By Stan Colona
If your ultimate goal as a self-storage operator is to develop your business to a significant-sized operation, you will need to pay special attention to the management of some often overlooked but important areas. There are a variety of internal and exterior variables that will determine whether a business will grow and prosper. External forces include competition, demand for your product and the supply of capital. The internal forces are likely to be more controllable, and include staff and operations.
One day, during an orientation training of middle-managers at one company I worked for, the CEO and founder of the company came in to join our group. When he entered the room, we all felt his presence. His stature in the company and the industry was well-known. He immediately established a comfort level and apologized that he would not be able to spend the entire day with us. He had, however, come to tell us two very important things, and he hoped these concepts would guide us through our careers as business people and leaders. He said, "First, some people make this business real hard. But it's real easy. We rent little garages--lots of little garages. The second thing I want to tell you is: Take care of your people and your people will take care of you."
For many years and through three job promotions I allowed those words to guide me. As I became more effective at managing larger portions of the company, I began to realize how to best apply these concepts. Keeping things simple and establishing mutual respect with your team members are basic but crucial ideas. The art lies in their application to your business.
During a company's growth, the concept of keeping things simple can be elusive. Transaction volumes and other issues outside of normal operations become more prevalent and time-consuming. Development and refinement of effective management systems becomes critical. Management operations can be as simple as a day planner used to schedule daily meetings and appointments, or elaborate as expensive, proprietary reporting sytems.
The latter can tell you almost everything you would want to know about your multiple locations, if you have them. The best systems always produce a one-page executive or key-indicators report. The intent of the report is to allow a manager to view a "snapshot" of the progress of key areas of the business. It allows the user to identify problem areas, allowing him to research or otherwise focus on them.
Having a powerful management system will also assist you in the application of the second important concept: taking care of your people. Most operators assume taking care of your team is limited to providing top wages and benefits. However, really applying a mutual-respect philosophy goes well beyond compensation. If you want to establish respect throughout your team, you must acknowlege some fundamental truths about human nature:
- Most people want to do a good job.
- People, including your employees, need to understand what is expected of them.
- There is often a large gap between good intentions and performance.
Establishing a management technique that identifies goals, measures performance, reports feedback and rewards accomplishment will stimulate and maintain the growth of your self-storage business. Without sufficient human-resource systems, even your best team members will not reach their full potential--and neither will your facilities. One of the most important factors in the success of a self-storage property is the on-site management team. It makes sense that as your operation becomes larger, the weight given to the people-factor of your business should also increase.
Remember this: Smiling faces rent more spaces.
Stan Colona is one of the founders of XPS Services LLC of Dallas. He and his partner, Brad Boyd, have combined industry expertise of more than 20 years. They have managed more than 300 properties, lead more than 600 managers and visited an estimated 2,500 facilities. Known as the "Agents of Change," Mr. Colona and Mr. Boyd offer cutting-edge consulting services to self-storage operators. For more information, visit their three websites at www.xpsservices.com , www.ministoragejobs.com or www.ministoragemanagement.com.