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10 Things I’ve Learned During My Apartment Maintenance Career

April 2021

Paul Rhodes
Director of Maintenance Operations
The Life Properties

  1. Take care of your tools and they will take care of you. Tools that are used onsite all have a lifespan, meaning they will eventually stop working. It’s worth the time to do a little clean-up and maintenance as you go instead of having that moment of catastrophic failure. And, according to Murphy’s Law, this failure will happen at the worst possible moment. Two years ago, my air conditioning manifold hoses required replacement after more than a decade and a half of use. The key to their longevity was annually replacing the springs and seals in the fittings and keeping the hoses out of the sunlight when I’m wasn’t using them.
  2. Best is best and good is better. It’s possible to suffer paralysis by analysis, especially in our current age of data and metrics. We can attempt to quantify anything about anything and to some extent, this is a good thing. The problem comes when we spend too long analyzing a situation that we end up spending a long period of time not doing anything about it. Do analysis, pick a good path and GO!
  3. Don’t just sit there; do something. There are situations that require reaction. If you are empowered with a plan of action based on previous encounters with this challenge, and you have the resources: Do it.
  4. Don’t just do something; sit there. In the middle of an intense moment or a developing situation, it is possible that doing something will be worse than doing nothing. A skill I’m currently working on is NOT reacting until it’s time to react. Observation and research require time.
  5. Communication is about information-matching. Residents communicate with our office requesting maintenance to make us aware of something that isn’t operating correctly. This is GOOD! The only way our property (or for that matter, any of us) knows improvement is needed is when reality doesn’t match expectation. Where residents are concerned, the common way we find out something needs to be repaired is from a call. Where we are concerned, the only way we know what to improve is when we are informed of a deficiency. Information-matching refers to the difference between an ideal state (what we think) and reality (what is). The shortest path for these to agree is being open to communication.
  6. Today is 20 percent yesterday and 100 percent now. What I did yesterday matters only as long as it aids in reaching a similar solution if I encounter the same situation again. That information is only important as a direction to take. The MOST important thing is what I DO right now (I’m aware the math doesn’t work).
  7. Begin with the end in mind. When doing, start by determining the outcome. The desired outcome can be referenced to make decisions along the way. Any action that doesn’t move you toward the goal is off the path. As you move toward the end, anything that puts you closer to the goal becomes part of the plan; anything that moves away, isn’t.
  8. Knowing how to use the tools you have is better than having more tools. This statement is about quality over quantity. I have two multimeters: An expensive one that will do several different functions, and one that I’ve had for decades that only tests three things: Volts, ohms and continuity. The one with fewer functions is the one I’m most comfortable with, so it’s the one I use the overwhelming majority of the time, even though the more expensive one is “cooler.”
  9. Excellent is better than perfect. A challenge for many maintenance technicians is balancing perfection with the amount of time available for a task. If our goal for any task is perfection, we will never complete anything. A better goal is excellence, based on the goals set and the quantity of time we have available.
  10. This is a career, not just a “job.” Apartment maintenance is a fantastic way to make a living. Yes, some parts of it are less desirable than others. Like many in this field, I took the job picking up a property for the paycheck and the benefits the management company offered. After a short time, I realized I liked what I was doing and committed myself to get better at whatever was in front of me. Twenty-five years later and I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else in another industry!