Look at Your Rental Office

Stuck in A Rut?
Guidelines to Kickstart Your Self-Storage Managerial Position

By Kim Alton

You have been working for the same self-storage company for several years, and you have the routine down pat. You know all of your tenants by name, and you have heard every excuse for being late known to man. Ho hum.

Is your job becoming boring and unchallenging? Do you wait for the hours to go by so that you can do something better? What happened? It may be time for you to re-evaluate your position: Are you being an effective manager? Here are some ways of beating the same old routine and becoming the best manager you can be:

Look at Your Rental Office

Examine your office from a customer's point of view. Walk through your front door. What do you see? Get rid of the coffee mugs and the TV set. Paint the walls and hang new pictures, certificates or newspaper articles about your facility. Buy some plants. Make sure the chairs are clean and that there are rug mats, especially in the bathroom. And wash those windows!

Your office should be appealing; it is a reflection of the management team that works there. A cluttered office takes away from even the best manager. Your rental office reinforces the importance of the lease presentation, which ensures that the customer knows they are signing a legal document and understands the rules that accompany it.

Dress Appropriately

A neat appearance counts in a big way. First impressions may be the only chance you have to make the sale. You are a rental agent acting in the best interest of the owner, so dress the part. Get rid of the jogging suit and baseball cap--save that for after hours. Dress slacks and dress shirts or uniform polo shirts, and skirts and blouses project a professional attitude that will demand the respect you deserve. Do you stand, greet every customer, and introduce yourself and a co-manager if the customer is interested in seeing a unit? Consider how you would want to be treated in the same professional situation.

Arm Yourself With Knowledge

Go to a seminar or trade show. Take a management class on motivating people. Take the time to read your policies and procedures. Know exactly what your rental agreement dictates and be able to explain it. Read your computer manual. Keep up to date on the lien laws governing your state, and familiarize yourself with the correct procedures concerning bankruptcies, death of a tenant, transferring a unit to another person and the documentation involved with storing a vehicle. When you rented a space to a company, did the agent fill out a fiduciary agreement? Knowledge makes your job much easier.

Ask Questions

Are you sometimes confused, dazed and stumped? Are you learning a new computer program? You must ask questions. No question is too silly to ask when you are gaining knowledge and experience. Don't be intimidated by your supervisors. They are there to help you help them run the facility as efficiently and effectively as possible. Do not assume the answer, ask. Call anyone who can help you. Be alert to all possible scenarios, and use common sense when reasoning out the challenges in front of you.

Get Involved

Have a contest with your employees--the most rentals in a month, getting a great score on your telephone shop, reducing delinquent tenants, etc.--and treat the winner to a nice dinner and a movie. Get involved in the community. Market your facility by having a food drop sponsored by the Salvation Army at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Invite the Boy Scouts to your facility and put a picture of you all together in the newspaper. Call the radio stations--if they mention your name once an hour, that's great. Sponsor a baseball team. Put an article, flier or discount coupon in the Little League news and the school gazette. Go to a business expo in your area. Hand out magnetic calendars with your facility's name on them. Join the chamber of commerce. Go to the mixers. Network.

Go to the local apartment complexes and mobile home parks and ask them to put your flier in their move-in packets. Leave fliers at real-estate offices. Since people selling their homes want them to appear more spacious and uncluttered, they will often store their extra items to give the appearance of larger rooms. People in transition or those downsizing to smaller living quarters will also need a place to store their items.

Give fliers to the businesses in the area, and let them know about the advantages of storage (i.e., freeing up their office space from old files and inventory and being able to write it off as a business expense). Offer them a rent credit for half a month when they pay for six months of storage. Have you used flags, banners, sandwich boards or balloons to attract attention to your facility? Ask your local pizza-delivery operation to pass out your brochure with their deliveries.

Polish Your Phone Skills

Keep your attitude in check. Pay attention to the person on the phone. Link your features and their benefits. Give the customer an entire picture of the storage experience. Listen closely and answer all questions regarding what they can expect and what they will do and see. State the facts. Do not exaggerate. Do not make promises. Give a quality phone presentation of your facility and what it has to offer.

When challenged with an irate customer on the phone, keep these things in mind: Keep your voice low and calm; do not become emotional or involved in their stress; simply try to diffuse the situation and state the facts; be empathetic, but also try to solve the problem without caving in. You know the rules--follow them while keeping customer service as number one in your mind at all times. A large part of your business is word of mouth and referrals. Use your management skills when you solve problems. Be neutral.

Finally, elevate your goals and you will achieve success for you and your owner or property manager. A win-win situation will only reinforce the fact that you are a valuable and essential part of your management team, keeping your job exciting, challenging and rewarding. Rise above the competition and let your personality sparkle through.

Kim Alton is the training manager for the C.N. Lyons Development Company and also manages a facility in Mission Viego, Calif., with her husband, Garry. Ms. Alton was trained by Mini-Management Services, one of the industry's largest nationwide manager-placement services. Mini-Management also offers policy and procedures manuals, sales and marketing training manuals, inspections and audits, consulting, telephone shopping and training seminars. For more information on the services offered by Mini-Management, call (800) 646-4648.

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