As we approach the new year, it is time to think about New Year's resolutions...once again. We have all made personal New Year's resolutions in the past...
"This is the year I will stop smoking."
"This year, I will eat healthier."
"I will commit to an exercise routine."
"I promise to invest more in my retirement fund."
"This year, I will give more to charity."
"I resolve to be a kinder person."
"This is the year that I will learn to control my temper."
Sound familiar? We've all made numerous resolutions to improve our personal health and happiness, but what about New Year's resolutions to improve the livelihood of your self-storage facility?
No matter if you are an owner or an on-site manager, now is the time to take a few minutes, grab a pencil and piece of paper, and write down some thoughts about how you will improve your facility, work habits or personal business growth for the new year. Just keep in mind that you need to be flexible; work to achieve your goals, but don't be discouraged if you can't keep all of your New Year's resolutions.
Resolutions for Owners
If you haven't already sat down with your on-site manager and designed your annual budget, now is the time to think about it and make sure your manager has some input on the budget. Try not to set goals that are so lofty they could never achieve them, but be reasonable and flexible. Without a road map, how can you know where you are going, or when you have arrived at your destination?
Plan your 1998 audit and inspection schedule. Try to go to your site at least once a month to inspect the books and the physical plant of your facility. Take that time to communicate with your manager and discuss your goals and their achievements. If you don't have the time or expertise to conduct an audit and inspection, contact an outside company and schedule your audits with them.
On another front: This could be the year that you decide to invest in the training and certification of your on-site manager, another worthy resolution. By certifying your manager, you can give him self-worth that you might never be able to replace with a dollar figure. Perhaps the knowledge he will acquire will make your operations more professional, and from a legal aspect, it could keep you out of hot water when it comes to lien sales, collection techniques or customer service.
Maybe you need to communicate with your on-site managers more frequently, offering them a pat on the back for a job well done. Or perhaps you should visit more often as a means to motivate them, letting them know what job responsibilities they complete well, as well as those that might require some improvement.
Give your managers the tools to run the office efficiently: A pleasant working environment makes a happy, productive manager.
On the other hand, maybe 1998 is the year that you seriously consider replacing your manager if he is not producing the income that you expect. Is your manager going against the grain, refusing to abide by your standards? Have you given him plenty of training opportunities to learn the appropriate systems and functions for carrying out procedures? Does he have a bad attitude? If you answer "yes" to any of the above, don't let another year pass you by without making a management change.
Perhaps you should also resolve to attend seminars and expos to brush up on your ownership/management skills, learn about what other operators do, what works, what doesn't, etc. Coming up in February, as every year, is the Inside Self-Storage Expo, which is tagged as the biggest annual self-storage show. (If you have attended the expos in the past, perhaps this year's resolution could be to actually attend the various seminars-----instead of spending most of your time at the slot machines or gaming tables!)
Another brilliant idea: Send your managers to an expo, so that they can mingle with peers, vendors and experts in the storage industry. If they learn only one or two new sales, marketing or management techniques, then it will be money well spent. Even if you cannot afford to send several managers, consider sending one key person who can take notes and share valuable information with the rest of your employees upon his return.
Maintenance might also be in your game plan for 1998. This might be the year that you replace your roofs, install that electronic gate, upgrade the software and hardware in your office, or remodel the office or manager's apartment. If so, have your manager gather bids for these services, so that you can make an informed decision when choosing the contractor or software program.
Make sure your manager always has the tools to do his maintenance job effectively at your facility. List maintenance duties that need to be addressed daily, weekly and monthly, and include them in your manager's responsibilities. And, as always, train him as to the proper methods for completing these tasks.
Some Resolution Ideas for Managers
Is 1998 the year that you want to make changes in your employment or self-storage education? If you feel that you need more training, then sit down with your owner and discuss your options. Will your owner be amenable to sending you through a manager certification program? How about the possibility of attending trade shows, conventions or other various manager seminars?
No one is too old or too experienced to learn something or to better themselves. By investing in your self-storage education, you could make yourself more valuable to the facility's owner and its outcome.
How are your sales skills and your telephone techniques? How about your customer-service or maintenance skills? Could you do better, or will you do better in 1998? What training or incentives do you need to do so? Discuss these with the owner.
Is this the year to design a more effective marketing plan for your site? Has there been more competition in 1997, making you feel slightly inadequate? How can you position your facility so that it attracts more attention, more tenants? Perhaps you need to re-evaluate your skills and improve upon your marketing or telephone techniques. In addition, think about redesigning your Yellow Pages ads, brochures and direct-mail pieces. Maybe a new look with more punch will bring in more business.
What about maintenance of the facility? Now is the time to sit down with the owner, gather bids for planned improvements, and design a maintenance program that will save the owner money in the long run and make your facility the best that it can be.
Summing It Up
Just remember: Not all New Year's Resolutions will be kept. That is just a fact of life. However, with some perseverance and a long-range business plan, you can achieve some of those resolutions and have a prosperous 1998both professionally and personally.
Best of luck to you. Let's make 1998 the best year yet in the self-storage industry.
Pam Alton is the owner of Mini-Management, one of the industry's largest nationwide manager services, based in Santa Barbara, Calif. Mini-Management also offers policy and procedures manuals, sales and marketing training manuals, inspections and audits, consulting services, telephone shopping and training seminars. For more information, call (800) 646-4648.