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One Man's Experience Fixing Toxic Maintenance Teams

Demetrius Rodriguez

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 Service Manager from North Carolina.

Name: Demetrius Rodriguez

Company: Simpson Property Group

Current Title: Service Manager of a 500-unit mixed use community in Charlotte, N.C.

Years in the Industry: 11 years

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

I came out of the Navy as a builder and was already a carpenter. I had heard of a property management company in need of a special projects carpenter.

What was your first apartment job?

Capital Projects Carpenter

Can you describe your job now?

I handle the opening of new apartment communities, including the training of the maintenance staff. I implement and schedule warranty repairs. I also ensure that all apartments and vendors meet the highest standard of service into the community’s stabilization and beyond.

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

Kevin Johnson—a resort manager for Wyndham Worldwide. He taught me that being a Service Manager is not just about fixing stuff. It’s about the delivering an outstanding customer experience and customer satisfaction. Every morning we had a stand-up meeting where he would get us motivated and talk about the resident experience. This really shifted my focus and how I dealt with coworkers and residents.

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

I took over a toxic maintenance team and had to figure out how to improve work relationships. To repair the team, I spent time with each guy individually. I helped them with work and gave them the resources they needed to start implementing positive change in small steps. The hardest part was getting in the weeds with them and building trust.

What is your ultimate goal in the apartment industry?

My ultimate goal is to become a Regional Service Manager who trains maintenance personnel. I want to not only improve and inspect communities, but also make sure service teams take entrepreneurial ownership [of their communities] and have the resources to do so as they grow.

What has the apartment industry given you, personally and professionally?

The apartment industry has given me a place where I have made so many friends and mentors. It has helped me grow and develop a tough skin. It has made me a more solutions-orientated and a better person overall.

What’s your favorite or funniest apartment industry story?

One of my groundskeepers was taking me to the other side of the property on a golf cart and got pulled over by the police for speeding. The police officer asked, “Do you know how fast you were going?” He replied, “Officer, I do not have a speedometer on here.” I started cracking up.

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

My company has an entrepreneurial business model that allows each team to run its community to the standard they have set.

How do you or your company find ways to give back?

We always have company outings and do charity events in town to help the community. We do things from hosting charity dinners to helping out at shelters in the city.

What volunteer roles do you currently hold?

I have volunteered with the Tim Tebow Foundation and have organized supplies for hurricane relief. I also support a child named George through the group Compassion International.

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

It makes me feel that everyday work can make a great impact and to always do the best job I can.

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

I always share my knowledge and innovative ideas through social media outlets. I post new tools and new ways of troubleshooting. I recently started a tool chalk-talk group through our company’s Yammer app. The group allows other properties in the portfolio to utilize new software and quick fix ideas and the responses have been great. Service and office teams have benefited greatly. It also gives them a great outlet for question-and-answer sessions about day-to-day operations.

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

I love taking vacations with my family. Spending quality time with them in a new place energizes both me and my family.

What did you want to be growing up?

I wanted to play in the NBA, but I only grew to a whopping 5 feet, 7 inches tall.

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

I would love to train maintenance personnel and be a Regional Service Manager, and make properties safe and a sanctuary for residents.

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

I would have told myself to invest in real estate and then hold on to the houses and not sell them.

What’s your favorite quote? 

“Imagination is greater than intelligence.” -Einstein

What’s your favorite song/musician?

Anything country, no favorites.

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

Amenities.