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Navigating the Maintenance Landscape


Unveiling the SMART Program
Strategies in Growing Talent Pool
Challenges and Strategies in Hiring
Challenges and Strategies With Training
Centralization. Buzzword or Viable Strategy?
Emerging Trends in Service Operations
Revising Organizational Restructuring
RELEASED ON 12/10/23

Join us for our chat with Mike Mangum, the Director of Operations, Maintenance, and Construction Services for WPM Real Estate Management.

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

(0:23 - 0:38) Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of Multifamily X podcast series, Maintenance Masters. And today I'm here with Mike Mangum. Thank you for coming here, Mike, and welcome to the show.

(0:39 - 0:47) Thanks for having me, Adrian. I do want to acknowledge our partners and sponsors from AppWork. They're powering this podcast, so we thank them for the partnership.

(0:48 - 1:17) Mike, you are the Director of Operations, Maintenance, and Construction Services for WPM Real Estate Management. Please walk us through your journey in multifamily maintenance. I would say my journey started a little bit before even I got into multifamily, with just getting into HVAC, electrical, learning various trades, and ultimately, and that was about 23 years ago, and ultimately getting into multifamily about 15 years ago.

(1:17 - 1:43) I started out on site as a service technician, going to service manager, multi-site service manager, then to the corporate level, and ultimately, Director of Operations of Maintenance and Construction Services. So it's been an exciting journey and something I'm very passionate about. I'm a big proponent of building teams, streamlining processes, and training is very, very important to me.

(1:43 - 2:05) Mike, tell us a little bit about your company, WPM Real Estate Management. Is it owner-managed, owner-managed and third-party management, or just third-party management? How many communities, how large a portfolio, how many apartment homes? WPM Real Estate Management is based out of Owings Mills, Maryland. We are owner and third-party.

(2:06 - 2:31) We've been around for, WPM, that entity's been around for about 17 years, but actually the roots go back to our parent company and our ownership group, go back 75 years. So certainly we're not new to the business or the region. We manage multifamily, association, commercial, and we have over 150 properties between all of them.

(2:31 - 2:45) We take in multifamily, we have over 65 sites, spanning four states, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. I couldn't give you an exact unit count. I should probably know that, but it's changed.

(2:45 - 3:01) We've went through a lot of growth over the last several years. Yeah, I've been with WPM Real Estate Management for my entire multifamily journey, starting out as an on-site. So the 15 years I have has been spent here, and it's been a great experience.

(3:01 - 3:36) That's an amazing, remarkable journey. 15 years, all 15 years with the same company. For those in the audience that are looking up to you, and someone like you, they want to become a director of maintenance one day, what are some pieces of advice that you know you would have? Like what would help them follow into your steps and become as successful as you have been? Yeah, I would say, and you'll hear me say this probably multiple times today, but I say this all the time, and that's invest in yourself, right? The most important thing someone coming into the industry or anyone can really do is make the investment in yourself.

(3:36 - 3:56) Show up, do the work. It's not always instant gratification. It's not always an instant reward, but once you create the baseline of skills and the broad experience, and expose yourself to those experiences, it makes you a more valuable team member and certainly more valuable to any organization.

(3:56 - 4:21) Mike, what are some key changes that you observe in service operations within an industry in 2023 compared to the previous years? So 2023, everything is kind of phrased post-pandemic, right? So like we had business as normal, so to speak, as it relates to maintenance operations. I don't think a lot was really going on prior to the pandemic. It was just kind of going along.

(4:22 - 4:52) And then the pandemic happened. It certainly accelerated everything in the world, but certainly in multifamily and in service operations as it relates to the job market, recruiting, and then all of the backend things like ordering, availability, remote work, all that. I think the biggest change that I've seen in 23, certainly post-pandemic is the restructuring, so to speak, of a lot of organizations of how they look at service.

(4:52 - 5:27) I think for the first time in the last two years, we're seeing a place in multifamily where service is really having a seat at the table, right? Service is really starting to be involved in budgets. They're really starting to be, people are recognizing the value that service brings, and you're not just so kept out of sight, out of mind, and they ask you when they need to know how to fix something or send you to go fix something in the middle of the night. So I think I've seen service play a much larger role nationally in all organizations in 2023.

(5:27 - 5:49) I think prop tech, very exciting. The technology, certainly that's post-pandemic as you talk about different models and centralizing and all kinds of different things like that, the technology is critical in making that happen. And some of the technology changes, and it is so new, and it happens so fast that it's either you're either get on board or you're left behind with your competitors.

(5:50 - 5:57) So you have to be able to certainly adapt to those different things. A lot to unpack here. I'm gonna have some follow-up questions a little down the road.

(5:57 - 6:06) I wanna go over some prop tech questions. I wanna go over some retention, some changes. I wanna go over the seats at the table.

(6:06 - 6:47) I do wanna ask you next, in your role as Director of Operations, what strategies have you implemented lately to adapt to the changing landscape of service operations and support? Before I get into the strategy, I'd get into like a theme. And the theme would be tailoring the needs, tailoring services to meet the needs of clients, right? So every client, every owner has a different need, has a different expectation. So really, as far as strategies and maintenance operations, it's making sure you're tailoring the service to meet their expectation, to meet the need on that level, but also meet the needs of your clients, your customers, your residents.

(6:48 - 6:56) I think that standardization is something that we've implemented. It's something that's critical. It's something that it pays dividends across the board.

(6:56 - 7:12) So when you have large portfolio, high unit count, there's so many variables, so many things to keep track of, being able to standardize things to the extent possible. And it makes decision-making easier. It makes the processes easier.

(7:12 - 7:53) And it makes for the end user, it gives them the ability to follow that process, right? So it takes all of the guesswork out of the equation when you do it right. Let's talk about the future a little bit. How do you foresee the future of service operations in our field, multifamily, maintenance multifamily? Any emerging trends that you'll find particularly exciting that people are not maybe paying so much attention to, but they're about to happen? I think that, so some emerging trends, let's set technology aside for a second, right? And let's just talk about operations.

(7:53 - 8:25) I think that we find ourselves in 2023, 2024 in a very unique scenario that we multifamily never seen ourselves in before or service-related industry. And that is we're in a space where we had highly skilled technicians that knew how to fix the boilers, knew how to fit, they knew the trade work, right? They could braise, they could solder, they could do all of these tasks. As that generation retired, the next generation was not trained at an equal rate to replace them.

(8:25 - 8:49) Then you're throwing the pandemic, which kind of throws a huge wrench in things and people leave industries to go work in other industries and things like that. So there's a real, the talent pool is small of highly skilled, trained professionals that we're all shooting after to try to run these organizations and run these properties. And that's something different, that's something that wasn't the case 10 years ago necessarily.

(8:49 - 9:11) There are trends that are emerging are because of that fact, things that have been considered a constant or the normal in multi-family, doing snow removal in-house, right? 24 hour emergency on call in-house. In my opinion, in the next five to 10 years, those things are over. Those, there will be models that move to outsourcing because it will make sense for two reasons.

(9:12 - 9:28) It'll eventually make sense financially, but we'll be forced into it because there's not gonna be people to do it, plain and simple. There will not be people that are gonna say, when you say, yeah, we're gonna hire you, but by the way, you're gonna be on call 24 hours a day. We need you to respond on Saturday.

(9:28 - 9:37) They're gonna say, no, thank you. We need you to come out in the middle of the night and fix a busted pipe. They're gonna say, no, thank you, but we'll pay you overtime.

(9:37 - 10:04) That's all right, I'd rather be with my family. I think I bring that up to say, I think we're certainly headed in that direction, but the pandemic accelerated the thought process, right? Where the entire world realized how valuable their time is. And prior to that, I know, you know, when I started in the industry, it was like, I would sell you all my time, right? You want me to work a double? You want me to work the weekend? Sure, I'll work overnight and come in the next morning at seven o'clock, no problem, just pay me.

(10:04 - 10:17) That is a paradigm shift and a fundamental change in this whole thing in the world that has an impact on what we do. And that is, you can't buy people's time. They come in at three in the morning for a few hours on call.

(10:18 - 10:33) They don't wanna report to work the next day, right? Like they wanna get their eight hours sleep. So a lot of people would say, well, these people are lazy, right? These people are lazy. They don't wanna, and I think what I would say is they value their time.

(10:34 - 10:54) And so from an owner's perspective, it's a drastic thing to be able to take and say, we're gonna be buying everyone's time constantly to do snow removal at a reduced rate to do these things. And now it's in a space where you can no longer buy the time. It doesn't matter what dollar amount you associate to it, it's not for sale.

(10:55 - 11:16) That has huge implications on service operations, how we operate, how we recruit, how we take and assess talent, like everything. It literally has a ripple effect across the board that everyone feels. So I think that is one of the biggest emerging trends that we're slowly going towards.

(11:16 - 11:30) And for the outsourcing piece, it's simply, again, there's not a talent pool there or a feeder system. And in my opinion, it won't be there for another five years. It'll be five years before trade schools are able to ramp up and start pushing out.

(11:31 - 11:46) And I'm not talking about Lincoln Tech or some of these vocational regional schools necessarily. I'm talking about on the job training. You show up, you've done it, you have the experience, you know how to fix HVAC in a multifamily setting or a facility setting.

(11:46 - 11:59) You know how to do electrical work. You know the work. So I think there's a disconnect there and there's a gap and it'll be five years, maybe more, before we start to see an influx of another generation coming in that can fill that void.

(12:00 - 12:14) I couldn't agree more with your assessment. For those of us somehow familiar with commercial maintenance, like this has been happening already for decades, the outsourcing thing. So they are outsourcing most of the work in commercial maintenance.

(12:14 - 12:31) And I think that we're following that trend no matter what, mainly due to the lack of personnel. There's another, I'll say maybe trend. So I like to ask you, is this a trend, a real trend, or is this just a buzzword? And the word is centralization.

(12:32 - 12:54) So I like for you to wait on this. Centralization in maintenance. Is centralization in maintenance just a buzzword? Is this something real? Is this something that we could actually put in place in multifamily and how extensive what that would be? Would it be like a little bit of centralization? Would it be like a lot of centralization or somewhere in between? Centralization is a buzzword.

(12:54 - 13:20) It sounds great, right? When you're looking at a budget and you're saying, you're wrestling between, we need to pay more potentially to get the candidate we want to oversee facilities. How can we group it together, right? How can we share the cost? So I think there is something there. Generally, it becomes a buzzword because there's a whole bunch of variables in there on a case by case basis.

(13:20 - 13:55) If it's a large scale property, I think that centralization is much more difficult to do. If you have over 250, 300 units, certainly over 300, it becomes more challenging to do a centralized approach with multi-site because you're dealing with a host of issues. I mean, just keys alone, right? So let's say, where do you keep keys? Do you keep the keys on site? Do you keep the keys at a central location? You have to deal with response times when you're centralized and you're going between three, five larger properties.

(13:55 - 14:24) Can you get there quick enough? What's the impact on ratings and reviews, customer service? If your sink's overflowing and someone can't get there because they're not local to the property, well, then that's a problem, not only from an asset management perspective, but also from a customer service perspective. I think that maintenance is the most difficult one to centralize because it really requires hands-on. You can't remotely fix an electrical socket.

(14:24 - 14:43) You can't remotely unclog a sink. You can't remotely do these things. As it relates to property management, leasing, technical consulting, those things, I think those can be centralized to a large extent.

(14:43 - 15:14) We adapted during the pandemic with virtual tours, right? And it was a remote option there with leasing where you weren't coming in contact with a potential resident. So I think there is a path to centralization. It's just not the buzzword that everyone talks about and it may not be as pretty in the end, or there can certainly be cost sharing, but I often think about at what cost, at what cost to customer service, at what cost to ratings, reviews.

(15:14 - 15:37) And as we all know, those things are critical in 2023 to a success of any organization. The key challenge that you mentioned, I think could be somehow overcame by automating the locks, implementing locks, the type of hotel locks that we have to where access is not with a physical key. You could actually access doors, any door, your phone.

(15:37 - 16:05) So is that something that your company considers implementing any time in the future? Also reduces that like back and forth time to from the office for the tax, pick up keys, turning keys. It eliminates vendors lining up in office waiting for a key or waiting to get their ID back when they return the key. That's a lot of time that could be freed up for your leasing teams or maintenance teams.

(16:05 - 16:21) That's certainly a hot topic. I mean, my personal opinion is, as it relates to automated locks is, I think we're close to where they are as an industry. The locks are close to where they need to be, but they're not all the way there yet.

(16:21 - 16:38) So a lot of the technology is still, it can actually cause more wrinkles in operations a lot of times than it does add value. I see your point and I agree with it. I think that eventually we're able to take and get there and it'll make sense to do so.

(16:38 - 16:56) One of the challenges is simply going backwards. So if a apartment community has all regular brass keys and you're going back to retro these locks into, you need your platform, you need the hardware, the software, all that, there's a great expense there. So I think that's one challenge to overcome.

(16:56 - 17:16) On a new construction or new build, I think it's a lot easier to go that direction and make sense. And it's really about picking the right product that's gonna meet the needs. Some of the challenges I've ran into are one-off, so locks fail, you can't get replacements because the company went out of business, right? The farms are no longer available.

(17:17 - 17:58) There's hacking issues with some of them where they're able to be hacked. The average person doesn't necessarily do that, but there's some other variables in there, not just to play devil's advocate. But I do think that ultimately we're headed in that direction because whether anyone wants to or not, I mean, I think we're really close to where we're gonna have a universal fob for everything in our life, right? So like, I can imagine a place where we're not too far off from where the fob that starts your car is just like a garage door opener and it has universal buttons on it to where you can program it to your front door lock, your office lock, and you end up just with one fob that allows you to take and gain access because it's coded to all different things.

(17:58 - 18:14) I agree that that's where we're heading. I think that, you know, like a one-stop shop, it's on our way for everything that we need, for all the passwords that we use, the whole book that we have with passwords and usernames. I think it's coming.

(18:14 - 18:26) Like, there's just way too many of them to remember or to save on so many devices integration. That's a challenge that we encounter even outside of work, in real life. I do, I know I do.

(18:26 - 19:15) Yeah, so I like to go back to the product question a little bit later, but for right now, Mike, I would like for you to start elaborating on the challenges and opportunities encounter when we talk about training, hiring, and retaining maintenance professionals. So I like to take it one at a time and just kinda, I like for you to talk about training, like, you know, what challenges do we have with training maintenance personnel? And how do you see like the training in 2023, 2024 happening, what's the future for maintenance training? As it relates to training, I think the primary challenge is entry-level service and maintenance positions do not have the underlying fundamentals, the baseline skills of the trades. And we don't get much crossover from other trades into maintenance.

(19:15 - 19:27) What we do, we get the exit from multifamily service into various other trades. That's a whole separate conversation. So they're not coming in with a baseline of plumbing necessarily, or electrical, or HVAC.

(19:27 - 19:43) Training has proven to be challenging. You have that virtual capability, and it really, a hybrid model is what we've worked on at WPM Real Estate Management to take and do both. So there's a combination of virtual and a combination of hands-on.

(19:43 - 20:07) It may be in a classroom, but you're getting a presentation or watching something virtually, and then you're able to implement what you're learning with hands-on exposure, hands-on experience that take and actually touch tools, physically touch materials. And it's that combination, because as we know, everyone learns differently. So one method may work well for one person while they completely are blocked out.

(20:08 - 20:21) But when they're able to physically touch it and pick up the tools and do it, they do it twice and then they know how to do it and they've learned the task. Training is an investment, I always say. It doesn't pay dividends today.

(20:22 - 20:35) It pays dividends in the future. And we find ourselves, and I found myself in this trap over the years, but we find ourselves in the trap of, you know, we're busy. We got all these things going on, all these fires to put out, and I'm just gonna do it myself.

(20:35 - 20:48) I don't have time to train the next person. But we just fall into the revolving circle of that person never learns the skills then to relieve the burden that we're already stuck in. Again, training is an investment.

(20:48 - 21:05) You take the time today, it's gonna put you behind on things. You're not gonna get things done. But that investment in training will pay dividends when you can set that person free and they can do the work themselves in the future, which ultimately will free the next person up, their supervisor, their manager, to be able to do additional tasks.

(21:06 - 21:38) Let's go to the next one, hiring. We all have, you know, we all know what the challenges are, right? We're short-staffed, very hard to find qualified personnel. What are some thoughts on hiring? Or how can we do better as an industry? What are the challenges? And what causes those challenges that we have with hiring? And what are the opportunities? What can we do better as an industry to better hire? Well, I would say as an industry, our primary problem is that talent pool, that we're all fighting over a small group of people.

(21:38 - 22:06) And generally, the people at the top of that list are going to the highest paid offers. Because in some cases, organizations are just throwing money at the problem and saying, we'll pay you something that five years ago would have been considered ridiculous, but we're gonna pay you because we realize that you're the unicorn, right? We hear the phrase of the unicorn constantly, that everyone's after. So I think the challenge comes from that talent pool.

(22:07 - 22:31) Ultimately, you know, multifamily as an industry nationwide runs into the issue that they're competing now with other trades, they're competing with commercial management and facility management. It's tough to compete salary wise in a lot of cases. And then you have that one call, snow removal, heavy workload piece that also I think steers people away in a lot of ways.

(22:31 - 22:47) When they're, you know, looking at the two and they're saying, well, I'm gonna be on call once every three weeks or four weeks. So when I get, I'm on call, I'm gonna get a lot of calls versus, you know, I'm gonna be on call and just call a contractor and they're gonna come out and deal with it. I'm gonna take the phone call.

(22:47 - 23:04) So I think there's certainly a challenge there. I think that the things we need to do better as an industry is simply promote service and multifamily service. I think that we haven't done a great job as an industry doing that.

(23:04 - 23:19) And part of it is that path, right? We need to, forever it's been looked at on a maintenance technician or a maintenance professional has had a stereotype attached to them. They really didn't know how to do much. They maybe they know how to do this or that.

(23:20 - 23:36) And that's far from the case. Certainly in 2023, I mean, we have highly skilled, highly technical, professional individuals working in maintenance and service. And we're starting to see those people at the table more and more as we discussed.

(23:37 - 24:10) But I think selling the message as an industry that there's a path from start to finish that you can start as a technician and there's a path to be promoted up within organizations to get to a higher level, to get to a corporate level, whether it's director, whether it's vice president, whether it's president, whether it's, you know, every company has different titles, but you know what I mean? But there's a path forward. You're not, if you invest in yourself and continue to grow and develop yourself, there's a path forward to get. I think that is something that's really important.

(24:11 - 24:35) So people look at it as a career and not a job, right? That would help attract and retain people. And I think that we're starting to come to a reckoning of the pay, right? So I think service in general was underpaid for many years and they were able to do that because there was such a large pool of talent. There was so many people, it was like, well, if you're not gonna do it, we'll just get the next person to do it.

(24:35 - 25:16) And now it's flipped and it's scarcity. So you don't have people that can backfill those positions. So when someone says they're gonna leave, the first thing any good operator is gonna say is why are you leaving? And if it's money, it's gonna say, what can we do to take and prevent you from leaving if you're good at your job and you're an asset to the property? You know, what can we do to work this out to keep you here? You know, advertising the benefits in something as well as something that isn't always done well, whether it's housing discounts, allowances on certain things, some organizations do it really well, others still evolving, not so good.

(25:16 - 25:29) So that was a long answer to the hiring and recruiting. And in short, it's definitely just, it's still challenging and it'll be challenging. And now a word from Sean Landsberg, co-founder Appwork.

(25:29 - 25:47) Most prop tech companies are built this way. We're hiring people that could write code, we're hiring people that are selling the product, but the end user is nowhere in this picture. How's Appwork different than the scenario just described? Well, we're fundamentally different because we are the end users ourselves.

(25:47 - 26:07) We meaning myself, I am an end user of the product. I use the product myself on a daily basis, but something that we're a little bit different than I always like to look at us as, we're almost like a community of people, us, Appwork and all of our clients. We leverage everybody's feedback, collective feedback to help make Appwork the incredible product that it already is and to help continue improving it.

(26:07 - 26:25) So we're constantly innovating and all of our innovation, all of our pipeline really comes from the feedback and the ideas that our clients are giving us. There's a couple of things that I wanted to, like a couple of follow-up questions. My first follow-up question on this is that you mentioned a shrinking pool of candidates.

(26:25 - 27:01) So if we have a shrinking pool of candidates, we do, that's a fact, it's a matter of fact, it's not up for debate. How do we increase that pool of candidates? Like what do we do? Are apprenticeships something that are a good alternative? What are your thoughts on that? And are there any, I guess, initiatives or plans in the future with your company to do that? In-house training, so let me first start by saying there is this gap. I think as an industry, we failed to recognize the gap in time and now we're playing catch-up, okay? And that's across the board as an industry.

(27:01 - 27:38) It got here too quickly, we weren't prepared for it, and now here we are trying to figure out how to resolve it. As far as the apprenticeships, I think in-house training is where it's at, right? There is no, no one's gonna, no outside organization or apartment management organization, local chapter, anyone's really gonna be able to come in and save the day at this point and be able to fill the vacuum of what's needed. In Maryland, our local chapter, MMHA, is doing that with apprenticeships and they've done a great job doing it, but that's one apprenticeship program that's feeding an entire state.

(27:39 - 28:04) And again, they're doing a great job out there, but it's really something we're gonna have to take on individually as organizations, build the bench and train our own teams. I think hiring for culture and attitude is critical because we can train for talent, right? If you possess the first two, you can train for talent. However, if you don't have the first two, you'll never be able to get to the part where you train for talent.

(28:05 - 28:17) WPM Real Estate Management has a program called the SMART program. It's Service Mentoring and Response Training. And it's a year-long program that we put service technicians through to prepare them for a leadership role.

(28:17 - 29:12) There's some technical training in there, but it's really a lot about preparing you to go to the next level, to be a supervisor, to be in charge of a property, to see the various ways different managers operate from site to site. We are doing an apprenticeship program where we're trying to hire someone in new to the industry and hire for those soft skills like attitude and take and then train them and give them a path forward and say, over the next year, if you show up and you put in the work, you're gonna be able to see not only financial incentives, but you're also gonna see a longer term over 12 months and then so on results to where you're able to grow within the company. We're able to groom you, so to speak, put you into a position to where you can call this more than a job or a career.

(29:12 - 29:50) I'd like for you to elaborate a little more on the leadership program for maintenance because one of the things that I'm noticing that I think everybody knows, acknowledges, is that at national level, our apartment industry, we do not have a certification for service managers. Typically, the person that's like the last man standing at a property as a technician gets the keys handed to him and they get a pat on the back, congratulations, you're just a service manager now, and they get put in charge with $80, $100 million worth of real estate to figure it out. That is not a way that's insane that we do that as an industry.

(29:50 - 30:15) So do you have more details that you could share with the audience here about your leadership program? Because this is very, very interesting to me. Like how many hours, for example, what type of topics are they being taught during this leadership program? Well, there's two things that I wanna address. First, I'll address your initial question, but then I definitely wanna address the national designation piece.

(30:17 - 30:41) So our leadership program here, SMART program, Service Mentoring and Response Training, is a year-long program. It's a combination of virtual classes, in-person classes, and something that I think is really critical and a foundation of the program, and that is mentoring. So they spend time with mentors across the organization, senior mentors that are on-site.

(30:41 - 31:02) So these are service managers that have the experience, that have been in the role for a number of years, and they see everything from a mid-rise to a high-rise, to a garden style, to townhome community. And they see all aspects of multifamily, types of systems from PVC to copper domestic systems, heat pumps to gas furnaces, you name it. So they see the broad array of everything.

(31:02 - 31:41) And they, more importantly, in my opinion, they see the broad stroke of management styles of how one manager operates at this community with a team of seven, and the other one at this community may only have two on his team, and that's how they operate. So I think that perspective is really important to be able to understand if you've worked in a mid-rise, a class A mid-rise for three years, you have no idea what's on the other side of the fence, so to speak. And there's a vast world out there of multifamily, of types of communities, of building structures, of systems, like all of it.

(31:41 - 32:03) So I think that's a core point of the program. And so it's a year-long program. They get their CFC testing through that program, and then that sets them up to be able to continue in HVAC training, and also take, and ultimately get the on-the-job, in-the-field experience, gauges on units to be able to work on the equipment.

(32:03 - 32:28) And we do proctor at WPM Real Estate Management. We do our own, we have a proctor internally, so we give our own CFC certification, which proves to be a big part of training, but also convenient to be able to have that capability when we need someone that needs the certification, and also to push it out organizationally. The other thing you said, just about the national designation.

(32:29 - 32:44) So I actually, I've had some conversations as recently as in the last 30 days with our local chapter about that. And I think it's something that should have happened yesterday. I think that we have a PMT certification, Certified Apartment Maintenance Technician.

(32:44 - 32:59) I think we need a Certified Apartment Maintenance Supervisor designation. It could be as simple as a C-A-M-T with an S on the end, or PMT Supervisor, but I think that's something that should have already been piloted. I think it should have happened yesterday.

(32:59 - 33:30) I think we're behind on it as an industry and an organization. And that's one way to do a lot of the things we're talking about, and that is showing there's a career path, right? Showing that when you outgrow that C-A-M-T, that there's a next level certification. And it gives you some sense to keep up with all of the other property manager designations that there's a wide array of them, from Certified Property Manager to, you got CPM, CATS, all the different ones.

(33:30 - 33:49) So I think that that is something that hopefully someone from NAA or the local chapter sees this, and we could get that going, I'd be happy to help with it. But that's something we should have done yesterday and we should be doing. I do wanna take advantage of this opportunity because there's just so much wisdom out there.

(33:49 - 34:21) I don't wanna miss out just because we're rushing, of course, if you need to cut it short, I understand. So you mentioned one thing I wanna pick on career path. So when it comes to career path, what are the challenges? Where are we missing the mark as an industry? And what are the opportunities to improve that experience from an employee perspective when it comes to maintenance? Yeah, I think, so like looking backwards a little bit, which helps answer the question, certainly when I was coming up through the industry, there were not these director level roles in all companies.

(34:21 - 34:46) There were not senior level, basically service supervisor or manager is where it stopped. Now on the larger national organization, certainly they had a bigger bandwidth, larger organizational structure, and they had that. But now it's commonplace to have every organization needs a director level service position and then VP, president, and so on and so on in various aspects.

(34:46 - 35:12) I think that completes the career path, right? So whereas it at one time could have been looked at as a dead end path, that there is no more future room for growth, which then led people to leave the industry and go somewhere else where there was more opportunity or never to go down the journey at all because they could see that it ended. That's done a lot. And you're certainly an inspiration I know to a lot of people.

(35:13 - 35:46) And I think that's how you and I connected because I certainly recognized that you started on site and worked your way through and had multi-site and larger unit counts, larger team, ultimately getting to a corporate level and ultimately breaking the proverbial glass ceiling and leaving multi-family and going to then the next level. So I think those things, the shatter, the mold are really important for anyone paying attention that it paints the picture and paints the path that there is a path forward. So that's career path.

(35:46 - 36:16) But then I think the things that we can do better are simply advertising that and looking at the maintenance trade as the same as you would look as plumbing trade, HVAC trade. But it is a skilled trade that needs formalized training because the reality is when you bring an HVAC tech into multi-family with no experience, they can fix the air conditioners, but they're completely lost. When you bring someone from construction into multi-family, they can do one or two aspects.

(36:16 - 36:29) But as we all know, what we do in multi-family is we do 20 different things. I'm gonna do 20 different things, maybe not at an expert level, but we do them at a highly proficient level. That's where the value is.

(36:29 - 36:52) And I think that's one of the things that we need to advertise and also key in on that there's a career path there, but advertise it and do it as it's the same as, I wanna grow up to be an electrician. We need to drop the stigma to where it's like, I wanna grow up to be a maintenance technician. I wanna grow up to be in maintenance because it's a lucrative career path financially, excellent job security, as we all know.

(36:53 - 37:18) And so I think that's something that we could do better on and something to focus on. We're talking about the challenges of finding qualified personnel. How do we recruit? How do we bring people to our organizations? It's a very, very hot topic, but what happens more often than we wanna recognize as an industry is that we get people in, eventually we're hiring them.

(37:19 - 37:44) And then as soon as they're hearing our front door, we make sure that we pushing them towards the back door at a very rapid pace. Hostile residents, overwhelmed, unrealistic workloads and hostile environments all around. Just to be honest, I'm getting this often from peers that I talk to all the time in the industry.

(37:44 - 38:11) So I think that's kind of the field that I'm getting from most people that I talk to. Those are challenges, right? So retention is something that I think we should be focusing on before we even discuss how do we bring new blood in? How do we take care of our existing employees so they don't leave us first? And then of course, build upon that and just bring new blood in and just kind of deal from there. So I'd like to get your thoughts on retention.

(38:11 - 38:42) What are some areas of opportunity for us as an industry to retain great talent? Well, I think first of all, everyone, if they don't realize this, you have to realize that our people are our greatest asset. Our teams are our greatest asset to any organization is the people that work within them. Because at the end of the day, if those teams are removed, what do we have? As it relates to retaining your existing employees, I think that WTM Real Estate Management, our brand and our phrase is performance that adds value.

(38:43 - 39:22) So we have variable compensation performance bonuses for every single person that works within the organization. So it incentivizes people to work hard, to do a good job, to want to grow because there's a financial compensation piece associated with it. Also opportunity, how many people leave because of lack of opportunity? So I think again, that career path and having a pipeline to where, if someone is either struggling or not doing well in one role, but for other than that, they're a great employee, maybe they need to be swapped out and put in a different role to where they could potentially be successful.

(39:23 - 40:04) Ultimately, at the end of the day, I think the biggest thing is that we're taking and trying to retain the talent that we have, top talent, but then recruiting some do it better than others. I mean, I know you're on LinkedIn, you travel LinkedIn often, you see that there are some organizations that really do a phenomenal job at their branding and their recruitment. It's very smart one, because you're essentially doing what commercials do, you're essentially doing what a mascot does, whether it's personal branding or you're taking and grabbing attention the same as a commercial does on the Superbowl and saying, hey, look at us, this is what we want to give you, this is what we want to offer you.

(40:04 - 40:34) What I do see a lot of is as it pertains to recruitment is cookie cutter ads, right? And I think that the cookie cutter ads don't get us anywhere. I think that we all see them on LinkedIn, they're just straight, I mean, they're cookie cutter is what they are, they don't differentiate, they don't say nothing about the organization, it says, come work for us, we're great, right? And it needs to be more about, come work for us, but this is what we're gonna do for you. It's a two way partnership with that, with the employee and the employer.

(40:35 - 40:57) You're speaking my language here, I've been talking about cookie cutter ads for a long time and also I describe that as a plastic looking like content where it's like super sanitized and it has no soul. It doesn't send any message, people are looking at it and they see through it. They don't stop to look at it because it looks just like 20 other competitors.

(40:58 - 41:26) So when it comes to on your phone, on your feed, you just scroll past because everything looks just about the same with like a few nuances, your eyes end up not even identifying the differences between the ads. Like all, most companies start looking just about the same, the same sanitized, the same cookie cutter type of ad and they expect different results. Isn't that crazy by definition? Mike, I wanna switch gears a little bit and go to PropTech.

(41:27 - 42:17) So when it comes to PropTech and specifically PropTech products, that are available for maintenance in our field, what are some thoughts on existing PropTech products? What do you like about what you see and what are some pieces or like some features that you're not seeing on existing products that you would like to see? PropTech is evolving very rapidly, right? Like AI, chatbots, all of it. And as it relates to service operations, I think that the big advantage twofold on property tech is building automation, things that ultimately make building smarter, like the locks we're talking about, like monitoring utilities systems like that. Whereas they were kind of an afterthought in years past, they were looked at as like an expensive luxury that you didn't necessarily need.

(42:18 - 43:04) But as we move to remote work, hybrid models, talking about centralization, where there's not someone walking the physical plant every single day, it increases the need for the use of this technology, whether it's detecting leaks, shutting off waters, remotely silencing sensors or alarms, things like that, being able to manually override and operate these locks, when to avoid a traditional lockout where someone's locked out of their unit. And now if there's capability out there to where we could verify virtually, right? Information, visually pictures, and ultimately open the door for someone. So I think that we have the capability in 2023 to do all those things.

(43:04 - 43:15) I don't know that the technology has fully come together to do that. So I think all those things are really exciting. I think they have a huge place in the market going forward as our industry continues to evolve.

(43:15 - 43:59) One thing that WPM Real Estate Management, we did this about 10 years ago, and that's the purchase iPad for all of our service technicians. And so every service technician has an iPad, and that's something that served us well and really served us well through the pandemic, being able to take and have the ability to cut down from running back and forth to the office. So the work order can be assigned to a technician real time while they're three streets over on one work order, their iPad dings, they're able to look, they're able to update notes, and before making an unnecessary trip to the maintenance shop or to the office, they're able to say, oh, I have a flood going on and I need to respond there next.

(44:00 - 44:19) So I think that certainly serves well with kind of cutting down traffic in the office and being more timely and being able to address, see the full picture, right? And opposed to the days of you have just a stack full of work orders. Here's the work orders. You go back at lunch, you've been working all day on these work orders.

(44:19 - 44:42) You go back to lunch only to find out there's 15 more and they're all no heats, no air conditioning, floods, these big things. And if you would have known about them, you would have reprioritized your day to be focused on the big ticket items instead of fixing the power holder. So I think that capability is really valuable and allows an organization greater flexibility to be able to operate.

(44:43 - 45:13) I wanna stay a little bit with technology, but be specific about my next question. KPIs, how do we measure maintenance team's performance? And I'm just describing the current environment, right? Not necessarily at your company, but in general as an industry, right? So how do we give someone a raise or promote them? Like typically is that people around, like their coworkers think that this person is a good guy, for example. And then the residents might compliment him every now and then.

(45:13 - 45:26) So he might get like some pieces of feedback, great pieces of feedback from the residents. And we don't hear complaints, many complaints about him. So that's typically how we gauge this, but there's no science really, there's no data behind it.

(45:27 - 46:16) Would it be helpful for us as an industry to have some tools to tell us, for example, how many service requests this particular technician has completed in a day, in a week, in a year lifetime with our company? How long does it take him, you know, in average to complete work orders? How many average tickets they complete in a day? What's the average number of tickets? How much time in a day they spend doing running service requests, right? So out of the eight hour day, how much time do they actually physically spend like working on service requests to see kind of the, in part the efficiency, of course, you know, our technicians sometimes do snow removal or, you know, clean the pools or other tasks. They're not really work orders or maybe they're doing make readies. But still, I think those are some very good numbers to be aware of, like if we're in a position to have them.

(46:16 - 46:23) So what are your thoughts? Yeah, I think so. I think KPIs are ultimately very important. Generally, you're right.

(46:23 - 46:58) That's how we measure the KPI, you know, increase performance evaluations, things like that. Ultimately, when I look at things, a lot of times I'll look at it like, is this associate, a person, an asset to the community in the totality of things? I think the things worth measuring are a lot of the things that you mentioned, but also simply number of work orders in, number of the work orders out, right? Not only on completion, but what types of work orders are coming in, which can then answer the question on preventative maintenance. Are we doing a great job at preventative maintenance? Because preventative maintenance is a game changer when you do it effectively.

(46:58 - 47:33) You're able to prevent a large amount of work orders from ever coming in if you play the preventative maintenance game correctly. Looking at those metrics, also looking at things like resident reviews, resident complaints, and the sheer ability to be able to make operations work. Is someone coming forward with ideas and methods and systems to be able to save the organization money? Are they, you know, looking at how you order things and coming up and saying, this isn't efficient, this doesn't make sense, you know, or we can get better pricing elsewhere.

(47:33 - 47:56) I think all those things, certainly from a management perspective are things to be paying attention to. And then as a tech, it's really more driven on that performance of tickets in, tickets out, ability to take and be effective and efficient at your job. I know a lot of, it's become a big thing with tracking the time on tickets.

(47:56 - 48:09) And I think that's definitely something that we should do. And I think, I know there's tools out there to do it, but, you know, the kind of collection and pooling of all that data that you're referencing to is certainly very valuable. We often talk about success.

(48:09 - 48:18) We're in love with, you know, people that are successful. Everybody wants to become successful. I think what we're not talking enough about is failure.

(48:18 - 48:44) So I want to ask you about failures, your failures, right? And specifically, how did a failure or apparent failure set you up for future success? So I would say, I would tell you, I've made lots of mistakes. You know, I mean, I've had, like a lot of us, plenty of failures. I don't look at them as failures though, right? I look at them as something I'm not going to do again and something I'm going to learn from to do better the next time.

(48:44 - 49:08) So really they become stepping stones in a learning process or a building process opposed to failure. Every time I've been on, in my mind, been on some type of a cusp of failure or thinking I'm going to fail, it's ultimately in the end, just being, ended up being the top of one mountain, which was the valley of the next, so to speak. And it wasn't really failure at all.

(49:08 - 49:55) To give you an example, I would say, I've been in situations where I've been overwhelmed with work orders and work and just falling behind and not able to keep up and balance and felt like I was just doing a horrible performance at my job. In reality, when I got through the other side of that, what it ultimately, going through that experience and having such a volume coming at me in so many things ultimately made me a better manager, a better leader, a better teammate. So something that I felt like I was doing poorly at ultimately was preparing me for another level to be able to kind of function on another level and deal with more problems, larger problems, more volume of things coming at you.

(49:55 - 50:07) Ultimately, we all have failures. A mentor of mine said this to me one time, and he said, he knew an answer to something that I didn't know the answer to. And I was upset with myself that I didn't know the answer.

(50:07 - 50:16) I'm like, I should have known that. And he looked at me and he said, don't worry, I've suffered through this for 30 years. I've suffered through the mistakes of 30 years.

(50:16 - 50:49) And that's why I know the answers. So I like keep that in the back of my mind that you get to that level, right? You get past the failures, but ultimately the failures just add up, mistakes, they add up to the learning experience and to a broad spectrum of knowledge because you've been there and you've learned the lesson. My next question to you, Mike, is what advice would you give a young person ready to enter the real world? What advice would you give 18 year old Mike? Make the investment in yourself.

(50:50 - 51:08) Don't shortchange yourself, invest in yourself, invest in your learning. And this doesn't necessarily, this can be trade school, which I'm a huge advocate for, but invest in yourself and making yourself the best version of yourself, the best person you can be. And it'll pay dividends throughout your entire life.

(51:09 - 51:40) I think that recognizing early on that learning is a lifelong journey and it's not a destination that you never get to the end of it. That it's something that no matter how far you rise in a position, no matter how big of an organization you work for, no matter how much knowledge you learn, that it never ends, that there's new trends, new topics, new methods. And even if there weren't, there's so much information out there going backwards on fundamentals that it never ends.

(51:40 - 51:52) So I would say those two things, invest in yourself, learning is a journey, not a destination. No one that has achieved success achieves it overnight. So you have to invest in yourself and put in the work.

(51:52 - 52:00) And it's not always instant gratification. It's not always, you know, there's gonna be times you feel like you probably wanna quit. You wanna throw in the towel.

(52:00 - 52:12) And those are the precise times that you need to put your head down and push even harder and push through to the other side. And that'll be a decision that serves everyone very well. Mike, amazing conversation.

(52:12 - 52:20) I'm so glad that I made that invitation to you a while back. And I'm so glad that you're here today. You took time out of your busy day.

(52:20 - 52:39) In closing of our conversation, I'd like for you to share some closing thoughts, maybe answer a question you wish I would have asked and I didn't, or just say something to the audience that you didn't have the opportunity during our conversation. Certainly, I appreciate your time, Adrian. I know we connected a while back and had a very interesting conversation.

(52:40 - 53:24) And I think we definitely both had a lot of similar thoughts about the industry and the direction and the kind of lack of things and the challenges that we take and face. The only thing I think that we kind of didn't discuss that I would say is I think it's critical for new techs coming into the field that are new to the industry, that we show them that there is a path, that we show them that there is a path forward, a path to succeed from service technician and outline what it is all the way through trainer, through whether it's consulting, whether it's director, whatever it is, that there's a path and that you can make a career out of it. That's something that lacked when I came into the industry.

(53:25 - 53:37) There was no role model at the top of service, generally speaking. There were not those positions. So I think having that is something that's good for the industry, that helps everyone.

(53:37 - 53:54) I'm just really happy to be able to have the conversation with you and appreciate you having me. Mike, for those in the audience that wanna reach out to you, wanna get in contact with you, what are the best ways to connect with you? Sure, so I travel LinkedIn pretty frequently. You can catch me on LinkedIn.

(53:54 - 54:10) It's probably the best way to shoot me a message or get in touch with me. And I'm always happy to have the discussion of maintenance operations, where we're at, where we're going and how we can make it better for the entire industry. Mike, thanks again for being here with us today.

(54:10 - 54:23) Everybody, thank you very much for taking the time to watch us today. This is Multifamily X podcast series powered by our friends at AppWork. We thank you very much for being with us today and we hope to see you back here soon.

(54:24 - 54:26) Have a great day. Thanks Adrian, have a great one.