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Lessons from 40 Years Fixing Apartments

In our next installment of Profiles in Success, a series where NAA talks to successful apartment professionals to learn how they got to where they are, who inspired them and what their biggest challenge was, we visit with a longtime maintenance manager.

Profile in Success: James A. Burwell, MBAName: David Jolley
Company: Greystar
Current Title: Regional Maintenance Manager
Years in the Industry: 44

What (or who) led you into the apartment industry?

I answered a newspaper ad and was attracted to the constant work, opportunities and challenges.

What was your first apartment job?

I was an air-conditioning technician.

Describe your job now: 

I currently oversee maintenance on 84 properties in North Texas and Oklahoma. I work with onsite teams and on property inspections, training and due diligence.

Who was your greatest influence in the industry (how did they influence you)? 

Roger Vance and Rita Kirby always gave me positive enforcement and motivated me to work toward goals and give it my best. Both always shared what they knew.

What was your biggest challenge? And how did you overcome that challenge?

Dealing with people who are making decisions that think they know what the end result will be instead of asking questions to learn more.

What is your ultimate goal in the apartment industry?

My goal was and is to support my family, be the best of the best, share with others what I have been blessed to know and always try something new.

What has the apartment industry given to you both personally and professionally?

Knowledge, success, achievements, challenges and great relationships!

What’s your favorite or funniest apartment industry story?

My first NAA meeting was Advocate in 2017. During the few days of that event, I managed to hand out more than 1,000 business cards and shake just as many hands. I was not yet on any committees, but I attended a committee meeting every hour. Never underestimate the power of networking or “net-weaving” (Thanks Dr. Debbie!). It is still the best way to build lasting relationships.

What’s one thing you or your company does that sets you apart?

We provide quality service and go the extra mile for residents.

What volunteer roles do you currently hold?

I was one of the original developers of Certificate for Apartment Maintenance Technicians (CAMT). God has blessed me with knowledge over the years and I love to help people who want to learn.

What impact have you made on other future leaders in this business?

Being positive, being consistent, never saying no. My motto is “I will try anything once!”

How has your experience as a volunteer helped in your career?

I totally believe that teaching CAMT has helped me to get where I am now, and I would not be successful without it. Preparing for training always makes you do research before a class – and that helps. There is always someone in the class who may know more about a subject than you and you can learn from them. Working with the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas for many years has also been a benefit. It is great to meet someone every now and then that remembers you from teaching a class many years ago.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I play with my grandkids. I also race four-wheel-drive mud trucks in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas.

What did you want to be growing up?

First, I wanted to be a police man. Then, I wanted to follow in my dad’s steps by doing air-conditioning work.

What do you want to be doing five years from now?

I may be retired. Or, if my health is still good, I might be working.

If you could talk to yourself 10/15/20 years ago, what advice would you have given yourself?

Listen more to what God is telling me – and work on my attitude.

What’s your favorite quote?

“There are no dumb questions, just dumb mistakes because pride does not let us ask the question.”

What’s your favorite song/musician?

“Down on the Corner” by Credence Clearwater Revival!

What’s the biggest difference you see between our industry today and when you started?

Knowledge. I had to have experience working on air-conditioners when I applied for my first job. We could not buy new. We had to diagnose and repair. Now, we just want to make the resident happy and we buy a new one.