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The start of the New Year is a great time to revisit company goals and see how things are progressing. It’s also a good time to see what may need improvement in the months ahead to ensure goals are hit. Some may be more technical; others may be personnel oriented. Props Ops founder Chad Moulin, a 20-year veteran of the property management industry with hands-on experience in multiple departments and property types, provides his recommendations for key areas to look at to improve the community performances — and why managers shouldn’t be afraid to try something new.
Good time management practices involve multiple service areas on the property to make sure employees are working as effectively as possible. One of the biggest strategic steps community managers can take, though, is to either create or resurrect a preventative maintenance plan to take advantage of downtime to focus on critical aspects of the community’s operations.
For example, communities in colder climates may want to use the summer months to focus on preventative maintenance care for heaters and boilers, Moulin says, to make sure they’ll work properly during critical winter months.
“The preventative maintenance part of it is just getting the schedule, getting it in place and following it,” he says. “The first couple times you go through it, it will take you a little bit longer, especially if you haven’t had a preventative maintenance program in the past or if you’re restarting your preventative maintenance program. But once you go through it, it will save you so much time and save you money and help you better forecast budget even for next year.”
Managers can also look at downtime for other activities, such as organizing operational areas of the community.
“If you’re really slow in January, take a little bit of time, organize your shops, organize your storages, be sure that everyone knows where everything is,” he suggests.
To get the best from employees, managers need to invest in their employees. This includes training them not only skills inherent to their day-to-day jobs, but also ancillary skills as well.
“Not everybody on the team needs the exact same type of training,” Moulin says. “You may send your maintenance supervisor to a class on how to delegate or how to schedule work with his people — you know, administrative skills — where you might send a service tech to an appliance class.”
Service team members may also need training on customer service to better handle direct dealings with residents.
“You might have a service technician that’s great technically. They can fix anything under the sun and do it well,” he says. “But you don’t want to lock that person in a room with a resident for 5 minutes because you’re scared of what they’ll say. And I’ve had it.”
Training often builds in a certain degree of loyalty, he adds, which can help you retain top talent who seek greater opportunities within the community they work rather than jumping ship to the property across the street.
Similar to training, the more employees know about the operations of the community, the more invested they are likely to become, Moulin observes. And that often starts with community meetings.
“Once I started [opening up my meeting to more feedback from other teams] at my properties years and years ago, there were so many good ideas that came up out of those meetings,” he explains, suggesting that managers start by throwing out an idea and soliciting feedback to make people feel more comfortable sharing with the group. “Some of the best ideas I’ve ever gotten have been from housekeepers, grounds keepers, service techs, that yeah, you know, let’s try that. And you know what? Even if didn’t work out exactly the way you thought it would, but you could take different aspects of that idea and apply them to something else, and it turns out to be something great.”
Employees are also more apt to respond better when they have a glimpse at the bigger picture. For example, simply denying a request may make them feel dejected, but if they know the reason behind the decision — be it that residency rates are below goal or the department took a budget hit because of a recent issue — they’ll likely handle it better and may even want to work toward a better solution. This also helps build a greater sense of corporate culture.
Moulin will address the importance of open communication, customer service, technical training, service team management, vendor and supplier management, and budget awareness during his breakout session, “8 Tips for Maintenance Supremacy,” at the 2015 NAA Education Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas this June.
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