Self-Storage Owners Improve Operational Performance by Investing in Manager Hiring and Training
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
By: Bob Copper
Posted on: 09/23/2011



 

To succeed in the self-storage business, facility owner/operators need well-trained and knowledgeable managers to run their facilities, but there are still many who have not yet come to that conclusion. They still believe that hiring poorly trained managers, throwing them into situations for which they are ill-prepared, and then insisting on a high level of performance will somehow work. It doesn’t.

For many self-storage owners, their facility or portfolio represents a significant percentage of their net worth or assets. While they tend to take a great deal of effort in maintaining the physical plant, they often fail to make the same investment in their staff. But performance patterns are consistent across markets large and small, soft and growing: Facilities with better managers tend to have higher occupancy levels and rental rates. It’s not a coincidence.

Here’s a simple assessment owners can apply to your managers: Do you trust your family’s well-being in their hands? If you do, great. If you don’t, you need to give them the tools and support they need to improve, or replace them with better employees. You can’t afford to put your business and family in jeopardy because your manager cannot do his job.

The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. Our industry has a touch of insanity when it comes to staffing. Many owner/operators and multi-facility managers fail to recognize the critical importance of their site managers and making good decisions from the beginning of the employment process. If you want better results from your personnel efforts, you have to do things differently.

Hire Right

When it comes to hiring, we make terrible decisions, sometimes out of desperation, other times due to personal relationships, sometimes based on an applicant’s work experience at 12 other self-storage facilities. Due to these and other reasons, we denigrate one of our most critical decisions and hand the keys of a multi-million-dollar storage facility to someone who might not be qualified to run a lemonade stand. Some owners spend more time shopping for a golf cart than on hiring their manager.

If we want a higher level of performance from our self-storage managers, we need to hire a higher level of employee. Our managers should be better educated and have great communication and people skills.

Offer Training

Too many owners send their managers off to do the job with an empty “toolbox.” They spend more money on a few lunches with their country-club pals than on training programs for their staff. I’m continually surprised at how few operators take advantage of the training resources available in our industry. No matter how many participate in a particular seminar, workshop, webinar, etc., it’s still a small percentage of the whole.

There are many traits with which people are born, but being a self-storage manager is not one of them. Invest in training for your managers. Most want to do a great job but don’t because the owner hasn’t provided them with the right knowledge and resources. Provide sales, collections and time-management training, and you’ll be surprised at the return on your investment.

Get the Manager Involved in Marketing 

All too often, we focus on the small things and miss the big picture. Self-storage owners want to know what they can do to create more customer phone inquiries and walk-ins. What they should focus on is whether their manager is trained to handle the results of the facility’s marketing efforts. If your manager isn’t turning an acceptable percentage of leads into rentals now, how will generating more leads make a difference?

If your manager is unprepared to handle the outcome of a successful marketing strategy, your effort is wasted. But it isn’t always the manager’s fault. Perhaps he hasn’t been told that a coupon is circulating, or that there are call-center leads awaiting follow-up. It’s the owner’s responsibility to keep staff in the marketing loop.

Phone calls between potential customers and managers can become dead ends when a manager has no idea how to professionally and effectively turn those calls into rentals. Make sure your manager is involved in and knows how to implement your marketing strategy. “Go visit apartment managers” is not a marketing plan.

There are few businesses as manager-centric as self-storage. The manager has far more to do with the success of an operation in self-storage than in most other enterprises. Because of this, it’s more important to ensure you have the right person for the right job.

Your manager can make your facility a success or a failure. What you do about that all-important position says a lot about how you value your assets. Don’t let failure to properly hire, train and motivate your manager be a real detriment to your business performance.

Bob Copper is partner in charge at Self Storage 101, an industry consulting firm that assists facility owner/operators and managers in developing more effective and profitable operational systems. It also aids in conducting performance reviews and providing the necessary tools to perform at higher levels in a competitive industry. To reach him, call 866.269.1311; e-mail bob@selfstorage101.com.