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Habitat Magazine Insider Guide




How to Turn a Staffing Problem Into an Opportunity

Mark Hoffman in Building Operations on August 28, 2017

Upper West Side, Manhattan

Staffing Problem
Aug. 28, 2017

INSIDE TRACK: The following article appears in the July/August issue of Habitat, “Insider Tips From 47 Top Management Leaders.”

I took over management of a very high-end luxury co-op on West End Avenue several years ago. At the start of my engagement, the resident manager resigned his position. Shortly thereafter, the handyman resigned. At that point, the board was very concerned about losing two key employees just as a new management company was starting. I told them not to panic, to relax, and take a deep breath. Let’s figure a way that we can take this problem and turn it into an opportunity.

I looked at the building’s operations and came up with a plan that would replace the resident manager with a working superintendent who could roll up his sleeves and actually handle all the functions of the handyman. We could do a reduction of services with the 32BJ union, eliminating the handyman position. At first, the board was a little skeptical. I assured them that if done in an orderly and smart way, we could actually get the building to operate more efficiently.

We went through the interview process and found a terrific top-notch working superintendent who turned out to be a leader. He was able to handle all of the functions of the handyman in addition to the requirements of the superintendent. He also trained the porters to assist in small handyman tasks, which the contract permits, so long as no more than 19 hours per week is dedicated to such work.

It was a win-win situation. Not only were we able to save money – the cost of the handyman is probably $95,000 – we actually got more work done in the building and even eliminated the outside painting contractor and vendor. My takeaway: never panic. When there’s a problem, turn it into an opportunity. Explain to the board that change is hard but, also, that change can be very positive. If done properly and thoughtfully, you can actually improve the building’s operations.

Mark Hoffman is principal at Hoffman Management.

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