On Loyalty and Perserverence

Bill Howard Comments
Posted in Articles
Print

On Loyalty and Perserverence

DEAR INSIDE SELF-STORAGE,


Besides being a great manager, Sherry is also a gifted cook. The tenants know every holiday she will whip up batches of brownies, breads and cookies. Former tenants still stop by for coffee and cookies and to visit honey.

Would anyone believe a mini-storage manager has been on the same property for more than 15 years, runs it as a single manager, helps operate two other mini-storages, and still keeps occupancy levels high?

Sherry Langley is such a manager. She took over management of Danforth Mini Storage in Edmond, Okla., in February 1987. Sherry had some experience managing apartments but knew little about self-storage. However, she figured it would be easier to manage self-storage than an apartment building. The job of managing a run-down facility can be overwhelming, even for an experienced team. It was surely a challenge for a single woman on her own.

But Sherry took it on, managing the property from an office with a salvaged desk and a worn-out chair. She kept the office open seven days a week, operated without a computer or golf cart, and often waited weeks for bills to be paid or a payroll check to arrive. This was the way Danforth Mini Storage was run until its foreclosure in 1992.

I nearly made the biggest mistake of my life that year. After purchasing the facility, I realized Danforth was a good property with a lot of potential. But I didn't think a single woman could run a 55,000-square-foot facility by herself. I was going to replace her with a management couple. I gave her a couple of months' notice because I had yet to find a replacement. But I soon realized Sherry was the best part of the purchase.

Danforth Mini was in a great location but had been neglected by the former owners and needed a lot of attention. Over the next few years, under Sherry's diligent supervision, driveways were repaired, buildings were painted, and new fencing and a wrought-iron entrance gate were installed. She also added road signage and landscaping. In 1998, a complete remodel of the office/apartment was completed. Some customers still ask if this is a "new" property and are amazed when they hear it is 20 years old.

Of the many good attributes with which Sherry is blessed, her super memory is among the most notable. I don't know if it is "photographic," but I do know she knows all 462 of her tenants, their unit numbers and probably what they put into the units years ago. She also remembers repeat customers who return years later-they are always impressed she remembers them.

Sherry keeps the property clean. She sweeps the units, repairs doors, cleans roofs, maintains beautiful flowerbeds and often can be found helping customers load or unload. She's also a first-rate businesswoman. She is an experienced dead-beat chaser and can track anyone. Collections are just not a problem, and if you don't pay, she takes it personally. Even though she is only 5 feet tall, with a size 4 1/2 shoe, she can evict a 6-foot, 200-pound man and somehow have him smiling on the way out the gate.

Sherry does have one weakness--her miniature poodle, Honey. Many customers drop in the office just to visit the four-legged co-manager. In fact, last Christmas, Honey enjoyed treats and gifts from nearly 20 tenants.

Besides being a great manager, Sherry is also a gifted cook. The tenants know every holiday she will whip up batches of brownies, breads and cookies. Former tenants still stop by for coffee and cookies and to visit Honey. When new customers come in and ask, "Are you the lady with the dog, or are you the lady that makes great brownies?" we know a happy customer has referred them.

With three new facilities recently opening within three miles of Danforth, Sherry has managed to keep occupancy up. Not only does she run this property successfully, she also helps out every day at two other facilities in nearby Edmond.

There are a couple of things about Sherry I can't seem to change. She just refuses to take a vacation (she says she loves her house and customers and doesn't want to leave). And, after 11 years, she still calls me Mr. Howard instead of Bill like everyone else. Guess I'll just have to put up with this because, luckily, she refuses to change!

Sincerely,
Bill Howard
Owner, Danforth Mini Storage
Edmond, Okla.

Comments
comments powered by Disqus