Jim Dormady has been in apartment operations and maintenance since he was 17 years old, working his first part-time summer job. At that early age, he worked the grounds and did a lot of what he called “grunt work” for a small apartment owner in Boston. He stayed in the industry and eventually served as a supervisor on three apartment buildings in Massachusetts for that owner.
For the past 10 years, he has worked for The Dolben Company Inc. The Woburn, Mass.-based firm specializes in the management of apartment communities. Dormady started as their building maintenance crew supervisor and has worked his way up to his current position as Maintenance Director. In that role, he states, “I run all training, capital projects – basically anything and everything having to do with facilities for the company.”
Dormady recently sat down for an interview on summertime apartment maintenance issues. What follows is our chat:
NATIONAL APARTMENT ASSOCIATION: Our first issue comes out in the dead of summer for many apartment owners and managers nationwide. What are some of the common summertime maintenance issues that you and people in your profession have to be aware of?
JIM DORMADY: There are a bunch. The obvious one, especially in our Mid-Atlantic portfolio, is air conditioning and making sure that we have the right people in place, with the right training, and the right equipment. And they have to have the right resources, whether it’s continued education and training, parts, and equipment to keep the residents cool in the summertime.
NAA: When you hear of national stories like the record heat wave that the West and Las Vegas just endured and the deadly tornados in Oklahoma, what comes to your mind in terms of how those apartment maintenance and operations professionals are dealing with such crises?
JD: I’m being biased obviously, but I feel that our maintenance supervisors and our technicians are some of the best in the business. I think you could throw our guys out there in the western part of the country and they’d hold their own even though it’s 120 degrees. If you have a system that is designed to keep one’s home cool, that’s what you make sure it does. That’s why we look for the best of the best in our guys.
NAA: This is July. In terms of summer projects, what can still be done with August left to go?
JD: We always try to use the summer months to really upgrade the curb appeal and look of our properties, whether it’s pressure-washing the breezeways or the buildings themselves or painting those columns that we couldn’t get to over the winter because it was too cold to paint. The summertime is the time where you can spruce up your property from an exterior standpoint and really make it pop. But during December up in New England, you’re really not able to do a whole lot of fine-tuning of your exterior curb appeal as far as painting and pressure washing. We really try and structure our capital projects – our seal coating, anything that has to do with the swimming pool area, and so forth – so that they are done in the spring and summer months.
NAA: Any particular projects that stand out in your mind and make you say, “Wow, we really did a great job on that?”
JD: We just recently re-did a pool deck for one of our Mid-Atlantic properties. It wasn’t in bad shape, but it could really use the spruce. We ended up putting a Trex Decks system there, which really put some pizzazz into that pool area. We were able to put chaise lounges up there and make it look really good. I’m in the process now of running multiple exterior projects as far as dealing with wood rot, trim painting, siding replacement. I’m talking with property managers and making sure that their pressure washers are ready to go, because there is algae that needs to be washed off the sides of buildings and we want to make sure everything shines. Again, the best time to do that is the summertime.
NAA: You’ve been in this field for a while now. Was there some advice that was given to you early on that has stuck with you in your career?
JD: I was taught at an early age and it was reiterated when I came to Dolben that residents are our No. 1 priority. If we don’t have residents, they don’t pay rent, and we don’t get paid. If our residents aren’t happy, they’re going to leave and we won’t have jobs. I guess it’s kind of a weird way to look at it. But when it’s all said and done, we’re in the customer service business. Then, to take it a step further in a corporate mindset, the residents are No. 1 and your ownership is 1A. You need to keep your ownership groups happy. If they don’t own the properties, then residents can’t move into them and you can’t work there.
NAA: And for anyone who will be reading this who was once like you, very young in operations and maintenance, what wisdom do you have to offer them?
JD: I would give three words: education, education, education. I have always stressed the NAA, the Rental Housing Association up in Boston, the Maryland Multi-Housing Association in the Mid-Atlantic. I’ve taken the CAMT [Certified Apartment Maintenance Technician] designaton, and I helped rewrite the CAMT curriculum many years ago. I’ve taught many modules. It’s a designation through the NAA. They offer CAM, or Certified Apartment Managers, for managers. They offer those classes through the NAAEI, or the National Apartment Association Education Institute. For the young groundsmen and technicians who are coming into the industry and getting that type of structured education, it is essential. So many local associations are also offering fair housing classes and HVAC classes. I wish I had some of these classes back when I was 17 and 18 years old! Throughout my entire career, I’ve tried to absorb as much of this industry as I possibly can. You never know what’s going to be around the corner. The best thing about this industry is no two days are ever the same, and that’s what I think makes it exciting.
NAA: Is there anything coming up on the horizon in terms of innovations that has you excited?
JD: Going back to HVAC and air conditioning, you can talk to 10 different people and they all have a different opinion on what will be the refrigerant in the HVAC systems that we’re using 10 years from now. I have no idea at this point. Looking to get maintenance workers more integrated into computers also comes to mind. You have a lot of older maintenance supervisors and technicians that never really received the training to use different applications . . . to make daily operations on a property run easier and be more organized. I’d like to see in the next couple of years more education be put towards getting the maintenance field comfortable with computers and applications and stuff like that.By Teddy Durgin Abstract News © Copyright 2013 INFORMATION, INC.
Learn about the perks and benefits of working in residential property management and some of the reasons the industry provides career growth, stability and endless opportunities.