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Unveiling Leadership in Multifamily Maintenance


Leadership Development
Being a Multifamily Maintenance Evangelist
Strategies for Cultivating Leaders
Training and Development
Strategies for Attracting Fresh Talent
Redefining Maintenance KPIs
Maintenance Training
Becoming a Maintenance Superhero
RELEASED ON 11/23/23

In this episode, we will be discussing fundamental conversations for the multifamily space with Paul Rhodes, Senior Manager for Maintenance Learning with Brookfield Properties.

(0:24 - 0:40) Hello everybody and welcome to my podcast, Multifamily X podcast series, Masters of Multifamily Maintenance Conversations. And I couldn't have a better guest than Paul Rhodes. Welcome to the show, Paul.

(0:40 - 0:47) Hey Adrian. Hello everybody. Paul is Senior Manager for Maintenance Learning with Brookfield Properties.

(0:48 - 1:09) Paul, to begin with, tell us briefly about what you're doing at Brookfield, just in case that a few out there don't know what you're doing at Brookfield and who you are. Thanks, Adrian. It's always a pleasure and an honor to talk with you and have conversations like this.

(1:10 - 1:47) My background for almost three decades now has been in all areas of multifamily maintenance as a specialty, but I end up now speaking kind of all across the board. My current career is with Brookfield Multifamily and I plan on retiring there when I get much, much older than what I am now. And what I'm doing at Brookfield is leading and creating a maintenance training program.

(1:48 - 2:11) The best part of that is I get to do what I really, really like doing, which is developing maintenance technicians and maintenance workers. And in that role, internal to Brookfield, which is just fantastic. It is great being able to spend time with technicians and watch their growth.

(2:11 - 2:54) To have, matter of fact, two weeks ago, I was up in Cleveland and I saw a gentleman that I talked with when I started with Brookfield a year ago and he has since received a promotion and he's progressing in his career and we had some fantastic conversations of answering questions, really both of us had had, about his career and what his path is. And that's exciting. In addition to Brookfield, I'm also speaking outside of Brookfield for associations and vendors and events and things like that.

(2:54 - 3:33) So all in all, to summarize, my career continues to be about developing apartment maintenance, both workers and trying to affect the culture in whatever way I can or whatever method I can use. When it comes to developing maintenance leaders in our industry, what would you say is the single most important skill that organizations should be focusing on? Oh, that's a brilliant question. And I'm very, very glad that we're entering this conversation in the shallow side of the pool.

(3:33 - 3:55) Really, really good place to start. By the way, that's sarcasm aside, that's probably the deepest part of the pool and one of the biggest needs for our entire industry. The first thing I think is that we have to be very, very intentional about developing leaders.

(3:56 - 4:36) So it's not a case of having one answer if we need to develop leaders in their time management or delegation or other individual skills. It's that as an industry, we need to put resources, time and value behind developing people as leaders. And that's more than just how fast does it take to solve this work order that we have? How fast can we turn an apartment? Those are important and we need those.

(4:37 - 5:15) But, you know, going through the decision-making process to meaningfully shorten the time of a make ready or meaningfully shorten the time of a work order, the leadership process to get there is something that right now as an industry we're kind of falling short on because speed is still the priority. And while, yes, we need to solve things quickly, we need to get work orders completed, we need to turn apartments, we need all of those things to happen faster than ever, especially in today's marketplace. Leadership is more of a long-term game.

(5:15 - 5:49) And by that I mean we need to develop. Adrian, you know, when you started, just like I did, as a groundskeeper or as an entry-level maintenance physician, it was not today you're picking up trash behind the apartment, tomorrow you're scheduling the vendors inside the apartment and placing orders and putting in POs and dealing with vendor contracts. There was a long period of time in between the two that for you was different than for me.

(5:50 - 7:06) But every step of the way there had to be initiative on both sides. You want to learn and develop and hold new skills and your company, your employer, had to have a plan behind that or at least if they didn't have a plan, they at least had to stay out of your way or to develop the skills to become a leader. I think we're into the place right now where kind of across the board, not just in the maintenance world, but kind of across the board, a lot of the people, a large percentage of people who are in roles of on-site leadership have that role not so much because they have the skills to be that leader, but they have that role because they lasted longer than anyone else or they have that role because in order to get them to stay with an organization, giving them that role was the only way they could achieve the salary required to keep them at that property or to keep them employed there based on marketing.

(7:06 - 7:29) So all of those words go into my answer is if we're going to develop leaders, it has to be a part of the culture, a part of the decision-making process from the corporate suite all the way down has to be that. So, Paul, I'm picking up on the process you described. You're the last man standing, you get promoted.

(7:29 - 8:08) How do we change this? How do we change this, I'll say, custom? How do we change this? We just got accustomed to it, right? It's what everybody naturally does. When I think about it, let's say that you have investments or you have your money that you have saved for your pensions and you go to a money manager and the money manager says, I managed $70 million worth of money, of retirement money. Would you trust that person? I'll say that my first instinct is that yes, $70 million, it's a lot of money.

(8:09 - 8:25) And we do this when we promote a service manager, we ask them to co-manage a $70 million asset. I'll say that's kind of the average price for 300, 400-unit property in Denver, Colorado, for example. We hand them the keys.

(8:25 - 8:37) As a maintenance technician, we say, good luck, now you're being promoted. And you hand them $70 million worth of real estate to figure out how to manage. And I think that's kind of insane.

(8:37 - 9:01) Like, would you hand your money to a money manager that just says, well, I'm just starting today, I just got promoted, this is my first day on the job. I never did this before, but now I'm a money manager, I'll take care of your money. How many people would do that? So how do we change this narrative? Step-by-step is the only way I can answer it.

(9:02 - 9:22) How do we change anything? It's like eating an elephant, one bite at a time. Your analogy, I think, is perfect. I mean, there's the story of Buffett, the investor, that he wanted to get even more heavily into philanthropy by putting a lot of money out there.

(9:22 - 9:39) But he went and found somebody who was putting those large amounts of money out there for use to where they could be put to the best place of use. Who did he go to? Bill Gates. He didn't go to an individual charity.

(9:39 - 9:57) He didn't go to an individual organization. He went to somebody affecting change at those huge levels. And to your point, he didn't go to the person, an entry-level person at an investment company or a philanthropist.

(9:57 - 10:34) He went to somebody who's used to spending all of that money with all the zeros to the left of the decimal point as opposed to going to the person who's just entry-level. So the only way I can come up with an answer to that is step-by-step, honestly. How did Bill Gates learn to get so good at being a philanthropist and doing all the work that he's doing in Africa? Or how did all of the industry leaders get to where they are now? They started step-by-step.

(10:34 - 10:55) So how do we change that culture into leadership? Step-by-step. That's what it's going to have to be. And that is going to have to be all across the board from the C-suite within multifamily companies all the way down to our entry-level positions.

(10:56 - 11:14) I think just recently, if I remember right, you did a survey on LinkedIn about how many companies have an apprenticeship program. And just as an example, it was very, very enlightening. You and I both know that that LinkedIn survey is not scientific.

(11:15 - 11:37) It's not a broad stroke. It's not a final answer. But I do think it's indicative of just how few of the respondents to that survey actually have either an already planning apprenticeship program or are developing.

(11:38 - 12:06) It's even in their strategic discussion to develop. So I thought it really interesting that that was a conversation to have because if we're going to solve the leadership problem, first you have to have somebody there who is eligible to become a leader. And then have a plan for that person who's there to develop them in the ways that you want them to be developed.

(12:06 - 12:14) We can't really develop anything if there's no one to work on. That's right. Those are the bodies.

(12:14 - 12:31) Those are the humans that we need. So this leads me to my next question. And I wanted to ask you, how can organizations effectively recruit the right talent for their finance teams? I guess some pointers.

(12:31 - 12:55) Some things that you think are a must in the recruiting process. What are some great things to follow in order to be successful at the recruiting game? That question is very, very challenging for me because I do not bend towards recruiting. It's a necessary aspect.

(12:56 - 13:07) We need that. But someone like yourself that focuses on recruiting, that comes easy. See, my joy is not so much in recruiting.

(13:09 - 14:00) I gave a presentation a few years ago when I was working for NAA to the Job Corps up in D.C. We were visiting and looking for parity between the Certificate for Apartment Maintenance Technician Program and their Apprenticeship and Skills Program to see if we could make a partnership. And I got to present to their instructors. And after we talked about what the apartment industry had to offer that was different from their focus, which is the construction industry, and we got to talking about what the apartment industry has to offer, and I gave a presentation and a talk and took questions, and we had a wonderful conversation.

(14:00 - 14:23) We got finished. One of the executives there for the Job Corps came up to me and said, did you know that you're the Billy Graham of multifamily? And that got me stuck to where, you know, I'm not a recruiter, and it makes sense. I kind of see my role or my place as one of evangelists.

(14:23 - 14:30) I've said it to you. I love being in the apartment maintenance industry. I love making repairs.

(14:31 - 14:43) I like serving residents. I like problem solving. I like the mystery, all of the relationships, all of the problem solving that goes on in the apartment maintenance world.

(14:44 - 15:18) And I think that everybody needs to know about it. A very wise man very, very recently said when asked about the issues facing our labor market and finding maintenance technicians, why aren't we going to the 10th grade? Why aren't we going to the 11th grade? Why aren't we going to high schools? And creating knowledge or even awareness that this is a job. And that really, really rings true.

(15:18 - 15:36) By the way, for the audience, the person who said that is the person that stares Adrian back in the face in the morning when he looks in the mirror. So I believe that. So all of that goes into I honestly don't know.

(15:36 - 16:12) I am not a, I don't have a marketing bent. I do have an idea in that from an educational standpoint, I think we need to develop the skills of our maintenance technicians piece by piece, bite by bite, thereby allowing them to promote, thereby creating vacancies at our entry level positions, which is where we have an easier time filling as opposed to trying to find a person to from another industry, which which may happen. It does work.

(16:13 - 16:33) But find a person from another industry that fits immediately and plugs directly into a vacancy at a higher level. That's about the only recruiting minded thing I think I have. There's another plus to what you just described, making sure that we create the upward mobility.

(16:33 - 16:51) So the technicians are moving to service managers, directors, so on and so forth. Or at some point, hopefully right. Later moves to like floating service manager, floating service technician, like a corporate team that services portfolio properties instead of a single property.

(16:52 - 17:45) So what about the way that also helps with a career path? There's another way that I'm seeing. When you bring someone entry level, they're further from the ceiling they're going to hit one day. Right.

That means that hopefully if they're going to make a decision to stay within the industry, you provide them with the longest career path because it is the longest to get to the highest when you're at the lowest, like at the entry level point versus hiring like in the middle. So this hopefully creates longevity, if not longevity with a particular company, longevity within the industry, because if they really want to strive and they're making a decision, we're going to stick around. We're going to be in this industry.

This is for me. You give them the opportunity to go through all the steps. Don't burn any type of any type of steps in the process.

(17:45 - 17:58) I think that's another wonderful way in which we would like help with our longevity and creating career paths. Do you disagree?

(17:58 - 18:14) No, I don't disagree at all. I agree completely. I mean, the reality is time is going to pass. It passes on all of us and we all need a paycheck. That income and I happen to believe that it's good that we work for that paycheck.

(18:15 - 18:44) So with those three factors in mind, time passes. We need to work for a paycheck and we have to have that paycheck. Why not have the apartment industry be very selfish? Why not have the apartment maintenance industry be the benefit of that? Not just today, but for a person's life or for a person's career, because that is a huge opportunity that the apartment industry has.

(18:44 - 19:02) And as critical as I am of portions or pieces of it, the reality is it is a fantastic industry. What is it that NAA says? It's worth it. It's worth over three trillion dollars to the U.S. economy as a whole.

(19:03 - 19:27) That was the last number I've seen. And that's the national apartment. Three trillion dollars.

That's a lot of money flowing through a single industry. Yet it's not one that is typically thought of or for a career. So I love it and I'm going to continue to be that evangelist.

(19:28 - 20:06) Paul, we're going right into your wheelhouse as a subject matter expert in skills development. What strategies would you recommend for cultivating maintenance leaders with an organization? OK, if we're talking about maintenance leaders, this one is really, really quick. And that is to be sure that everyone along the pathway, the leadership pathway, both from the student all the way up to the C-suite and even investors of multifamily, ensure that everybody has an eye on the with them.

(20:06 - 20:34) That with them is that sales technique or sales pitch of people saying that whenever you go in front of your customer as a salesperson, you view your customer across their forehead, a tattoo that's with them. And that stands for the acronym. What's in it for me? Meaning the student knows what's in it for them to be in that class.

(20:34 - 21:04) The instructor of that class knows what's in it for them to be in that class and provide the best instruction they can. The property manager knows what is the benefit for them as a property manager and for their property, for their maintenance technician to be in that class all the way up the chain. The regional knows, the corporate knows, everybody up the chain because that's just it.

(21:04 - 21:28) Training is not flipping a switch and it's done. It's not a case of doing it once and you never, ever have to worry about it again. It is an ongoing, continual process that the only way we can have this development occur is kind of like where we started, one bite at a time.

(21:28 - 21:43) And for that one bite to happen, everybody has to understand that it has to happen. It has to be digested and then we have to go back for another bite. It's a continual thing, never stops.

(21:43 - 22:05) And the only way that's going to happen is if all the way across the board, we have that in place. We touched a little bit on career paths. And my question to you is, what's your take on career pathing in our industry? How can organizations define and nurture career progression for their teams? Have one.

(22:06 - 22:15) I mean, that's it. Have an intelligent discussion. When I was director of maintenance, that was constant communication.

(22:15 - 23:03) What does it look like for our make ready technician? Where do they go? What is the next step? Okay, make ready technician and then to whatever the title is or whatever the role is, then to lead technician. Well, what are the requirements for what needs to occur for a make ready technician at this level to go up to the next level? And at that next level, what can we already begin doing while they're in between that level to maybe plan on the next level? If that's never defined, then our maintenance technicians are going to define it for themselves. And the easy answer, the easy answer is money.

(23:03 - 23:24) That means that our maintenance technicians, if we don't have a career path, our maintenance technicians are going to define themselves by, hey, I'm making $10 now, $20 now, $30 now. I'm making X dollars today. And yet this property right down the street will pay me to do the exact same thing more.

(23:25 - 23:57) They'll pay me more money to do the exact same thing. So why, again, what's in it for me? Why do I need to develop? Whereas if as an organization, we have a career path, have that spec'd out, and everybody along there knows the benefit of having that, it becomes much, much easier to counteract that money equation, which is there just because it's a supply and demand issue. Don't really have enough supply of workers.

(23:57 - 24:29) So we need to figure out how to fix it. And if we're not apprenticing, if we're not doing a good job of bringing fresh people in, then we're just borrowing from other people. I don't even call it stealing from other people because now the conversation when somebody puts in their notice is what would it take to be a technician? And I'm sure I've got to believe it's the same outside of the maintenance organization.

(24:29 - 25:22) If a good employee puts in their notice, the next thing in today's day and age is what would it take to keep it? And then if the worker who put in their notice has an answer for that and they end up staying, why didn't we as an organization offer that to them first or try and keep them? One of the things that can keep them from putting in their notice is a career. Well, 20 plus years I've been around in the industry, and one of the oldest conversations that I can remember is proactive versus reactive maintenance. And the main thing that we're hearing, and I think everybody admits, is that we are in a reactive mode.

(25:22 - 25:42) We're always playing fast. We don't ever seem as an industry to get ahead of the curve and to start playing all fast. So how do we accomplish that? What are some things that we have to switch in? And I think more than anything is not so much resources but mindset.

(25:43 - 26:28) How do we alter the current mindset that everybody's chasing their tail and everybody's running towards the fires to put out the fires versus preventing fires from happening? I think the fireman analogy that you proposed there is a perfect analogy. On a property, on a community, what is the stance in regard to maintenance? Are you a fireman, a responder, responding only, or are you smokey the bear? Only you can prevent forest fires. And that, if you're asking how, right now all decisions have to have a data backing.

(26:29 - 26:45) They have to have a data backing. A friend of mine several years ago worked for a management company. They did a database study year over year on a dedicated preventive maintenance plan.

(26:45 - 27:10) They picked a couple of properties, and they invested heavily in it, making sure their maintenance teams knew what they were doing. The full gamut of when you go into an apartment, not only are you replacing the batteries in the smoke detector and the filter in the air conditioner. Those are the typical tasks that are performed in preventive maintenance.

(27:11 - 27:34) But they were also asked to pay attention inside the resident's apartment, look for leaks, check for dripping faucets, all of those items and awareness. And they dedicated the time, the necessity to doing it, and they also kept track. They documented every bit of it.

(27:34 - 28:07) And what they found year over year was a 9% drop in work orders overall. That means 12 months later, instead of having 10 work orders, they only had 9 work orders. Now the challenge becomes, at that one-year mark, does that mean you can actually decrease your overall maintenance budget? Because you now have fewer calls for service, the data says yes.

(28:08 - 28:17) Without any analysis, the data says yes. You know, we're not fixing as much, we don't need as many parts, we don't need as much time. We can decrease our maintenance.

(28:17 - 28:48) That's the mistake. So the reason why I bring this up is one, we have to have the data, and two, we have to be sure that we're analyzing it in the correct light for our business plan. In the end, if we don't get to a stance of smokey the bear, of preventive, we'll never ever get to what's even better than preventive maintenance, which is predictive.

(28:48 - 29:28) And that's where I think I might someday, and I'm not an expert by any means, but I think we might someday be able to begin to harness AI to get to predictive maintenance. And by that I mean we have, excuse me, the computer system or the system tells us that in the situation we're at, the fan motor, for instance, lasts five years. So then the AI system, while it's still working at four years and ten months, notifies the maintenance department that says, hey, this motor needs to be replaced.

(29:28 - 29:59) It's working today, but before it gets to the end of its life, we actually replace the component, or we make the repair predictively, not just preventively. But we'll never get there until we go to a preventive stance first. And as an industry, having been at conferences and around, as an industry, we're just not there yet.

(30:01 - 30:18) Hotels are much, much better at preventing than preventive. And now a word from Sean Lansberg, co-founder of AppWork. Sean, what are some things that differentiate AppWork from all the other maintenance workflow apps that are out there available?

(30:18 - 30:35) That's a great question. I think for us it was about creating a solution that solved their own problems. And in order to get to that end goal, we had to first create a maintenance management software, which is the foundation of our product, and it's the basics of our product. But our product is so much more than that.

(30:35 - 31:02) Our product is built, again, like I said before, about solving our problems. That includes data behind the technicians, all the data behind the entire maintenance process and how we display that data, how we capture that data, the data integrity component behind that, how we make sure that that data cannot be influenced by anybody within the organization. We also have the gamification component, how we take maintenance and turn that into a game, make it more motivating, more exciting, more engaging, which helps improve your maintenance efficiency.

(31:02 - 31:13) We're seeing technicians being able to complete more work orders in a day than they were able to do before. They're more motivated than they were before. Their customer service is better, which obviously impacts resident retention and so much more.

(31:15 - 31:56) You mentioned data-driven decisions. What are some KPIs that are important when it comes to maintenance team performances, individual team member performances? With all KPIs, it's great to have a way to measure performance, to measure anything. Do we really want to have KPIs or sensors that are telling us the waterfall at 2.30 in the afternoon on a Friday? Is that a relevant data point? How do we pick which are the important KPIs for our maintenance teams and for the individual team members? Could you think of a few specific ones that are very, very important to track? How we get there is going to vary by company, organization, business plan, what is important to them.

(31:57 - 32:11) The how, I honestly don't think as an industry we're at the how. At the organizational level, we're still trying to figure out the big picture item. I do think the analogy is interesting.

(32:12 - 32:48) On the leasing side of the house, there's data points for every step in the process, for what marketing gets people in the door, what method once they're in the door, what is our close ratio depending on method, what is the process and how long does it take to go in each of those stages. In the maintenance world, we don't have that data much to your point. We're still developing, we as in the industry, are really still developing the technology to begin tracking that.

(32:48 - 33:03) Where it is tracked, right now it is very, very biased tracking. Now, when I say biased tracking, that's an acknowledgement of the state. That's not a value judgment, good bias or bad bias.

(33:03 - 33:32) It's just stating that whatever data someone is tracking, it is for a specific reason. For instance, if we're trying to track how long it takes for our maintenance team to solve a work order. The reason we're tracking that or the reason most that I'm aware of, many management companies are looking to track that, is because they want to determine how many maintenance technicians do we need on the property.

(33:32 - 33:47) Well, that's very, very biased analysis. The maintenance technician is always going to say, we need more. Because quite honestly, right now the numbers are indicating that.

(33:47 - 34:15) And especially in our, as hard as it is to find people, that's a valid outlook. What I think is really interesting when the KPI discussion comes into play is, what if we collect that information, but we take away some of the bias by applying it to related information. For instance, okay, we find out there's X amount of time in this community or in our organization to solve a work order.

(34:15 - 34:45) What if we throw that information up against how long it takes to close or to turn an apartment, to go from move out to rent ready. And we throw that information together and we see for this apartment, this apartment had so many work orders over the course of 12 months. And in those 12 months, it took an average of fixing those work orders this amount.

(34:45 - 35:19) If we train more, we ensure that our maintenance technicians are not incentivized to do band-aids and go with the fast repair. Does that have an effect on our time to turn apartments? And if so, throw that data up against what is in the first 30 days of our new resident occupancy. Those are KPIs that right now, I'm only familiar with maybe one or two organizations that are beginning to look at data in that light.

(35:19 - 35:42) Again, I'm not saying that biased data is bad. I'm just saying that we have to be very, very careful how we go about making decisions with that, in the same way that the analogy was for Bruce. I do believe, and I am admittedly a changed man, I think we need KPIs.

(35:42 - 36:03) But it depends on how you view those KPIs and what you're looking at and how you're looking at it. And quite often, that means that if we have KPIs, it's a longer discussion than just a new spreadsheet that's got a bunch of numbers on it. And it requires human interaction to make those correlations.

(36:04 - 36:17) Before moving to the next question, I do want to acknowledge our friends from AppWork. They're the ones that are powering this podcast. This podcast would not be possible without AppWork, so I want to thank them.

(36:18 - 36:26) And they are a property technology app. And what they do is maintenance workflows. They're solving maintenance problems.

(36:27 - 36:46) Some of the problems that they're solving are providing real-time KPIs to resolve maintenance problems. This came to mind as you were talking about the KPIs and the relevance and which KPIs are relevant. Now, back to training, Paul.

(36:46 - 36:51) You know, this is what you're passionate about. This is what you do. This is what you love doing.

(36:51 - 37:15) What should multifamily maintenance training look like in 2023? You know, give us a brief description, the ideal type of training, what it would look like. Right now, training is a challenging thing. Not, not, not, what do we need to teach? Quite frankly, that's easy.

(37:15 - 37:35) You know, you plunge a toilet the same way whether your property is in California, Georgia, Washington State, or Maine, or Texas, anywhere. You plunge a toilet the same way, all of them. So, the physical skills, that is the easy thing to figure out.

(37:35 - 38:05) That's the easy part to determine. The more challenging thing is how do we get that information into our students, our technicians across the board in our industry in a usable format. Right now, the quick answer that everyone is using, even everyone, even my organization, and there, and I believe it has a place, is e-learning.

(38:06 - 38:27) You know, there are a couple of very large companies that only do e-learning, several of them. And yet, that's only a part of the solution. And in order to get there, there is such a challenge to get to the e-learning solution.

(38:28 - 39:05) It's not hitting our maintenance technicians with the results that we want to see. The biggest thing for the past, being in a learning capacity since 2005, the largest number one ask by all levels, both students and regionals and corporate and property managers at every level, is that we need hands-on training. That is such a loaded term.

(39:05 - 39:38) We need that. But what I'm seeing is there's such a challenge or an opportunity with fundamentals, the fundamental skills that are just not being picked up through e-learning, that hands-on training actually has to begin with those basic skills. So you have to spend time in class going over the foundational material to get to the hands-on.

(39:38 - 40:18) An electrical training class, for instance, instead of spending time teaching how to physically use a multimeter, you have to start with what is electricity, where does it come from, what is a volt, what is an amp, what is an ohm, without getting bogged down in all the mathematics, just in an operational level. So that means that the hands-on class begins with brain work, classroom work, definitions, cognition, understanding that before you can get to the hands-on part, which I agree, that's the fun stuff. I love teaching that stuff.

(40:18 - 41:08) Students love interacting with that, but without that foundational knowledge that is just, it's available as e-learning content, but our technicians are not picking it up. There are exceptions, of course, there always is. And the reason why I'm going down this pathway is our leaders, when our students go back to their properties, and I had this discussion at the Texas Farm Association Conference this year, quite a bit, that when our students go back, when technicians go back to their leaders, their leaders want to know, wait, you spent eight hours in class, and yet you were only actually doing hands-on for maybe the last two or three hours? Yeah.

(41:09 - 41:48) Why? We want hands-on training, and you stood up there and gave them a PowerPoint, or they sat for a PowerPoint. Why? Well, I can put a meter, I can give anybody a meter at an outlet, and we can insert tab A into slot B type training, but without that foundational background, all we're going to continue to have is parts change. So, what that means is, and this is a long-winded way to get to the answer, there has to be understanding of what the process is across the board, and it is not going to be like this.

(41:48 - 42:56) That means there has to be more time, and that's where that with them part comes in all across the board. We have to have our students come to class understanding that, look, before you get here, either you do the work, spend the time online, and we as an organization ensure you have the time to spend it online, then you come to class already having that foundation. We go through exercises in a classroom environment, then when you get back to your community, you practice in the same way that you were shown in the classroom, not best shortcut wins, but you practice the correct repair, and there is that feedback loop of the fact of now that you learned this skill A, now we can build on that with skill B, referencing back to skill A. So again, it's not a quick fix.

(42:57 - 43:21) You have to have that cognitive thing all across the board, all while understanding that we've got to be faster. So how do we solve it? Wave a magic wand step by step at all levels, and that is bigger than just waving magic. There are multiple wands and multiple drivers that go with the process of that.

(43:21 - 43:42) Paul, I'd like to get your take on centralization, and I want to be specific. Centralization when it comes to maintenance is one of the most used words in today's environment. In 2023, we hear centralization everywhere we go, conferences, meetings, everywhere.

(43:42 - 45:24) So my question to you is centralization when it comes to maintenance just a buzzword? Is it something that's meaningful? Is it something that is happening now, should be happening, and how do we make it happen? Based on the work that it is, the nature of the work being hands-on, for example, I'll just say a general statement. They haven't come up with an idea of how to fix a leak from remote, from a mile away, or from home. Work from home.

Fixing a leak is done more from home. We are cleaning the toilet using an app. You're right.

Exactly. So with that being said, with that type of context, I want to get your take on centralization when it comes to maintenance. What does it mean for maintenance in 2023 in multifamily? What can we do? Is it possible, and to what extent is it possible? My opinion is I don't think as an industry we're ready to answer that question yet.

I really don't. Is it possible? Sure. Why not? It could be.

But the reason for my answer is actually centralization has been a topic of discussion in our administration, in our operations office now for over a decade. There is so much technology. We go to tablets.

We go to paperless offices. We go to electronic cashless and checkless offices to where we're no longer making deposits. All of these technological advances, centralization, we're taking the accounting off-site.

(45:24 - 46:28) We're doing all of these things in the administrative office, and yet still talking with leasing assistant managers, concierge, they are busier than they have ever been. And I know there's market forces. There's other stuff going on.

But at what point did all that centralization result in a better office environment? I'm completely talking out of my realm or expertise, but at some point it comes down to where's the time saving? Where's the efficiency savings? On-site? You see it on LinkedIn. Probably the number one topic across the board, and spread that out to all the social medias. Mental health, work-life balance, stress, just not being challenged on-site are across the board and rampant.

(46:28 - 49:16) I don't know that we're at the point of being able to say that centralization actually carries juice that's worth the squeeze. I'm a weirdo, loudmouth maintenance guy who travels around the country and sees and talks to people in associations, so I'm very, very isolated. But at the same time, if centralization has been going on in our office for a long time now, and yet there hasn't been a demonstrative change, is it a good thing? And I know it's dangerous to ask that, and I'm willing to be wrong, and it's just you and me here, right? I mean, nobody else is listening.

It's just us, right? Chances are. Chances are, but I'm going to ask the question. In the maintenance world, can we do some centralization? Sure.

I'm actually not the person to figure that out. I'm the guy who teaches people how to plunge the toilet. I'm the guy that teaches people how to use the multimeter, how to charge an air conditioning system, what superheat is, what sub-cool is, and how to meet the regulatory requirements for whatever it is that we're working on.

I don't make the regulatory requirements. I think I gave an answer to what you were asking. Paul, as always, congratulations.

It's so great to have you here on an inaugural episode. Any closing thoughts? Just to kind of reiterate what we talked about, apartment maintenance as an industry is such a fantastic career. It is so gratifying to be able to play Superman.

I've used the analogy before that we get to be a superhero in the lives of our residents to where something breaks and we actually get to show up and fix it. Personal connection exists for multifamily maintenance technicians that doesn't exist in many other industries. There are some others, but they're not as cool as ours.

Not only that, they don't have as big an opportunity as our industry. That is really and truly what I will continue to trumpet from every platform or space I get to be in or whatever it is. Being an apartment maintenance technician is a really, really cool job and a fantastic way to earn a living.

(49:17 - 50:30) Really and truly, anybody of any age can get started, get involved, and move up, especially in today's environment, if you have that drive or desire to do so. I love still getting to be able to play Superman or Batman or anybody from the Marvel Universe that we need to solve and create solutions right where they're needed. I love apartment maintenance.

It's a fantastic place to be. How can someone get in touch with you, someone in the audience that's watching this episode? How could they get in touch with you if they want to?

The best way to get in touch with me right now is my website. The website is It talks about, and much like your multifamily X, is growing, just as a place to have conversations and find out what we can do to make the industry better and then also provide services as well.

(50:30 - 51:30) On the website, there's a chat feature that is the best way to get a hold of me. In addition, I am active on LinkedIn. Not as active as our wonderful host here.

I'm trying to learn, but I'm not that good at it. But I am there. So there's messaging.

I do invite you to connect with me or reach out to me. Those are the best places to get in touch.