What It Means to Be a Self-Storage Manager Today: Skills, Traits and Common Myths
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
By: Mel Holsinger
Posted on: 06/10/2012



 

In today's fast-paced technological world,  a professional self-storage manager must master a wealth of skills to keep abreast of daily tasks and successfully operate a facility. Yet it's amazing what people outside the industry think it means to be in the role.

I often hear people say things like “Oh, you run a storage facility ... I would love to have that job. You sit around all day, watch TV, play on the Internet, and once in a while, you take a couple of rent payments.” Or what about, “And how about those ‘Storage Wars’? You must really have fun at the auctions where you make so much money.” Of course, the best one I’ve heard is, “You really don’t need to have many skills to run a storage facility since there’s so little to do. But the owners must make a lot of money because they have so little overhead.”

In dispelling those mostly ignorant beliefs, I’ve often pondered just how much we expect our managers to do and be, especially given that, for the most part, they're not going to get rich running a storage facility. We still expect them to perform at an extremely high level to maximize the value of the business. Let’s explore the skills and traits required to be a great manager and an overview of the job description so we can dispel myths about what it really means to manage a storage business today.

The Right Mix

Let's start with some basic skills and traits all storage managers must have to be successful. Today's self-storage manager must be:

  • Able to present himself in a professional manner.
  • Able to articulate numerous subjects to customers such as legal points, rules and regulations, payments choices and terms of the rental agreement.
  • Personable yet firm when dealing with irate or delinquent customers.
  • Compassionate yet not naïve when dealing with the excuses customers provide for missing payments.
  • Kind and considerate when called upon to help load/unload people’s stuff, but also able to delicately explain why they cannot do so because of the “care, custody and control” we avoid with a passion.
  • Able to answer a phone call in a short yet comprehensive way, explaining the features and advantages facility.
  • Able to quote prices, specials and other key details, all within a two-minute conversation.
  • Able to quickly identify a customer’s problem, research his history, and respond in a quick but complete manner.
  • Able to deal with salespeople who try to get them to buy their products and services, even though they often don’t have the responsibility or authority to make those decisions.
  • Able to give salespeople the proper contact information without giving out ownership or other information that should remain confidential.

On-the-Job Skills

Self-storage managers are responsible for a variety of daily tasks, from renting units and taking payments to marketing the facility and overseeing repairs. This requires a unique set of skills to ensure the facility runs smoothly.

Being an adept salesperson is a critical skill all managers must have. Often, managers must be creative when it comes to working with customers, especially when there’s a roadblock, such as when the facility doesn’t have the unit size requested. Managers must also overcome pricing objections. They have to function in a decisive and quick timeframe but, at the same time, not give away the farm or turn off the customer.

Managers must also have technology skills. Most facilities are now operated through management and security software programs, so managers must be able to troubleshoot, fix, add, delete, change, print, and use a Web browser and e-mail. They should have some understanding of basic math as well as a general knowledge of bookkeeping. They have to be proficient in English and, in some cases, another foreign language such as Spanish, French, etc. Spelling is a must-needed skill, as well as the ability to read a lot of different handwriting styles from customers.

The professional manager must have an understanding and appreciation for marketing and advertising. In many cases, managers have to be sleuths in obtaining competitor information to stay current with the market and must be able to decipher truth from fiction.

Many are called upon to go into the community for such things as chamber of commerce meetings and local charity events, or to visit nearby businesses or housing communities. They should be comfortable speaking to individuals as well as small and large groups about their products and services. They should have a good rapport with the community. Sometimes they need the diplomacy to turn down requests for donations or space while not coming off as a business that doesn’t care about fundraising or charities.

Project Management

The proficient self-storage manager must be able to work with all kinds of construction trades for repairs to the lot, bathrooms, electrical, roofing, doors, gates and fences, gutters, concrete, asphalt, etc. To use the owner’s assets, they must assemble comparative bids so a decision can be made with complete and accurate information. Often they have to act as a construction superintendent, overseeing the actual work and making sure the plans/bids are followed correctly.

In addition, they often have to negotiate when a service contract comes up for renewal, particularly in tough economic times when saving a few bucks can be the difference between success and failure.

Legal Compliance

A good manager today has to be able to understand the local, state and sometimes national laws that  govern the lien process, employment practices, sales and use tax, possession of contents, and more. Their actions (or failure to act) in regard to legal issues can earn a facility a lawsuit or help it avoid one. In other words, managers have to understand the laws of facility operation and be able to apply them effectively.

I’m sure there are many other things that occur in the daily life of a facility manager. But even the above outline is a far cry from the misconceptions many people have about our industry. Suffice it to say, in the modern world, a self-storage manager rarely can be over qualified for his job. In fact, most are talented and skilled professionals who really do make a difference in how a facility is operated.

Professional self-storage mangers are deserving of respect and admiration, and I salute them for representing us and our industry. Thanks to all the storage managers out there who’ve made our industry what it is. You’re a unique and wonderful group of people, and I’m honored to have known so many of you over the years.

Mel Holsinger is president of Professional Self Storage Management LLC, which manages more than 40 facilities in Arizona, Colorado and Texas. Holsinger has been in the self-storage industry for more than 25 years. He’s a frequent speaker at industry events, a contributing writer to Inside Self-Storage magazine and a founder of the Qualified Storage Manager training program. To reach him, call 520.319.2164; e-mail mel@proselfstorage.com; visit www.proselfstorage.com.