really learned the financial side of it, the benefits of capital improvements, looking at ROI for apartments and properties, and the reason why we invest.

I basically worked myself out a job on that one. We weren't buying anymore in Oklahoma. I ended up getting a job with Widener.

One of my vendors turned me on to Widener. I've been here now for 6 years. I started out as a service manager at Brookwood Village, 1,128-unit property.

It was quite a challenge there. I ran that with my team really well for 4 years. Then in 2021, I got promoted to regional maintenance director.

I've seen Oklahoma grow from 7 properties. Brookwood was the 7th one. Our region now has 25 properties.

The nice thing is within my position, I was able to help onboard every property after that. It was really nice to bring these properties on board with Widener.

[Adrian] (4:10 - 4:25) Such an amazing journey. Extraordinary journey. Josh, reflecting on this journey that you just told us about, multifamily, how did starting as a groundskeeper shape your approach to maintenance leadership?

[Josh] (4:25 - 5:29) Attention to detail. The property that I was on was one of the newer properties in Colorado Springs, in that area, in that corridor. There were a lot of eyes on that.

The grounds had to be spectacular every day. The pool furniture had to be arranged. It looked good for showing residents and getting people on the door and being able to close that lease to show the amenities that we have for that property.

Really, just the attention to detail is what I learned the most. I was able to take that attention to detail, whether it was a brand new property or a classic property. I still have that same attention to detail.

I made sure the grounds were cleaned up every day for not only the resident, but for the prospects coming in, making sure the pools were nice and clean, all the amenities were in good working order, and things like that. Really, that attention to detail, and that's one of Widener's biggest things, is that attention to detail. We'll be out walking properties with senior leaderships, and if we see something on the ground, we're going to pick it up.

It's not just a groundskeeper's position to pick up trash. It's everybody's responsibility.

[Adrian] (5:30 - 5:38) Josh, what pivotal experiences or lessons learned early in your career continue to influence your leadership style today?

[Josh] (5:38 - 7:32) I attribute my entire leadership style to my original sales manager. His philosophy was he was right there working next to us. He was picking up trash with us.

He was painting units with us. He was shoveling snow with us. It was just something that I took along the journey where I wouldn't ask any of my team members to do something that I've never done before, or that I'm not willing to do myself.

That took me quite a ways. I've ran into issues with team members not liking me for the way I manage a property or whatever, but at the end of the day, the goal was for them to respect me for what I was doing for the property, and respect me for how I treated them as well. That really hit me.

I think year two, I went on a new property. I was in the office doing work, getting stuff for work orders. We had a resident come in and mentioned they had a leak.

I was only on this property for 3 days. I said, let me get my keys. I'll head over there and I'll take a look at it.

I went up in the attic, figured out where the leak was coming from, went to the service technician that was there. That's been there for 3-4 years. I asked him, what is the general protocol on a roof leak?

He said, we get up in the attic, we go take a look, see where it's coming from. We have a roof that we pull out. I was like, okay, we had one at whatever unit it was.

This was before lunch. After lunch, he comes back and he says, hey, did you go take care of that leak? I was like, yeah.

He goes, oh. I was like, was I not supposed to? Was that something you usually do?

He goes, well, usually when a service manager calls me, usually when a leak comes in, the service manager calls me to go do it. I got caught up in the attic. I go, no, I wasn't looking at it.

He goes, you climbed in the attic? I was like, yeah. He goes, oh, I've never had a service manager climb up in the attic and look for the leak.

I go, I was doing the work orders. I was in that area. There was no sense in pulling me off of what you were doing.

That's just the way I am and the way I operate.

[Adrian] (7:32 - 7:58) Josh, when transitioning from maintenance technician to management or service manager role, what were some key insights that helped you excel as a service manager in your new role? Because I do want to say, in my personal opinion, there's very little overlap between a service technician job and a service manager job. Please tell me if you disagree with this.

Yes. Yes, you disagree?

[Josh] (7:59 - 8:08) Oh, no, no. I agree with that. Yeah, it's a whole different ballgame going from that service tech position to that service manager position.

Maintenance supervisor or leadership position.

[Adrian] (8:08 - 8:15) Tell us a little bit about some things that helped you become a great manager coming from a service technician background.

[Josh] (8:15 - 8:56) It just all started with that one service manager that was right there with us and stuff. Learning how to handle the different employees and the technicians and stuff, that was probably the biggest learning curve for me. That really didn't hit me until I was at Brookwood, because I was always over a staff of anywhere from two to five, two to four.

Really, at Brookwood, when I had 15 employees underneath me, managing those different personalities, the different work types and demeanors and stuff like that was probably the hardest challenge. But I think just my personality with being calm and cool and collect, not panicking about things, not being overbearing, I think led me to lead them really well and stuff.

[Adrian] (8:56 - 9:19) What is it like to manage a team of 15 in apartment maintenance? What are some things, tips or tricks that you've learned along the way that might help others that are coming and they want to become that service manager, they want to become that high profile role? What are some things and lessons that you learned along the way as managing such a large team of people?

[Josh] (9:20 - 10:43) Understanding that sometimes it's like you're running a daycare. Some days you're the psychologist, you have them on the couch talking about their personal issues that are affecting the network. I think the biggest thing that I passed along to my team members that I was training was, don't be so reactive right away.

Have that 24-hour, 48-hour period after you have a conversation, after something happens, because you got to figure out what was the driving force behind that, especially if it was out of character for the team members. And I had a service tech that I was training and I was on a new acquisition. And he was my number two and he was managing the property and he called me up one day and he goes, we need to write this guy up.

He came in, he was having a bad attitude and he was just causing problems. I want to write him up. I was like, hold on a second.

Have you talked to him yet? And he goes, no. I go, have a conversation with him, see what's going on.

And then have that conversation tomorrow when he comes in and then just see what's going on. And sure enough, next morning I get a call. He goes, I overreacted.

He goes, there was some stuff that was happening on the way to work and in his personal life that just kind of caused him to go the route that he went to. I definitely don't feel we need to write him up and stuff. So just being patient with the team members and having that 24 or 48-hour cool-down period before you make any rash decisions when it comes to the team members.

So take a deep breath, sometimes a 24-hour breath.

[Adrian] (10:43 - 10:53) Josh, as a Regional Management Director overseeing operations across multiple properties, what are the core principles that guide your management style?

[Josh] (10:54 - 11:52) Treat everybody the way I want to be treated. Giving them that respect because that's what and I've said this to my technicians, especially at Brooklyn when I had those team members, 15 team members, not everybody got along. And at the end of the day, my conversations that I had with the team members was, look, you guys don't have to be friends outside of work.

You don't have to go have drinks after work or whatever it is, but when you're on the clock and you're on property, everybody brings something unique to the team that benefits this team. So we're going to respect that decision and we're going to respect them for that and what they bring as a team member. You don't have to respect them as a person outside.

You don't have to like their beliefs or their values or whatever it is. Respect what they bring to the team because everybody brings something different to the team that helps us benefit. And so looking at all my different service managers, area service managers, they're not all the same.

They're not all cookie cutters, but they all bring something different to the team. And I got to respect, you know, their opinions, the way they manage their teams and things like that, because it works for them.

[Adrian] (11:52 - 12:26) I want to talk a little bit about the jump from service manager to regional manager, let's just say multi-site, right? From one site to like three, five, seven, eight, 10 sites. What are some things that someone that's looking up to you that, you know, wants to become Josh one day, their service manager today, or maybe they're even a technician.

What are some things that they need to know? How would you transition from managing one site to managing or overseeing multiple sites? What are some things, tips that you have for the service managers out there that want to move up the ladder?

[Josh] (12:27 - 13:37) Know your limits. Don't be so prideful. Know that you can address everything personally.

And there's going to be times when you're going to have to delegate items because you're getting pulled in so many different directions that if you try to handle everything by yourself and to be that superstar, to make that impression, it's going to burn you out. And that's what I learned the most at Brookwood. When I was at Brookwood, the amount of physical work that I did was very low.

The work orders I did were mailbox locks, filters, light bulb, things that I can get in and out quick and do relatively without any big issues because I had so many other things going on. So just being able to look at that larger picture and being able to realize that I can address everything that comes on. And I might be great at plumbing.

I might be good at HVAC. But those things take a lot of time out of your day when you're trying to troubleshoot an air conditioner. Those things take a lot of time out of your day to get that done.

And that's going to cause you to fall behind on other aspects of your job. So just know your limits and be humble within yourself and know that not everything has to be done by you. And it's okay to ask for help and it's okay to delegate.

[Adrian] (13:37 - 13:49) Josh, I want to talk a little bit about the pilot program for dispatch maintenance in your region. What inspired this initiative and what are the key takeaways from implementation so far?

[Josh] (13:49 - 15:25) I think it was OPTEC 2022. I think dispatch maintenance was I think the key takeaway last year for OPTEC. And so our chief information officer, he started to look at different regions, visiting sites, seeing how one region operates versus another region and stuff.

And what he noticed was not everybody is working the same way. Not everything's being ran the same way. So really just trying to hone in on the efficiencies.

We visited some other regions. We were talking to a bunch of different team members and it was our big question was how long does it take to paint on a unit? And we got answers from four hours to 18 hours on these units.

And we started to realize that we're trying to hire somebody to do everything and it might not be the best role. So let's look at getting a dispatch team together. If we can pull 15 to 20 team members together, then we can find the best people for that best skill set to get things taken care of correctly.

In one property, you might not have anybody that's really good at appliances. But your sister property next door, they might have a technician that's really good at appliances. Our thought was why keep sending somebody back that's really not that experienced on appliances and just keep sending them back to the same call over and over or they just get in the habit of replacing it.

Let's utilize the team members that we have in place now to help train and educate the other team members on that specialty task that they can do. So the biggest thing that we wanted to do was improve efficiencies across our portfolio and utilize our team members that we currently have in place across more than just one property.

[Adrian] (15:25 - 15:36) How do you make up for the travel time? Or is it that they assigned to only one property per day when they do the work? Or is it traveling involved between properties each day?

[Josh] (15:36 - 16:34) Our number one goal for it was we had a cap. We looked at what is a travel distance that we're willing to sacrifice for. And it was mainly I think 10 minutes, 15 minutes was the max on what we wanted to do.

So when we looked at our region in Oklahoma City, for example, it was really simple. Our region is cut up pretty well. We have properties on the south side of Oklahoma City, downtown on the north side.

When we first rolled out our pod on the south side, we had a property that was on there. On GPS, it was a 15 minute commute. So we brought it into the fold.

However, shortly after they started construction on the main road leading there, and there was only really one good route there and it took 30, 40, 50 minutes to an hour to get to that property. So now we've removed that property from the pod because it didn't make sense for us to be traveling back and forth. So the biggest thing was just the commute to each property and keeping them within that five to 10 minute, 15 minute max commute with each other.

[Adrian] (16:34 - 16:39) First of all, do you find this program to be efficient, to be working in your favor?

[Josh] (16:39 - 17:31) With where we're at in the early phase, it's been, it is successful. The most success that we've seen is on our smaller properties. Their time plans have dropped multiple days because we're able to flood a property, that small property.

We're only a two-man team. One guy was doing work orders, one guy was doing make readies. And just for that specific property, they had townhome style units, three-story units.

So the payment was a two-day process. So now we can bring two or three team members in that unit and get it painted in four to six hours. We can have that full unit done in a day.

And now we're able to, and then we can take those same three team members and go to another property and then they can do three or four make readies in another day at that other property. So we've seen a really good increase in productivity on the make ready side. We're getting our product back online and be able to lease a lot faster.

[Adrian] (17:31 - 17:38) What advice would you have for other companies that might try to implement something similar from the things you learned?

[Josh] (17:39 - 19:09) Communication, be real communicative, understand that our biggest challenge that we had, and then I had to get accustomed to, was the turnover. We lost 14 members because of going into this. And at least in Oklahoma, we didn't have a lot of turnover.

For the last 18 months, our turnover was significantly low. On anybody that we had hired and they've been with us for six months, I think we only had one or two team members over 18 months, 24 months leave us. To have 14 members leave within a 30 day time period was a challenge for us and something that we weren't used to.

Making sure you have also having the right leaders in place. That's got to be key. Understanding that you need to have that maintenance personnel in charge of what's going to be happening because they know how long something should take.

They can kind of look at everything from a bigger spectrum and get everything scheduled out. Communication of the team members, understanding that you might have some employee turnover, so you're going to be able to get staff back up quickly on that. And then just having the right team members in place for that leadership position.

And then I think for us, it was getting the technology in place. We were working on getting the technology in place. It wasn't there when we rolled out pod.

It hindered us a little bit, but we were still able to work with paperwork orders and old school whiteboard for make readies until we were able to roll out our maintenance platform for app-based maintenance work orders.

[Adrian] (19:10 - 19:35) You just mentioned during this last segment that lower turnover rates. So I want to talk about the whole employee cycle from recruiting to onboarding to retaining. Let's start with recruiting.

Tell me your vision about what's going on in the market and maybe share with us, please, some of the things we could do better as an industry when we recruit.

[Josh] (19:35 - 20:59) I think right now we're losing a lot of team members to just going out and doing their own thing. Realizing that they can go utilize their skill set around their neighborhood, around their little towns, and then start their own business up and have that freedom of time. Build stuff on their own schedule, work when they want to work.

I think that's one of the bigger issues and that's going to be something that we're going to continue to face. But I think as us as an industry, we need to look at how are we treating our employees? What is that culture like in the company?

Are we being there supportive for them? Are we listening to their issues that they're coming up with or that they're coming to us? Are we fixing the issues that they have?

Are their issues fixable and just being connected with them? Pay, that's always going to be number one. Maybe not look and compare ourselves to other partner communities.

Let's compare ourselves to farmers or HVAC technicians or electricians like that. I'm not saying we have to be at the high percentage of those HVAC companies and stuff like that, but get within range so we can maybe attract one or two of those team members, those service members from the HVAC field to come help us out. Because if we can get one or two people skilled in HVAC and pay them an extra $3 to $4 an hour, what can that translate with saving and vendor load?

Because vendors are going to just get more costly in the future for us because the demand form is going to be there.

[Adrian] (20:59 - 23:09) I'm glad that you're mentioning pay. Inflation has been crazy for the last two, three years. And we're in a situation where regular folks, and I'm thinking service technicians and maybe service managers too, they struggle putting food on the table.

They're struggling with bills from month to month to month. So how do we expect as employers for them to focus to be 100% there when they struggle to put food on the table? Because prices have been exploding for the last two or three years.

The next topic I want to touch on, Josh, is onboarding. And I'm describing something that I think most in the audience are extremely familiar with. You've been struggling to hire a technician.

You had this position open for two or three months. You finally secure someone, a candidate. They're coming in.

And on their first day, nobody knows that they should be there. They're asking around, hey, whom should I see? Nobody really has a plan of how should we do things.

We finally figure things out and it comes down to you got to do your new hire paperwork. So they start doing the new hire paperwork. An hour later, service manager comes in, hey, have you finished your new hire paperwork?

Well, I'm about to be done. Okay. Would you please make it faster?

Because we have some stuff going on. And the stuff going on is a stack of 60 work orders that are being handed to the technician. Hey, can you finish this today?

Because we have another 500, 600 work orders. This is not an exception. It's a very common occurrence.

How can we expect that person to have a great experience at work when we started this way? We don't have a game. We don't know.

Not everybody knows that the property that they're going to start. We struggle to put new hire paperwork together. And when that's finally done, we push them through the door with a stack of 50 work orders.

Does it sound like this is something that we're experiencing? Is this an exception? Is this the rule from what you know, Josh?

[Josh] (23:09 - 26:21) On this, I'm not good at this one, because that's not how Widener operates at all. So fortunately for us, everything from the time we post our job openings, we have national recruiters that are reaching out to these prospective team members, going through and finding the best candidate for us, making sure they pass background check. So then that way, when they come to us, we have and we make that decision.

The only thing they have to do is pass their drip stream. Once that happens, all the communication from there on out is from our admins. So our admins will send them their information as far as here's your offer letter, here's our start date.

They'll show us, they'll set up their start date, their new hire orientation. And every single employee that we hire goes through new hire orientation with our regional admins. So they spend that first day on the job.

They're not even at the property. They're at our regional office. They're going through the paperwork.

We have the same person over and over and over going over the benefits, going over the tax forms, going over the deposit, the expectations, getting their uniform set up. So then that way, whether they walk out of there with two shirts, we're going to order their pants and the remaining of their uniforms. And then they watch their videos, their housing videos, and just other videos that we have that day.

And then they don't report to the site until later on that afternoon. And really, that's just a meet and greet for the team members. Hey, here's your new service manager.

Here's your community director. Here's your keys for tomorrow. And then the next few days is just onboarding with the team members, showing the property, our service managers, spend those first three or four days with them.

Hey, here's a shop. Here's the shop. Here's our garages.

Here's how we do things in the morning. If we're doing work orders, here's your bin where your work order is at. If you're doing make race, here's how you're going to see what make race you're going to be in.

Are we using an app-based program? Here's how you log into your app-based program so you can see what work orders come to you and stuff. Then within the first two weeks, I go out there for myself and I meet with the team members, the service technicians, the groundskeepers, the SITs, whoever it is.

And I usually take them around for a half a day, take them to lunch, have that conversation with them. Hey, just get to know them on a personal level, find out more about them. If it was a service technician, I probably didn't interview them.

So just find out where their skillset is. What do they want training in? And ask them, what do you want in the next 12 to 18 months?

Where do you see yourself with us or with your training or with your skillset? I take them around and show them other sister properties. The goal is to hit all of our properties in Oklahoma City.

Sometimes we don't, sometimes we do and stuff. It just depends on how long we spend at each property. And then that way they can see how organized and how comparable each property is because all of our shops are set up the exact same way.

All of our shops are color coordinated. So then that way, when team members come in from other properties, they know exactly where to go to find an outlet, a fill valve, a flush valve, things like that. So we're not wasting time on that.

So I think Widener's perfected it. I know it's hard to say things are perfect, but I would say Widener has perfected out that onboarding process because we have the specific channels for everybody It's something impressive.

[Adrian] (26:21 - 26:37) I'm absolutely impressed. I have to say it's a story that I'm not hearing. On a regular basis, it's kind of the other way around.

The scenario was describing before you answer the question. So more power to you for that. Congratulations.

[Josh] (26:37 - 27:30) We hired a service technician in one of our Arkansas portfolios and we interviewed him. He interviewed another company and I think they came in and they offered him a dollar more or something like that. So he chose to go with them.

What you described happened. He walked in for his new hire orientation. Nobody knew who he was.

Nobody knew what he was there for. I think he hung around for 20, 30 minutes and was like, I'm going to go ahead and leave and left and called us up and said, Hey, my other job didn't pan out. You guys have an opening and we did.

And we onboarded him the way we did. And when I talked to him about it, he goes, I was completely impressed and blown away at how the onboarding process was. And our original admin went to Arkansas to onboard them.

She's not even based out of Arkansas. She's out of Tulsa. So she made that two-hour commute that day to make sure he had everything that he needed to have to be successful in his new hire orientation.

[Adrian] (27:31 - 27:56) Let's talk a little bit about on-call. One of the top complaints from the maintenance side teams are on-call. How do we handle on-call?

They're being pushed to do things that are not necessary emergencies. They're not being paid. They're being sent home earlier for the time they spend up for hours.

Tell me a little bit about how your company handles on-call. Tell me about what is on-call like, the on-call experience for your site team members?

[Josh] (27:56 - 31:04) Once again, I would say Widener is near perfect when it comes to our on-call situation. The only thing we have to improve is our answering service. We're aware of that.

We're in the process of figuring out how we're going to handle that process for our answering service because you're right. We do get a lot of calls for technicians for emergencies that are emergencies. It just boils down to who we're utilizing and them not wanting to be the bad person.

The issue that it brings up for us is the service technicians, they want to provide that level of customer service. So they'll come out for things that might not be an emergency. We have to be cognitive when we're talking about it and say, hey, you got to make sure that we're being fair across the board because if not, residents talk.

If you come out for something that's not an emergency, but the technician after you doesn't come out for it because it's not an emergency, then we can get... Now we might have a fair housing violation. Widener is phenomenal when it comes to paying for your on-call service.

We do not ask any of our technicians to cut any hours. Our schedule is... Our payroll is from Saturday to Friday, Saturday to Sunday, or Saturday to Friday.

Whatever you get in that timeframe, that the hours are worth. If you want to come up to us and you want to say, hey, I worked 20 hours this week of on-call, can I take off on Friday? I'm like, you're going to lose your hours.

And they're like, that's fine. I'd rather be able to sleep in or whatever. So we never ask our associates for comp time or to cut time.

If you come out for a call, you're going to get paid for that call and stuff. And then also for us, for our on-call service, I think I've only found one other company that matches or beats our policy. So our technicians get $25 a day for being on-call.

If you're on-call for a holiday, it's $50 for that day. So even if you don't get a call during that whole week, you still get your $25 a day stipend, $175 a week, even if you don't get a call. So if you get one call, you still get $175 plus that hour of overtime or however long it was to do that call.

We're near perfect when it comes to on-call policy and stuff and the way it works out. It's just, we got to figure out, we got to try and find that vendor for that answering service. Our employees, do they still like to take on-call?

No, but having that extra money when they're on-call and knowing that they're going to get paid for it, it definitely helps them with some of their commitments. And with us too, kind of going into this dispatch maintenance, grouping everybody up, trying to get them to see the bigger picture has been a challenge because now some of our team members who are on-call for three properties, but they're on-call once every eight weeks, once every nine weeks. So that's really huge for our two-man properties where they're on-call 26 weeks out of the year.

Now they're on-call eight weeks out of the year or seven weeks out of the year. So getting them to see that bigger picture has been a challenge, but I think now they're starting to see that. When we started dispatch maintenance, we started it in July.

Was it the right time to do dispatch maintenance? Would anybody do dispatch maintenance in July? Probably not, but I had my reasons behind doing it.

And I think now the team members are seeing the positives of being on-call because our on-calls now are next to nothing because we're just in that transitional period.

[Adrian] (31:05 - 31:27) Leadership, it's a very hot topic, right? How do we create leaders? How do we lift people up to become leaders?

So my next question, Josh, is around leadership. What advice would you give to organizations aiming to nurture future maintenance leaders within their ranks? Be patient with them.

Give them the tools to succeed.

[Josh] (31:27 - 32:16) Lead the way you want them to lead. Let them make the decisions that they should be making. If they make the wrong decision, don't jump down their throat.

Ask them, why did you make that decision? Let them explain to you why they made it. And then that's when you can come in and say, okay, I understand why you made that decision.

It makes sense from what you're saying. Next time, let's maybe look at it like this and just give them your perspective being that higher up. I've been fortunate enough in my time in Widener to have phenomenal leadership from my community directors to my area directors that I've worked with to my regional director and my VP.

We all got great relationships and they're just phenomenal people. They've allowed me to grow and I think they've advanced my leadership style just by seeing how they're leading.

[Voiceover] (32:16 - 32:20) And now a word from Sean Landsberg, co-founder, AppWork.

[Adrian] (32:20 - 32:31) You mentioned feedback from the client. So typically if I was to go with a big tech company and try to provide some feedback to improve their product, good luck with that. How does it work with AppWork?

[Sean] (32:31 - 32:59) Yeah, I think that was based off of some of our own experiences that we've had as a management organization where we tried to work with some of the technology providers that we worked with and giving them feedback and we kind of saw where that got us. And that was one of the things that when we launched AppWork, we wanted to help use to set ourselves apart where we can really leverage the collective feedback from our clients and use that to better our product. Because I mean, who else are we building the product for, right?

[Adrian] (33:01 - 33:23) The next topic, Josh, is technology and product. Tell me about some technology that your company is currently using to improve, to help the maintenance teams to improve the workflows and some other things that you know you're planning to do in the future to help your teams from a technology standpoint.

[Josh] (33:23 - 36:48) App-based work orders. So being able to pull work orders from an app, a mobile version, so then that way we're not needing to go into the office, print out work orders and then handwrite on the work order what you completed. So that right now is our biggest initiative that we're doing right now.

So we're piloting some programs on that. It's definitely challenging. Maintenance guys.

I mean, we haven't had, you know, we look at our maintenance industry. We haven't had a lot of changes in the last 20 years I've been here. I think back to some of the changes are going from a pager to a cell phone, going from handwritten carbon work orders to print off work orders.

And that's about all that we've done that I can recall in the last 20 years. So going to this technology that's all on your phone to be able to look at your work orders, close them out. I think that's going to be a huge benefit.

It's going to save us so much time and resources because now we can just see what's there and we can assign work orders out in the field. So it's going to have wasted, you know, a lot less wasted downtime on our team members. They don't have to keep on coming back to the shop, dropping off the work orders, picking up the work orders.

So I definitely think those app-based maintenance programs are the future. The one that I'm most excited about teaming with that is definitely smart home features, but trying to find smart home features that work because we do have some regions that have those smart locks, have those smart home features, and they're just, there's still some kinks in them to where people don't like utilizing them. But when I was at OPTECH this year, I was, I think that was a key, was one of the ones, they had a lot of, you know, smart home options.

That's my next step that I want to push for Oklahoma to get more smart home features with smart locks and smart thermostats. Not only from an effectiveness, you know, being effective with being able to unlock an apartment home with a code, but also being able to look at when the cold weather comes in, it's a resident on vacation and they turn their heat off because it was nice out when they left and then we got a cold front coming in. So being able to remotely look at residents' thermostats and have those breakpoints set to where if it gets below 62 in the apartment, even though the thermostat's off, we're going to kick it off.

Or we can look at it from our home, our desktop and say, oh look, this person, you know, the heater's not on in this unit, whether it's a vacant or an occupied, let's go ahead and turn it up so we have, you know, we can rent pipes from there. Back to the smart lock, being able to get vendors access to that as well. So then that way they don't have to come in the office, you know, bother a leasing agent or somebody in the office to try and get a key, a vendor key, and then they got to bring it back.

Now we can just have to give them their code and that code will be, you know, valid for them for a set period of time. And I know master codes, master keys, I think are a hot button and stuff and people worry about them. But nowadays with the technology, being able to see who's in and out, I think the safety's there.

I think the safety's there more than what a traditional key is. You know, if we lose a key to an apartment, yeah, usually it's on a handy track key tag or, you know, something that has no visible identification, but it's still a key to somebody's home. And now we've got to call the resident up and say, hey, we lost your key.

We need to repeat your apartment. They get upset. They're worried about safety.

Employee, you know, you have a bad employee firing or quit. Instead of having to go through and re-keying all the, you know, vendor keys and things like that, you just dispense the code. So I definitely feel the smart locks and the smart home feature are the way of the future.

And I'm looking forward to utilizing that in my region.

[Adrian] (36:49 - 37:44) Proactive versus reactive. I've been around for 20 plus years and this has always been a topic of the conversation. And it starts like this.

We are just reacting to what's happening to us as maintenance professionals. We're running around all day long putting out fires versus having an approach of preventing fires from happening. Does this sound like it's a common scenario to you in an industry?

I know that you've been with your company for several years now, and maybe you don't have enough exposure to weight on that. But I would love to get your opinion. And I also love to get your opinion of what is your company doing to switch, to turn the tables on reactionary mode and turning things more towards a proactive perspective when it comes to maintenance work and processes.

[Josh] (37:45 - 40:18) That's, yeah, I definitely see that's an issue because when it comes down to scheduling and preventative maintenance, your filter change outs and things like that, and you've got to put that stuff in the budget, that's usually one of the first things that kind of starts getting cut out of there. It's your scheduled maintenance items or filter changes and things like that. I actually did train a trainer in Austin earlier in September and one of the other regional maintenance directors had a really good word.

He goes, I'm not calling it preventative maintenance. I'm calling it scheduled maintenance. We need to get this maintenance scheduled so then that way we can get it handled before it becomes a fire.

I think some of the things we got to be able to do is the technology side on the computer side, we have to train our service managers to be able to look at budgets, to pull past work orders, to kind of handle that side to where they can pull their work order history for, whether it be a specific apartment, whether it be for a specific category to see what are some of the issues that we're running into. How many work orders are we doing a year?

And of those work orders, how many of them are appliances? And why are they because of appliances? How many of them are HVAC or just filter changes or oil cleans?

Teaching them to sift through the data on Yardi, on whatever program you're running so they can make that informed decision, but then also making sure you're implementing it. One of the things we do as a company is we have our preventative maintenance work orders come in. So we have it set up to where what I did was, I know not every property is the same.

So not every property can do filter checks on this day of the week or on this week of the month or whatever it is. Give me your best schedule that would work for your specific property for your preventative maintenance. Then that way, one, it also gets them the buy-in to feel that they have a say in the problem.

If I'm just telling them, Hey, every November, you guys need to go change the filters and check the units for this and that, then there's really no buy-in for it. It's just them being told what to do. But if I allow them to make up their schedule, there's usually more buy-in for it.

And then what we do is we generate work orders for it. So every month for those scheduled preventative maintenance that are being scheduled for that month, they'll get that work order and then they have to sign off on that work order that is complete. And then we follow up with it during our property walks and my annual walks with them, making sure that they're adhering to their schedule and they have preventative maintenance binders to where they'll print the work orders.

They'll fill it out with the scheduled date it was done and what they did. And then they'll put it in that binder. So then that way I can look at that binder and say, go back through the months and I can see what was scheduled for them and what was in there that got done.

[Adrian] (40:18 - 40:36) Josh, I want to take us into a different aspect of maintenance, property maintenance. And I want to talk about training. Share with us, please, here, your vision about what training should look like for maintenance in 2024.

What's your vision? What should training for maintenance look like?

[Josh] (40:36 - 44:07) My big goal is our vendors get away from doing Zoom training. COVID showed that they can do it, but we know maintenance guys don't like to do training for Zoom. So we have our vendors that give water heater training, appliance training that are still doing it on Zoom.

So I'd like to get back to those in-person training classes. I'm on the education committee for the apartment association of central Oklahoma. We're talking about doing things like that.

So doing quick little two-hour lunches and learn with vendors to, you know, every other month or whatever it is to where they can come in, you know, learn about painting, learn about electrical plumbing, HVAC. And it's a short class. It's two hours.

They get lunch at the end of it. They might get a little tool to help facilitate that, that work that they've learned. So doing that in-person training and actually myself, I did a, I had a demo done for the company that does computer training.

I feel what was presented to me was incredible. Short little six to eight minute videos where, you know, they have three, 400 more training videos that we can assign to technicians. And they're short little three to five, eight minute videos on how to troubleshoot items.

And it was all, it wasn't just somebody talking to you to do it and you following along. It was actually you like using your computer mouse to go in to click on, you know, the thermostat, to turn the thermostat on. And it would tell you, all right, click this to turn the thermostat on.

Now, do you see the fan, you know, do you see the air moving? And it would have streamers by the vent and you would say yes or no. If it was no, then it would take you to the air handler and tell you to start, you know, where to start troubleshooting and stuff.

So they can utilize the mouse to do it. But then it also had a VR feature to where you can put your VR headset on and you can actually walk around the unit. You can do a make ready and, you know, pull the toilet lid off and look at the flush valve and the fit and the flapper and make sure everything's good in there.

Use the tools. It'll tell you to pull out your multimeter and you can pull out your multimeter and reset. So that's something that I'm trying to roll out for 2024 for my region is to get that interactive training set up for them as well.

And what's nice about it is they have career platforms that you can set up for team members. So if I have a groundskeeper that wants to be that service technician, now I can go and say, all right, I want you to be a service technician at a garden style apartment. So it'll auto populate 20 or 30 videos and assessments and tests and training videos for them to watch and to do and to learn and to work on.

And what's nice about it is, is it has a training feature to where it'll help guide you through it. Then it has a you do feature that will let you do stuff. And then it'll report back if you get it wrong or not.

Sorry. Like if you need your meter, it'll come out and say, all right, your meter's already set on this. Then they have the master training to where you do everything by yourself.

You open, you know, pull your meter out and set it to where it needs to be set. If you have to shut the breaker off, you need to walk to the breaker and turn it off. It'll let you complete everything.

And, but if you're failing some safety items, or if you mess something up on the meter, it'll tell me on the backend saying, Hey, this person, instead of checking, you know, the DC, they went and checked for, you know, they turned it off for AC and they didn't get the right reading or they didn't have it on 240. They had it on the lower setting. So they weren't reading out the right voltage or they changed out this transformer without killing the power to the unit and stuff.

So that's some of the things I'm looking at doing this year in 2024 for my team in Oklahoma. And then really just partnering with my local vendors to try to get more of that hands-on training.

[Adrian] (44:08 - 44:13) Josh, is it important for training to be mobile? Like on your phone? Yeah.

[Josh] (44:13 - 44:39) I think being able to, you know, if you're, if you're an apartment and you're having an issue with something, if you can have that training on your phone to where you can pull it up and you might be just having a rough day to where you might be, you know, your mind's not in the right, your mind's not in the right spot, but you can pull up that mobile phone and look on there and say, Hey, all right, how do I do this real quick? And just get that quick refresher.

So I definitely feel at, you know, mobile phone training is something that can help us out in the field as well.

[Adrian] (44:40 - 45:46) Josh, I want to switch to KPIs next. Typically for the past 20 years, I haven't seen any significant tools helping us gauging the main esteem performance. So when it comes time for annual evaluation, typically, did Johnny get many complaints from the residents?

No. Sounds like he's a good guy. His co-workers are liking him.

He deserves a raise. But how about like getting super granular to see how Johnny performs? How many service requests he completes per day, per month, per year?

How long does he spend in a day like working on service requests? Like all those granular details, all those number of data points, is there any value in having those available? Could you share what initiatives, if any, your company has regarding their ability to be able to gauge the technician's performance in terms other than just a general opinion, a subjective opinion of their direct manager or community manager?

[Josh] (45:46 - 49:25) 100%. We need to know that information. And I think I can not, I guess, humbly, I'm not trying to brag on myself or anything like that, but that was something that I pride myself in when I was going to work with was I assigned every, I had all my technicians set up in Yardi.

So I had all my technicians set up in Yardi to where I can assign the workload. So with that, what I was able to do at the end of the year, when it was time for evaluations, I can go to my settings or my role in Yardi and I can pull up the timeframe from January 1 to December 31st, how many work orders did Sean do? How many work orders did Kenneth do?

And I can see that metric. And I made sure I put that on their evaluations. And what that became was a little competition because competition between everybody, a little healthy competition goes a long way.

And I feel that's what made, you know, Brooklyn Village successful when I was there was that competition between the techs. Because my one service tech, when it was time for evaluation, I gave him that number. His follow-up question was, how many did Sean do this year?

And I gave him that number. His goal was the following year, he wanted to beat that number. Next year, when I gave him that number, he goes, where was I at compared to Sean?

I'll go, you beat him by 300 work orders. I think that was the best thing he got. I don't think he even cared about the pay raise at that point in time.

The fact that he can say for that year, I had completed the most work orders on site. And I beat Sean, who was kind of the standard bearer when it came to work orders. I was able to beat him by 200 work orders.

It was huge. I tracked all my make ratings because at Brooklyn, I had two split teams. So I had a make ready team and a work order team.

So I was tracking the work order, tracking the make readies as well, because for the same reason, I needed to know who was my top performing make ready term teams. So when it came time for evaluations, I can shine light on that and I can showcase their skill set. It also helped me in employees, because I had those employees that felt it was because of them that the maintenance was running the way it was running.

And a little quick reality check to him was that wasn't the case. He came to me wanting extra money and was complaining that he was running the team. And if it wasn't for him, the team wouldn't be where it was at.

And I pulled up the numbers. And I think he was surprised when I pulled up the numbers because I go, look, I go, you've done 45 West make readies than the person next to you. There's only three people and you're still 60 make readies below the number one person.

So you might feel that you're doing the most amount of work. But in reality, the numbers say that otherwise. He did the same thing when it came to work orders.

I'm carrying this team of the work orders. I'm like, let's see where you're at. And it was a humbling experience for him.

But I think I was probably the top half percent in our company that was doing that. And that's why we made the initiative to go to an app-based program was so we can track because now everything is getting assigned to those team members. So now we can track and see what we're doing.

We're moving the make ready board and all of our make ready processes for the painting and the maintenance are going in the work. So now we can actually see who's doing the make ready. How long has it taken in the view to make readies?

And then that way we can utilize that information on staffing purposes as well. Do we have a property that's understaffed based upon the number of work orders that they have or the number of make readies in the time that it takes to do it? So being able to have that real life information is going to be helpful for us moving forward in 2024 and in the future.

And the apps are the way that's going to be more attractive.

[Adrian] (49:26 - 49:45) Josh, I want to look towards the future, open up that little window and try to see into the future. Are there any emerging trends for technology in property maintenance that particularly excite you? Or what would you like to see?

Or how do you envision the future of apartment maintenance?

[Josh] (49:45 - 52:16) My goal is with dispatch maintenance that we're doing in our pilot program in Oklahoma City, it's going to lead to a different mindset. The mindset that we're preaching to our team members now is maintenance oversight over maintenance. Our area service managers, which are the ones that are in charge of the pod, the multiple properties and stuff like that, anything maintenance related is coming from that.

They're in charge of final say-so on carpet replacements. They're in charge of training for their teams. They're in charge of making sure their timesheets are up to date.

We know that without... Let's face it, without the maintenance team, where would our properties be at? How would the assets be run?

Not to disregard anybody's job title or anything like that, but if we put out a great product, anybody can use it. But we got to have that great product first. So we got to have those great service managers and area service managers to know what the standard is and to have that say-so in control of that team.

So then that way, one, we're going to see more respect from the service team members because now the directive is coming from that maintenance personnel versus somebody in the office. So the initiative that we're doing with this dispatch maintenance is maintenance oversight over maintenance. And that's something that I truly hope changes the way maintenance team members ran in the future.

Because for the longest time, just the maintenance guys just don't get enough credit. And I've seen it growing. I've seen it coming into the business.

And I had those community directors and a property manager that just treated us like garbage. They treated us like second-rate employees. They're like, Oh, just be thankful that you have a job.

What are you talking about? If it wasn't for us, the sidewalks wouldn't be shoveled. The floods wouldn't be taken care of.

We wouldn't have stuff to lease. That's probably been the greatest thing about working side-by-side with Peter Kim, our chief information officers, is that came from him. It's that maintenance oversight over maintenance.

And he understands that maintenance is what runs Widener. And I hope that that initiative takes off and I hope other companies see that. And I hope that we're able to crush this dispatch maintenance with it being led by maintenance personnel.

And it's a new trend in five, 10 years. And I think you said it when you came to speak for us. We have all these area directors or regional directors over four or five properties.

We need to have that maintenance presence in that same capacity. And that's exactly what we're doing with our area service manager.

[Adrian] (52:17 - 52:30) Josh, I love to hear about all the great things and initiatives that you have going on at Widener. And I'd like to give you the opportunity now in closing to share some final thoughts with us here, with me and our audience.

[Josh] (52:30 - 53:22) With the technology change, and I think it's just letting our team members know that we're not trying to replace them. We're not trying to micromanage them. Because that's some of the feedback that we're getting.

We're trying to make the job for them easier. We're trying to give them the tools to succeed. Because for the longest time, we haven't always had those tools to succeed.

Be willing to adapt to the changes. Be willing to go a little bit above and beyond to get your name out there, to be recognized. Don't give up so easily.

I've talked to some of my LinkedIn contacts who kind of get discouraged because they feel that they're not getting the recognition that they're getting, that they feel they deserve. And I just tell them, just keep doing the way that you're doing it. The right people will recognize your talent.

And those are the ones that you want to work with. Those are the ones that you want to have as your leaders, because they recognize your value. They recognize what you've done for the team and to the company.

[Adrian] (53:24 - 53:32) Josh, how can someone in the audience that's watching or listening to this episode get in touch with you? What are the best ways to get a hold of you?

[Josh] (53:32 - 54:07) You can follow me on LinkedIn. I got a pretty active, I'm not quite as active as you on LinkedIn but I'm definitely on that. I feel we need more service team members, service managers on that just to kind of get that voice out there in the field and stuff.

So you're on LinkedIn, they can find me. You want to reach out to me, you can reach out to me via email, josh.hays26 at I'm more than happy to talk with you guys, to anybody about any questions you might have.

If you're local in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, find me at an apartment association event. I'll probably be there front row at some of the seminars or at the training classes or whatever it is.

[Adrian] (54:07 - 54:36) Josh Hays, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to be here with us at Multifamily X Podcast. We hope to get you back here soon. Thank you to our sponsors at AppWork for powering this podcast of maintenance leaders, masters of maintenance.

We hope to see back here soon, all of you, and I hope you'll have a great day. Thank you for watching us today.