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Now that's a great idea.

From resident surveys to focus groups, property managers and owners nationwide constantly seek ways to improve their communities. One propertyproperly manager has created an innovative way of doing things.

Each month Debbie Zumo, CAM, Property Manager at Herman & Kittle Properties' Canterbury House Apartments in Baton Rouge, La., hosts a day with her staff devoted to ideas and innovation.

"Sometimes the more you focus on issues the harder it is to come up with answers," Zumo says. "By relaxing and focusing on something else the idea may present itself." Zumo and her staff spend the entire day talking and thinking creatively in an effort to come up with fresh, original thoughts that may improve their apartment community. The concept is called a "FedEx Day/' because you are expected to deliver something overnight.



Team members are asked to each Maintenance Technician Kel resident trade coins for priz bring at least three ideas or topics pertaining to the industry to the meetings. Such ideas as an afternoon program that mentors young girls ages 5 to 13 and a health fair that will be held at the community in an effort to educate residents have been presented.

"The topics could be something to do with the property, the management company as a whole or how to better perform their particular job," Zumo explains."No topic would be omitted."

On the appointed day, employees report to the office at their normal time and Zumo distributes a list of all the topics. Staff members are then permitted to spend the day any way they choose--be it on the property or off the property. The objective is for employees to spend the day doing anything but their regular jobs.

"There is only one rule: To be paid for the day they have to produce an idea," Zumo says. "It could be in response to a topic on the list or to something not on the list."

At the end of the day the employees regroup back in the office to discuss what they've come up with. All ideas are accepted, however, Zumo does not accept excuses about not being able to think of anything.

"The results were amazing," Zumo says of the first FedEx Day, held in September. "What amazed me most was how productive the maintenance guys were. They had several ideas about resident retention, cutting expenses and even rent collection."

The idea to host a FedEx Day came from a session that Herman & Kittle Properties Regional Manager Mark McGlone attended during the 2011 NAA Education Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas. Speaker and author Daniel Pink suggested each apartment manager host a day of innovation to help motivate employees.

"Typically, people want to do well," McGlone says. "They have a job for a reason. They want to succeed, but when they want to do well for their supervisor, that's when things really click. 1 thought the FedEx Day would make them want to do well for themselves and the property, but also for me and Merman & Kittle."

Herman & Kittle owns more than 7,500 units spread over Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi and Ohio.

One Idea That Worked

The first FedEx Day was a hit and resulted in a plethora of new and helpful ideas, such as Assistant Manager Erin McNorton's plan to help manage the property's many rambunctious children.

As part of researching her idea, McNorton conducted a door-to-door survey asking residents to name three things they liked about the community and three things they didn't like.

"From that it seemed that we needed to focus on the children, so I came up with a 'Get Caught Being Good' program," she says. "I was thinking positive encouragement may be the way to entice the kids not to drop their trash on the property, to behave at the bus stop and to walk quietly through the breezeways."

The staff printed a list of do's and don'ts for children and distributed it throughout the property. Now, whenever a staff member sees a well-behaved child, he or she gives the child a special coin. The coins can be brought to the community office and exchanged for prizes such as small toys and candy.

"We have given out coins for things like taking the trash all the way to the compactor, waiting patiently for the school bus or helping a friend," Zumo says. "The kids love it. They take so much time when they come to trade in their coins. It is a big decision for them.

"Most importantly, our FedEx Day program got the entire staff involved," Zumo adds. And we are more connected to our residents and the community."

By holding regular monthly meetings designed specifically to brainstorm ideas from every staff member, communities can discover how to improve operations.

Ali McSheny is NAA s Manager of Communications. She can be reached at or 703/797-0647.
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Author:Mcsherry, Ali
Geographic Code:1U7LA
Date:Nov 1, 2011
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