Worst Job Ever?

Superintendent

(Originally posted in the Fall 2013 edition of WB Condo Connection, Volume 5, Issue 3)

By: Brad Wells, Property Manager – Hamilton

Hopefully in your working career you hold a high paying job that offers independence and a daily sense of satisfaction. According to some surveys, eight out of ten people are unhappy with their current job.

This leads me to the title of this article. What is the worst job ever? Although some of my colleges may disagree, no, I don’t believe it is a Property Manager. But, someone else working for your condominium corporation may have it.

Imagine if this is your job description: You live at work. You wake up in the morning open your door and are immediately surrounded by your employers. You proceed to pick up their garbage, clean their mess and fix things that they have broken. You only listen to complaints and are expected to attend to everything immediately. You are oncall 24/7 and must respond to any and all emergencies without extra pay. Your wages are very modest, if not much lower then the average worker.

Do you know whose job fits this description? I know if my wife reads this, she will immediately say “being a mom”, which is incorrect because there is no wage for that!

The answer is the Live-In Condominium Superintendent. If you think about their position and what they are expected to do, it is a very challenging career. However, the Superintendent is usually the first target of Owners, Directors or Managers attention when they want to “improve the building” or “save money.” It is often said by new Directors or Owners that your Superintendent is overpaid and doesn’t do anything, especially when they don’t know the whole story.

As in any job, this could certainly be the case. There are bad apples in every profession. There are also diligent, caring and hard-working individuals that hold these positions and are the back-bone of a well run condominium—but they are not easy to find.

While I’m referring to a Live-In Superintendent or Superintendent Couple, these principles apply to all of the service staff that work for your condominium such as part-time Superintendents, cleaners, maintenance workers, etc.

To address the “over-paid” notion, let’s consider a fictional Live-In Superintendent Couple. The owners say they are overpaid and they could save money hiring someone else. If the couple’s salary is $40,000 per year, plus they get a taxable benefit of a suite and utilities as part of their compensation, this adds about $1,500 per month. The total cost is $58,000. If the couple only works 40 hours per week, when you divide this by two employees they are making $13.94 per hour each. This does not account for the time that they are on-call after hours and must respond to emergencies or if their duties include working two or three weekends per month with no extra pay.

The cost of having Superintendents versus hiring outside contractors to complete these duties must be considered on a per building basis using your unique factors. In some cases, having an off-site or part-time Superintendent is perfect, or hiring an independent cleaning contractor might fit another building. Let’s discuss the benefits of having a good Superintendent onstaff, specifically living in the building.

The diligent Superintendents care for the building as their home, not a job only. They take pride in their work and are people-pleasers, feeling good about saving the corporation money where possible and dealing with problems quickly.

The Superintendent can save on major damage and insurance claims when responding to a leak quickly because they are on-site to stop the problem, rather than waiting for an off-site technician to attend. The Superintendent completes touch-up painting, carpet spotcleaning and minor repairs to maintain the curb-appeal on an on-going basis rather then waiting for a special project to have these items addressed by a contractor. The Superintendent is a walking history book and live set of building drawings that contractors or engineers can draw on when dealing with building issues since they have been present for all of the past work projects and problems. And, the Superintendent is the Property Manager’s best resource for hearing about a small problem before it becomes a big problem.

All in all, a good Superintendent or Superintendent Couple can be a huge advantage to a smoothly run building. Many of us have had the fortune of working with excellent Superintendent’s and have seen the difference they can make. We have also had to deal with difficult or unproductive workers. As with any employee, having good job descriptions, employment contracts and documenting progress or shortcomings can quickly help you resolve a bad situation.

One thing to remember as a Director or a Manager- when you are conducting your performance reviews of a Superintendent, try to imagine yourself in their shoes for a 24 hour period- remembering not to turn off your cell phone!

A recent survey shows that a lumberjack and a newspaper reporter are the “worst” jobs in 2013. So Superintendent’s are safe for now. However, the good ones thrive in their positions and should be remunerated accordingly as they help clean, maintain and improve your community and your home.