5 Things You Need to Hiring the Perfect “Part-Time” Building Superintendent
[Tips, Guides and Downloadable Templates]
Congratulations! You’ve found a promising part-time superintendent applicant looking to start right away… now what?
Your sleepless weeks spent searching and placing online ads, calling prospective candidates and performing countless interviews have finally seemed to pay off. You sigh, remembering this long journey as your first experience finding a Part-time building superintendent. How many false leads did you follow before finding "George," a smiling, agreeable full-time porter of a larger building several blocks uptown? He's not quite "Mario," who finally decided to retire at the end of the month as your part-time super, but he seems the best fit so far.
Getting here should have been easier but early on in the search, you realized there was no clear guideline for anyone like you, a fresh new property manager, to follow. Your colleagues admitted also to having no set, proven method for finding a super other than through referrals or online platforms like Craigslist and Indeed.com.
Worse, now that you've found a building superintendent, getting together a super task list seems a larger challenge than even finding someone. There was a general task list that Mario loosely went by through the years but most of the details became calcified to his and the Board's memory, rather than on paper. No one watched him work or check up on him; the relationship was based on trust. So, even after so many years of doing the same thing, you realize that there's no clear precedent to follow: no cleaning or maintenance checklist, no records, and no step-by-step emergency plan.
You reassure yourself: nothing could go wrong here, right? George seems like a great guy and he must know about cleaning, even without a clear list. You think, 'we could make a permanent list as we go along. Then, we can just add tasks. He should be fine with that.'
Then, uncertainty sets in. You struggle to recall, 'Did he say he'd be available for after-hours emergency? What if he gets sick or can't be onsite to give vendors access to the building? Do I have to find an alternate super? And, what to do if he wants more money? What if he quits? Do I have to go through all this again?'
Clearly defining what’s expected of your super is critical to maintaining a happy equilibrium in a building and this should be the immediate next step. These expectations must become hard-wired into a clear set of regular duties and protocols that the super not only agrees to, but is able to follow consistently and reliably.
In considering what this list of tasks and protocols should contain, you’ll need to know:
- Your building’s maintenance needs and priorities
- Your budgeted number of hours for the super, and
- Your super’s availability and ability to fulfill those needs
Because NYC part-time or “traveling” supers vary widely in their experiences with building equipments and infrastructure, interpersonal and professional skills, and their time availability, your ultimate list should balance these three elements. Be specific about your expectations and priorities. Then, consider whether your part-time super has the right time and skills to meet these expectations. Nothing will frustrate the goals of your list more than making your super wear too many hats and do too many things in the short amount of time he has and for which he’s not well-suited.
In this new blog series, I’m going to help you get this formula down as exact as possible, first, by focusing on creating the ultimate task and protocols list for your building. We'll then prioritize these lists and budget them into an optimized seven-day schedule that covers your building 24/7. One by one, you'll set your:
- Comprehensive cleaning checklist
- Basic maintenance and light duty repairs task plan
- Regular walk-through “watch-list”
- Protocol for covering all emergency situations (list of vendors to call)
- Protocol for managing outside vendors
There you have it. Five things you'll need before you're ready to move forward with your new Part-time Super.
Here's a preview:
I know it looks like a lot to do. You're thinking it's easier to wing it for the time being and just add or change things as time goes on. But don't wait.
Take the time to do this NOW.
Take this step and it'll save you countless hours and frustration going back and forth with the Board and your super. Hours you could have spent enjoying a cocktail with friends or spending quality time with family.
Doing this now and making a system for the future will make you look great in front of your Boss and building board.
The more specific your list is, the easier it’ll be to narrow down your potential super candidates. Moreover, you’ll lower your super turnover rate by hiring your super with transparent expectations and a firm performance yardstick. Lowering your turnover rate will save you lots of time and money lost down the road from having to hire and retrain new supers, and paying for unemployment expenses when their jobs are terminated.
Just remember that getting this balance right on the first run is a rare achievement. It usually takes a couple of tries and you never really know that an arrangement works -- or doesn’t -- until you’ve actually observed your new super’s performance and reviewed his results.
Hopefully, this blog series will help you minimize the hardships and risk in your journey as I share my own experiences and lessons learned throughout the years while running a NYC Part-time Super company. Many of my mistakes stemmed from not being clear enough in setting expectations; so I can’t underscore enough how hard it'll be if you get this wrong or, on the other hand, how easy if you get this right.
In fact, look below at our very first list of duties and protocols used at Spark Super, which was embarrassingly lacking.
Pretty darn lacking, I'd say again.
But, by making mistakes and with great feedback from building managers, board members and other supers, we learned what works and what doesn’t. Embedded in our lists and protocols are nuggets of wisdom from well-drafted maintenance plans of many local NYC buildings that we had the opportunity to observe, test for ourselves and incorporate into our core operations.
Time and again, you may hear suggestions that it’s actually better to be less clear with your super about his duties, on hopes that leaving out details in the super’s agreement creates room for adding new tasks later. I cannot disagree more. Clear lists not only help to measure the super’s performance and prevent misunderstandings, it creates a healthy workplace culture that reduces your super’s anxiety and stress, improves his focus and self-esteem and helps him organize his thoughts.1
Remember that your part-time super will work largely unsupervised and unseen by the people he serves and thus an effective, well-balanced list can provide the guidance and psychological boost he needs to manage his work autonomously, independently and with a sense of accomplishment.
Over the next five articles, you’ll:
- Learn the dirty truth behind cleaning NYC buildings and find the perfect cleaning schedule that solves it, even on a part-time budget (Part 1, 2 and 3)
- Tweak the preventative maintenance plan you absolutely need (and don’t) and set it up to go reliably week after week
- Create your own “set-it-and-forget-it” building walk-through list
- Implement just three simple rules for outside vendors that’ll keep your Super's schedule running smoothly and efficiently
- Cover 99% of your building emergencies without breaking the bank
As a part of this series, I’ll share some tips and give you downloadable templates to use for starting your own ultimate list.
As for the timing to implement this….
Again, there’s no better time to iron out the details than before the relationship starts as opposed to later. Slow down and get this part right or the lack of details will return to haunt you. Things are harder to change when unintended habits set in and take strong root.
Even if you’ve already hired a part-time super, there's no better time than now to keep up with this series and revisit your Super's job description and schedule. Maybe he's been unhappy or even thinking of leaving because of the problems described above that remain unaddressed. In my experience, this discussion will have to happen sooner or later, so dig in and get ready to earn your Super stripes!
Next Article: "Learn the Dirty Truth Behind Cleaning NYC Buildings and Find the Perfect Cleaning Schedule that Solves it, Even on a Part-Time Budget." (Part 1)
1. Rizzo, Paula, "Five Benefits of List Making," The List Producer (blog), January 16, 2012, https://listproducer.com/2012/01/5-health-benefits-of-list-making