Self-Storage Policies and Procedures: Why They Create a Better Business and Make You a Superior Manager
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
By: Linnea Appleby
Posted on: 06/20/2010



 

Policy schmolicy. Ever wonder why self-storage companies put so much focus on policies and procedures? It seems there’s a rule for everything, and a specific way to complete each task to ensure it’s done correctly and consistently.

Sometimes a company wants something done one way and that’s that. End of story. Managers are asked to complete duties or operate the business in a very precise manner. The boss wants it his way, and it’s that or the highway. But there may be value to this regimentation. Let’s take a look at why companies are so adamant about their policies and procedures, and why it may help you be a better manager.
 
Companies implement standards and rules for many purposes. The main reason is to ensure things are run in accordance with the wishes of the people who have put their money, reputation, livelihood and more on the line for the success of that operation. Some policy items are dictated by the requirements of the investorswho own a stake in the business. Some are dictated by law.

What does having good policies and procedures mean to you, the facility manager? First and foremost, following them protects the company, its customers and its employees. Standards allow you to set customer expectations, defining what the company is and how it operates. They offer specific guidelines of what you’ll do for the customer and what’s expected in return.

If policies and procedures are applied consistently, you can be confident you’re not unknowingly being discriminatory or breaking the law. If there are policies you don’t understand, ask why they’re in place. There’s usually a really good reason that leads back to the protection of company, its customers and the success of the business.

Here’s an example: A self-storage tenant is in lien status and wants to make a partial payment. What’s your company policy? If you make an exception for this tenant and not the rest, you leave yourself open to legal liability. The policy outlines how this situation should be handled in every case. Your company will stand by and protect you if legal processes occur when you follow the rules. If you don’t follow the prescribed procedure, however, you may put the company, and yourself, at risk.

If a legal or unusual situation occurs, everything will lead back to how the company conducts business through its policies. Check your manual, employee handbook or employment agreement. These documents are good reference materials for the requirements of your position. You might be surprised to find that each time you review them you find something you previously skimmed over but now catches your attention.
 
Be a Better Manager

Policies and procedures enable you to feel good about your job performance. Isn’t it nice to go home at the end of the day and know you handled everything professionally and competently? Good procedures let you feel confident that you’re doing a good job. Bad or no procedures can cause stress, anxiety, job insecurity and more.

When a staff member doesn’t understand what the company expects or how to do the job, it can be de-motivating and often leads to staff turnover. How can you do a good job when you don’t know the rules?

Good policies and procedures maximize efficiency and productivity at each store and within the company itself. They help you be consistent in the way you handle all parts of the operation. Someone has taken the time to organize each process for you, so it’s easy for you to do your job without excess steps.

For example, checklists are designed so you don’t overlook items. Telephone scripts exist so you can gather all the information about a caller the company requires. Specific reporting lets the boss help you set prices to be competitive, track traffic, allocate advertising dollars, and evaluate financial trends. Forms and letters are provided so you don’t waste time creating them or worrying if they’re legally correct.

Uniforms, signage, marketing materials, brochures and business cards are developed to display the image the company wants to promote to the public. All these things are in place so you can focus on renting units and operating your facility at the highest possible level of productivity.    
 
Be Aware of Gray Areas

A good procedure goes full circle. That means it’s clear, covers all the points, and has a chronological order. There are no loose ends. Well-written policies with procedures to back them up help you clearly understand the task and how to complete it successfully.

Some policies are set in stone. Most have to do with a company’s standards of conduct or business practices. For example, if it’s policy that you wear a uniform, then that’s the case 100 percent of the time―no questions, no excuses. The same goes for things such as auction procedures, cash-handling, legal items, delinquent tenants, and issues of safety or security. There’s just no gray area on those points.

Other types of policies are simply guidelines for good business. You’re expected to understand and comply with the spirit of the policy. This is where gray areas come into play, and your supervisor can give you direction or coaching for these types of situations.

Gray areas often emerge in the name of good customer service. The company policy may state that you close at 6 p.m., but let’s say a customer calls and can’t get there until 6:15. In this case, your company may want you to stay late to provide good customer service and get the business, even if you may incur a little overtime.

It’s the same with access hours, unless it compromises the security of the facility or puts tenants’ goods at risk. When it’s reasonable, by all means accommodate the customer.

We’ve all encountered that rude person who represents his company by saying, “That’s our policy,” and will not bend even if it causes the company to lose your business. There’s really no room for that in self-storage (no pun intended). Our business caters to people who are usually in a life transition of some sort when they need our services. We have to recognize that and be a little flexible. 

Understand the difference between what your company sees as black and white, and what falls in the gray area. If you’re not sure, be on the safe side and call your supervisor for clarification before proceeding. Realize that you’ve been hired to operate the business in accordance with policies and procedures to the best of your ability, and it’s expected you’ll use good judgment in your decisions.  

The next time you think “policy schmolicy,” remember there’s probably a pretty good reason for it!  
 
Linnea Appleby is president of Sarasota, Fla.-based PDQ Management Solutions Inc., which specializes in the management of self-storage properties and offers complimentary services such as operational consulting, new-facility startup, property audits and the “Income Finder Service.”  Appleby is a regular contributor to industry trade publications and a frequent speaker at tradeshows and events. For more information, call 941.377.3451; e-mail lappleby@pdqmanagementsolutions.com; visit www.pdqmanagementsolutions.com.

Related Articles:

Minimizing Risk in Self-Storage: Employment Practice Liability Insurance

Simple Steps to Define Self-Storage Policies and Procedures

Self-Directed Lessons for the Self-Storage Manager: The Training You Need, the Career You Want

Self-Storage Talk: What's Your Dumpster Policy?