February 23, 2021

Jason Newland: Creating a Culture that Values Tech

When you sense a property process needs improving, how can you use software to solve the problem? And, how can you build a culture where team members have a voice in tech decisions? TrinitySF Senior Business Systems Manager Jason Newland shares strategies.

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Jason Newland is a Senior Business Systems Manager with Trinity SF, based in San Francisco. Jason has over 10 years of experience working in multifamily property management software, and he specializes in implementation and custom reporting. At Trinity, Jason oversees 30 multifamily buildings, working closely with every team on training, support, and more.

Audio Transcript

Jason Newland 0:00
We also look for opportunities to have those team members, teach their colleagues and become kind of subject matter experts for one another, you know, that allows us to have our staff get some recognition from their peers for their mastery of how they're using the great tools.

Glennis Markison 0:22
Hi I'm Glennis Markison from HappyCo. Welcome to Voices where we feature fresh perspectives in multifamily. The industry is now facing a fundamental shift in workplace dynamics, resident experience and business operations. In Season two, Voices will feature multifamily leaders who are actively embracing change. Our guest today is Jason Newland, senior business systems manager with Trinity SF, based in San Francisco. Jason has over 10 years of experience working in multifamily property management software, and he specializes in implementation and custom reporting. At Trinity, he oversees 30 multifamily buildings, working closely with every team on training, support and more. Today on Voices, Jason will reveal what it takes to thrive and his systems oriented multifamily role. Plus how Trinity solves key business problems with technology before touching on how other multifamily companies can create a tech steering committee. Thanks for joining us, Jason.

Jason Newland 1:20
Thanks for having me. I'm happy to be here.

Glennis Markison 1:22
So yeah, I mean, let's start off with how you got in multifamily. I understand software was a bit of that first step.

Yeah, definitely. Uh, you know, I didn't expect to find myself in this career by any means. I graduated from UC Santa Barbara. And if you've ever been to Santa Barbara, California before, it is one of those lovely places that you don't really want to leave unless you have to. So after I graduated, I just looked for any opportunity to, you know, continue to lay roots in that city. And I found myself at yardie systems, which is one of the largest property management software's in the country. You know, when I was there, I specialized in software implementation working on special projects for multifamily residential and affordable housing clients. Through my time there at yardie, I developed a really good understanding of how clients really utilize software to solve a dynamic range of challenges in the industry. Eventually, that grew into a position as a consultant where I would work on site directly with clients from the very beginning of them purchasing the rd software, to the point of them, replacing the previous systems to utilize this software to solve all of their needs and procedural changes to make things more efficient. Ultimately, that got me to the desire to be on the client side, the challenges that it posed and the opportunity to really kind of tackle unique hurdles that multifamily poses was just something that really excited me. And so I shifted away from being in the property management field and getting into multifamily housing, where I found my way to Trinity. And now at Trinity, I leverage yardie. And many other software's like happy co to kind of work with all departments throughout the company to overcome new and existing obstacles.

Yeah, that's exciting. And I mean, I'm curious in kind of a system software-oriented role, it's distinctive in the business. And so can you touch on what would make a business systems managers successful because I don't have your job? I'm probably not suited for it. But someone listening really might be so what skills do you think you really bring to the table there?

Jason Newland 3:15
I think the first thing that you have to be to be successful in this role is have the desire to keep learning and adapting to change. You know, one thing I've come to realize since switching over to the multifamily client-side is that things in the industry are continually changing. Whether it be shifting legal requirements, or a global pandemic, how things currently operate may not be the same in a week, a month or a year. So the ability to kind of constantly be learning and adapting to an ever-shifting environment is the first key to continuing to optimize how you utilise software to solve your processes and procedures. One of the biggest misconceptions about the role, though, is that you have to be overly technical to be successful. And while that helps, it's definitely not a requirement. It's more important for us to just be observant and constantly question whether or not a process, it poses an opportunity to be improved upon, you know, approaching issues with an open mind and reviewing things from all different angles, whether the problem lies with the existing software or the procedures that you have in the place itself. That'll allow you to really excel in the position. I mean, one of the things I really love about the role is that I work with all business units at some level, it allows me to get a comprehensive understanding of how our business works, and how I can mold solutions that meet all business units needs. You know, to really be successful in this role. You have to build a collaborative environment interdepartmental II so that you can maintain that communication to make sure that everybody is involved when procedures need to change, and that all requirements are met to ensure that nobody's left behind. And that's not limited to the corporate office either. It's the ability to work with department heads, all the way down to leasing agents and every role in between. The success in this position is really found in the ability to support every role within Your company.

Glennis Markison 5:00
Yeah. And we're going to talk about collaboration later teaser trailer. I don't want to reveal the last question but alluded to it. So I mean, I imagine you've solved by now several MIDI business process problems with software. And I'm curious for anyone listening, what was one of those first big property issues you sold with tech, especially inspection tech at Trinity?

One of the biggest things that actually came up and it was actually fairly recently was a round our woodshop department. And Trinity is a little bit unique in that we actually have a group of individuals that manage a woodshop department. And they do a lot of woodwork on cabinetry and special projects, both in our apartments and throughout our corporate office and leasing offices, throughout the properties that we own and manage. And one thing that got posed in a meeting recently was how much work are those individuals doing? And are we effectively recapturing revenue when the work is caused by some sort of Resident damage? And unfortunately, we had to look ourselves in the mirror and say, we really don't have good information. And we can't tell whether or not we're effectively recuperating those costs. And that was a combination of are we effectively getting that information to our accounting department two, are we effectively alerting the woodshop team to get the work completed in the instances where we have a 21 day window on a soda to build a resident back before we refund their security deposit. So it really allowed us to take a good hard view at that process as a whole and see where we were able to kind of add some insight into the volume of work that was being done, how well we were managing the chargebacks of those items, and also making sure that we were managing the priority and prioritization of how that group of individuals was managing the work to ensure that we met certain deadlines. So through that, we were able to identify and prioritize how we changed the tracking of those work orders that they were working through and enhance the inspection template that we use to better track that information. Ultimately, by leveraging both yardie and happy cope, we were able to build a solution that met all requirements for all stakeholders through a few minor adjustments to how we document the woodshop work and you already and a few additions to that move out inspection template, we were able to ensure that we had better insight and prevented missing opportunities to collect revenue.

Yeah, I mean, that's so exciting that like this massive problem looming large, you ask the right questions and a lot of them and then you have a tech to, you know, right at your fingertips to fix it. I think it's so helpful to hear like everyone wants to know, how does this happen on the ground? So even more of that? How are you solving that move-in move-out puzzle, I know that there's been a kind of an evolution of your approach to it. So how have you tackled that process with software?

So to set the stage before HappyCo, Trinity was using carbon copy sheets of paper for inspection templates, so we had a lot of room to grow into a more modern solution, you know, we were able to establish a partnership with HappyCo. And through that partnership, we've been able to create an entirely electronic solution to our inspection process. You know, it started with the HappyCo support team. And I cannot emphasize how integral they were in the success of how we were able to build our move-out inspection template and integrate it within our processes. You know, unlike other software implementations that I've done in the past, you know, the support team at Happy code took on more of a role of partner to make that roll out of success. We were able to leverage their experience working with other clients to create a dialogue that allowed us to really decide what was the best solution for Trinity, and I can't tell you how important that was and how we built that process. That's wonderful. I'm gonna pay some compliments to the right people. Definitely, yeah, but that wasn't the end of the support, which is also something that I can't say other software providers that we work with do as effectively as happy code does. We constantly are in contact with our support and sales teams, and we're constantly getting updated on when new features are being rolled out that might benefit how Trinity uses the product. Recently, we had a really good discussion that led to the ability to implement enhancements like requiring photos and notes when certain rating sets were used during an inspection. The ability to customize our inspection reports to brands them with our company logo and change the way that the photos display to add clarity to both our accounting department and the reviewer of that inspection report to an enhanced yardie integration. You know, when we started using HappyCo inspections, we didn't have the ability to map the number of bedrooms and bathrooms from yardie into the inspection template. And so our users were constantly having to remove bedroom number three and bedroom number four in the instance where they were, you know, doing an inspection on a one or two bedroom. But through a minor technical enhancement that HappyCo was able to make we were able to create this integration that removed a lot of administrative work to our end users when they were doing a simple move out inspection of a one bedroom and I can't So you that alone saved our staff, you know, five to 10 minutes every single inspection.

Wow. And the benefit to have oversight I imagine. So you're collecting damaged charges and just not understanding repair needs without woodshop in house better than ever, I assume definitely and the ability to kind of ensure we're capturing that supporting documentation so that if there was a dispute, we have the pictures and the ratings directly linked to the items that we have charged back for just allows us to pose a better case to support why we would have built those items back. Right, right.

And so I'm curious, there's another issue. I know Trinity being in an urban area I think anyone listening would be really glad to hear about is, you know, safety and with downtown's kind of changing in their nature with so few people working there anymore. I mean, I'm curious, I heard you've done a lot with safety and security across the board with your inspections just to make sure everyone who's paying for a really nice common area and a garage and, and all of that feels they're getting the value. So where Where's Trinity gone in that direction with tech?

Yeah, I mean, I think the biggest thing that Trinity loves to brand is that we want you to love where you live. And we want you to love where you work. And I think a lot of how we use technology really embodies both of those things. The first thing that we've been able to use happy co for is we have night managers that live on site. And we want to make sure that those night managers are ensuring the residents have a clean, secure and operational building. So we have them going through and completing Night Manager inspections where they walk their parking garages, they walk out their common areas to make sure that the spaces are clean, that your you know, evac doors are working and they're secured, that all of the lighting is properly open so that you know everything on site is operational, it makes your residents feel safe, and that it's clean, and your curb appeal stays high. So that was the first thing that we were able to really do with HappyCo was do that Night Manager inspection to ensure those properties are safe and secure. We also leveraged inspections to help us with some of our properties in the South of Market neighborhood, we encounter some unique challenges here because we have three properties of approximately 1500 apartments in a very heavily trafficked urban area in San Francisco, we needed a really good solution to ensure we were constantly monitoring curb appeal and security both for current and potential residents. Through HappyCo, we were able to create inspection templates shared by three different properties that are in a very tight area to ensure we're frequently monitoring stairwells, elevator lobbies, garages, and building perimeter to ensure our residents feel safe in their community property staff are able to identify security issues with building access doors, allowing us to address maintenance issues before it comes a larger problem. And those instances of maintenance issues requiring photos and notes on certain ratings has allowed us to also minimise the maintenance response time to resolving items identified during those walks. So overall, doing these inspections through happycow, not your traditional move out or move in inspections has really allowed us to use this technology to ensure the security and safety of our buildings as well as make sure that our curb appeal is high so that people that are looking to live in those communities see that we take great care of those buildings.

Jason Newland 13:08
Yeah, but that's so reassuring for residents, I imagine, right? I mean, you've gotten probably great responses from them. Yeah, we constantly get shouted out on Yelp and Google reviews. And we've also started capturing NPS surveys, net performer score surveys, and we are always getting people recognized by name, which is awesome.

Glennis Markison 13:27
Oh, that's wonderful. Yeah, I mean, this is the dream of multifamily companies to get something nice on social media. Right. So are you I kind of heard that you're doing something when you get those nice reviews that mentioned a name? I mean, how does that affect recognizing staff on the internal side for you guys?

Yeah, Trinity loves to recognize staff internally, when they're identified on those social media reviews, whether it be Facebook, or Yelp, or Google. And now these NPS surveys that we're collecting, we do a couple of different things to really make sure that those folks know, hey, we are recognizing the great work that you're providing. One of the things that we'll do is we'll provide any staff member who's identified by name with a gift card, we want to let them know, Hey, we really appreciate that somebody recognized you went above and beyond. And you deserve to be recognized. And here's a gift card to thank you for the great service you provide. Another thing we do is we love to give them shout-outs on our monthly all hands calls, you know, as COVID has kind of hit and we no longer are able to get everybody in the same room. We have kind of converted those meetings into digital meetings. But we always make sure there's a segment of time where we can give shout-outs to those people who have received five-star reviews on any of those survey forums that we have out there. On top of that, we also look for opportunities to have those team members teach their colleagues and become kind of subject matter experts for one another, you know, that allows us to have our staff get some recognition from their peers for their mastery of how they're using the great tools, you know, that we have out there for them to use.

Yeah, I think that's incredible. I mean, that's what people want is to feel like They have internal growth opportunities to feel like they have a voice. And I think that changes the turnover equation that's so known. I mean, in the industry, I can't imagine it doesn't, you know. And I think also just the way that Trinity is really taking care of its own, I hear there's a growing tech steering committee. And then that very much involves giving people of quite different roles of voice. So I would just love to hear how you helped get that off the ground, what you were seeing that made you feel it was possible to create just that whole concept for people listening?

Jason Newland 15:29
We quickly realized that software is becoming more and more involved in our processes, as the process has continued to evolve. And to ensure that we implemented the software solutions to meet all of our team's needs, and was supported by the staff that we're going to use them, we wanted to ensure that the users had a platform to give us that feedback. So kind of going back to allowing those staff members to kind of be the subject matter experts on their peers and provide short trainings, we also look for opportunities to have them included in new software rollouts to get their feedback and allow them to represent their peers. When we go to say, Hey, we're really looking at this new move-in inspection template with HappyCo. Let's involve one of our property team members in this process to get their feedback, because at the end of the day, they're the ones that are doing the hands-on work, we really want to get their input to understand if this seems like it's effective for them and not just high up pie in the sky. This seems like it should work, let's go ahead and roll it out. So we also did a couple of different things like I started dropping in on our monthly meetings, and isolated a dedicated time in those meetings to allow natural feedback from our staff on the topics that they wanted to see addressed. This allowed us to have a forum to get a pulse of what's really impacting our team members on site, and what processes we might need to review internally. Because we're hearing that these individuals are speaking up to say this isn't working, we get those suggestions. And we set up some time to bring the appropriate stakeholders to the table to discuss those issues and see if there is an optimal solution to the problems that are being voiced. Sometimes it's a software solution. Sometimes it's a change in process. But we really want to take the time to let our staff know that, hey, we heard your voicing these frustrations or these difficulties that you're experiencing, let's show you that we're going to take the time to take a look at it and see if there isn't a better solution. Because sometimes its issues impacting our prospective residents or existing residents or staff members. But all three of those groups of people are really the people we serve. And so we owe it to them to take a look at that to make sure that we're giving them the best solution possible. We actually had an example of this come up recently in one of our monthly property manager meetings where there was an opportunity to enhance communication between our managers and accounting during the move out process to ensure that we're recuperating costs related to kind of garbage or trash being left in our apartments that move out, you know, our property managers identified, there's no place on our inspection template to kind of note, hey, we had to take two hours of time to clean out this apartment, we should build back that two hours of time, we wouldn't have known that was going on if one of our property managers didn't step up in that forum and say, Hey, guys, this is something we might need to work on. Nice that they brought that up. And through a few minor changes to our inspection template and a brief training with all those involved, we were able to close that gap. But without that forum, we wouldn't have been able to identify that and we potentially could have continued to miss out on revenue opportunities. So it was exciting to see immediate feedback and kind of proof that those were valuable sessions because we were already able to make enhancements to our procedures.

Glennis Markison 18:40
Yeah, I mean, it sounds so much that Trinity has been doing the legwork for us to create that culture of giving feedback and collaborating comfortably. So can you just describe how that blossomed? I mean, it does not always go so smoothly at every company in any industry. So I'm really curious, I'm sure for listeners to know how you got that off the ground that culture?

Jason Newland 19:00
Absolutely, I'll tell you one thing, the culture doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. And it takes buy-in from leadership to allow that to happen. But we consistently strive to create that two-way communication between our staff in the field. And at corporate, we don't ever want our staff in the field to think that there's always just a top down relationship where change comes in, it just gets pushed down the line. And you just have to accept it. By having that two-way communication. It really allows those people in the field to feel involved and to get their buy-in whenever we're making those types of changes, which just allows them to be more effective in their feedback that they provide is also going to help us build a better process for them. You know, I it started with me just kind of shadowing some of these recurring monthly meetings with property managers, leasing agents and maintenance technicians to hear what's going on with them and their business areas. And by understanding what hurdles they have to overcome, that allows me and our team at corporate to provide a better perspective about how software is used. And opportunities that we can build efficiencies to make them more productive, and kind of alleviate some of the burdens that they experience. It also gives them the confidence that we're listening, you know, and taking the time out of our day to participate in their meetings and listen to their feedback just helps grow that culture that their voice is heard, and it matters. And it also helps us nurture confidence in the solutions that we deliver down the line. Ultimately, it grew into what we now have, which is a monthly meeting where we bring all property staff in, and we just focus on software, it's a one hour open forum, where we talk about the issues that they're experiencing in the field, give them the opportunity to discuss, sometimes it'll results in one another kind of having solved that solution. And just giving them that dialogue between each other, they're able to kind of understand how they've overcome things. And it also gives me the opportunity to hear what is important to them, and what I can take back to the table to focus on in the coming months, and allow them to get those updates to say, Hey, we heard you, this is what we talked about last month. And here's what we're doing about it.

Glennis Markison 21:06
Yeah, I think it's so remarkable. I mean, I know you prefer the weather in Santa Barbara, but it sounds like you're doing incredible things for eternity and for especially for the culture there. So I really, really appreciate your taking the time to share all this with us, Jason.

Jason Newland 21:17
Yeah, I am happy to talk about it. And, you know, I can't emphasise enough about the use of software and how getting all people involved in that discussion is only going to allow you to make better solutions for your team and leverage that software to provide you a much more efficient process.

Unknown Speaker 21:33
Yeah, no, that's fantastic. Well, thanks so much, again for being here.

Unknown Speaker 21:36
Absolutely. Anytime.

Glennis Markison 21:42
If you'd like to hear from other voices in multifamily, or learn how to share your voice head to voices.happy.co. You can find Voices on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. Voices is produced by HappyCo, the leading real-time property operations platform for multifamily and student housing. We're on a mission to elevate property management to community management, prioritizing staff and resident well-being that starts by listening to you the voices of multifamily. I'm Glennis Markison. Thanks for listening. Also, feel free to take a minute and rate or review this podcast that will help us share the voices of multifamily.

Our Host

Glennis Markison

Glennis is a writer and producer from San Francisco. Taking the city’s trains and buses with riders of all ages and backgrounds inspired Glennis to go into journalism and share people’s stories for a living. As HappyCo's Senior Content Producer, she’s excited to highlight diverse voices and share stories from within the Multifamily industry.

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