Productive Work Environments

It is a well-known fact in the industry that the most important assets of any self-storage operation are the manager, relief manager and any other employee involved in running the store. Their attitude, communication and enthusiasm can set the operation apart from everyone else in the marketplace.

As we endeavor to perfect our self-storage operations, it is imperative we create a work atmosphere conducive to higher productivity. Not only will this act as motivation for our staff, it will give them a sense of ownership as they strive to make a difference. One of the most effective ways of achieving this is to create an environment where everyone involved feels a part of the success. You can accomplish this with incentive programs, contests, recognition, and opportunities for your managers to take ownership in the operations of their stores.

Incentive Programs

An incentive program is one way to create a highly productive work environment. These types of programs, if properly implemented, can create an atmosphere in which a standard of excellence and healthy competition are fostered. The goal is to level the playing field so each member of your team takes part in and ultimately drives the success of your operation.

Most storage operators fail to recognize the importance of including their entire team in their incentive programs, but it is the only real way to achieve success. For example, you can give each of your storage locations a monthly goal tied to a bonus. Everyone involved in the running of the store is a part of the program. If a store hits its goal, the manager, relief manager and anyone else involved is given a bonus for his efforts.

A successful incentive program also requires a means for instant gratification. I have found monthly incentives are the most effective. For example, you might try an individual incentive for employees who achieve a certain score on their monthly telephone-mystery shop. This will help relief managers and part-time employees feel part of the team. With everyone striving to score as high as they can, healthy competition is created and the store's overall mystery-shop score improves. Each person desires to score high, not only to receive the bonus, but to achieve his personal goal. You can then recognize everyone's level of performance in monthly staff meetings.


Another approach to developing more productive work environments is running creative contests between your stores. You can really sense excitement from everyone involved, because they are all part of the program. They have fun and even tease each other, which creates more cohesiveness throughout the team. As everyone strives to come out on top, you'll see improvements in the communication and enthusiasm of your staff.

For example, at one set of stores where a contest approach was used, everyone involved in the selling process had an incentive to follow up and prospect for new rentals. Because of their overall attitude toward winning, the employees continually called each other to update on new customer appointments or follow-up calls to be made and discuss how to create more customer visits to the store. There was positive feedback from almost everyone involved. Not only did the staff develop stronger relationships with each other, but also with the employees at the other stores. As you look at new and innovative ways to develop a more productive work environment, be sure to consider running contests between your stores.

Awards and Recognition

Another technique for creating a highly productive work environment is to publicly reward your team members with annual awards and in monthly staff meetings. Public recognition will not only show how much you appreciate particular individuals, but will indicate to the rest of the team the skills and talents it takes to excel in the operation. It will increase the respect your team members have for one another. For example, I nominated one of my managers for a national "Manager of the Year" award, and she won as a runner-up. Not only do her peers have greater respect for her, they now realize what qualifies as a standard of excellence.

Positive feedback for good performance is just as important as compensation for achieving a goal. In staff meetings, it is important to recognize and reward contest winners and team members who have met or exceeded their goals for the month. Team members like to feel as though they are contributing and enjoy being recognized for it. Offering positive recognition in front of peers is a wonderful way to show your people how much you appreciate their contributions to the success of the operation.

These practices and programs prompt managers to become more proactive in the marketing of their stores and take a greater role in making it successful. Because they know the value of their contributions, they are more willing to learn what it takes to build relationships with key influencers who will increase their referral business and give them the opportunity to earn more money. They also understand providing a positive experience through the best possible customer service encourages previous customers to come back and to refer their friends.

Incentive, contest and recognition programs cannot be successful unless facilities maximize their overall sales programs. Everyone involved in the selling effort must know their conversion ratios (number of callers converted to renters) and consistently try to improve them. Making the phone ring is useless without the commitment to maximize each call and rent more units. When everyone at a store is involved in the sales effort and is given an incentive for high performance, the store is ultimately more profitable.

True success comes from a partnership between you and your team. If you help your people become successful, they will make you successful. Use the above programs to create a highly productive work environment. Provide incentives based on goals, run contests and recognize the efforts of your team members as much as possible. Involve your managers in the operations of their store, and always seek opportunities to ask them for their input. You will see your team members flourish and your profits soar.

Brad North is founder of Advantage Business Consulting and specializes in sales and marketing training to the self-storage industry. He has produced two live videos along with a workbook titled "Maximizing your Sales and Marketing Program." This resource helps managers take their sales and marketing programs to a higher level. Mr. North also offers comprehensive on-site sales, marketing, feasibility and operational training to the self-storage industry. For more information, call 513.229.0400 or visit

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