NOW THAT WE ARE INTO A NEW YEAR, IT'S TIME TO TAKE A GOOD LOOK at your facility's bottom line from 2002 and ask yourself some important questions. Did you achieve the goals you set for your facility? Did you perform your best? Did your management company work well with you? Do you even have a management company, or do you need one? What can you do better this year? How can you motivate staff to achieve the facility's goals? And what are those goals? The key to success in the new year will be the effective cooperation of all a facility's important players: the owner, the manager and, where applicable, the third-party management company.
A Manager's Perspective
As a manager, ask yourself: Are you happy at your site? Did your owner give you the tools you needed to succeed? Did he give you the authority to make daily decisions? Do you feel appreciated, or is it time for a change? If it is time to move on, do you have an updated resume, and are you mentally prepared for a new position?
Take the lead in the area of marketing. You know your site better than anyone--who your clients are and where they come from--and you should have an idea how to market to them. If you don't, educate yourself. Read trade publications, plan to attend a convention, and read books or articles on marketing. Fresh ideas from outside the industry might assist you in designing a marketing program.
Let your owner know your goals for your site, how you plan to make it better and the tools you will need to do your job. Make business and personal goals. Take time for personal growth, i.e., join a gym, take some adult-education classes, learn how to paint or make pottery. Do something for you, apart from your site. Refreshed managers make better, calmer decision-makers who can handle the daily grind of managing a storage facility.
A Management Company's View
As a management company, can you do things better? How will you go about it? Are your managers and owners happy with your performance? Are you happy with your performance? Do you need to hire more staff at your home office? Can you make your monthly or quarterly reports better? Are there clients that take up all of your time, ones whose voice you cringe to hear on the phone and with whom it is just not worthwhile to work? Do you need to prospect more for new clients? If so, how will you do it?
Keep in mind, all the onus does not fall on you. You need the right tools to do your job. The facility owners need to give you authority to manage your sites, to make daily decisions and carry them out. You need to work hand-in-hand with your owners and site managers to reach the goals you want to achieve.
To All Owners
We can all perform better and do things that make a difference in our businesses. First, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, then make a plan. Your first step should be to sit down with your management company or managers and evaluate last year. What worked? What didn't? How can you improve?
Make a budget and include any upgrades, such as new software, maintenance projects, renovations on the office or manager's apartment, increased wages, etc. Everyone should receive a copy of the budget, including the managers. Without a road map, how can they be expected to reach their goals? Managers need to know there are expenses involved with operating your business. Just because they bring in $56,000 per month doesn't mean it's all profit.
Open communication is one of the keys to success at your site. Ask for your management company's or site manager's input. They know your site--what is good or bad about it--and they can help make a plan to improve it. Marketing, collections, maintenance--all these items need to be discussed and a plan designed to carry out and achieve goals. Give managers the authority to manage the facility. Let them know you trust them to do their jobs. If you don't trust them, you should replace them.
It is your duty to provide site managers and the management company the tools to do their jobs. These include sufficient salaries, an achievable bonus program, and the funds for operations, marketing and upgrading the facility. They also include motivation and guidance to compete in the marketplace. If your managers need to brush-up on training, hire someone to provide it. Send them to seminars and order industry publications.
If you are not good with people, or can't direct or motivate them, consider hiring a management company to do the job for you. It can be your liaison and buffer against the daily grind of managing a facility. And keep in mind your accountant or CPA is not a good alternative to a management company. Writing out checks every month is not property management! A good management company can motivate managers, keep an eye on the bottom line and strive to increase monthly income.
If you think you might need a management company, look for one that is well-rounded, flexible and offers a variety of services. It should have quality managers to work your site, and be able to handle all your training and daily operations. You should feel comfortable working with this company and have positive, effective communication with its staff.
Owners, site managers and management companies need to work collaboratively to make a facility as productive and profitable as possible. By working together, you will achieve your goals and everyone will have a prosperous year ahead.
Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management®, a nationwide manager-placement service. Mini-Management also offers full-service and "operations only" facility management, training manuals, inspections and audits, feasibility studies, consulting and training seminars. For more information, call 800.646.4648.