I want to tell you about a great concept recently shared with me by the manager of a self-storage facility in the Moreno Valley of Southern California. This unusual philosophy of management has helped keep all the facilities in the area full and otherwise successful.
The local managers decided to take a positive outlook toward what is normally referred to as "the competition". They began to regard each other not as rivals, but as compadres in the same industry. The result was the formation of the the Moreno Valley Self Storage Managers Social Club, which works to achieve maximum incomes and occupancy levels at all of the facilities in the area.
Each member works with others by referring prospective renters to another facility if he himself cannot accommodate them. Every month, the managers exchange rental rates, occupancy levels, and numbers of units and sizes available. This information is then put into a spreadsheet and faxed to each member. This greatly facilitates recommendations.
The managers also send a creative monthly newsletter via fax to each site. It contains information such as who is having a birthday during the month, and who is a new manager, with a welcome note for that person. If there is an issue that needs to be addressed, such as a rodent problem or a new facility that was just approved to be built, this kind of information is included.
These managers get together every other month, at their own expense, for a casual dinner during which they bond and discuss issues such as changes in lien laws, new marketing concepts, delinquency problems, rental rates, new facilities coming on line, etc. They take this time to exchange ideas and build friendships, viewing each other, not as competitors, but colleagues sharing the same ideals and goals. This is a positive step for these managers. It was very insightful of them to take the initiative in creating such a club. It helps them keep their facilities full and provides an opportunity to interact with one another.
Some states have their own self-storage associations and, of course, we have the national Self Storage Association; but let's face it--most of these organizations are primarily for owners and management companies. Facility managers are, for the most part, ignored. The cost of membership is usually too prohibitive for most managers, as are the fees to attend industry conventions.
California owners and operators recently formed the California Self Storage Association. Its annual dues are purposely kept very low so the organization can attract site managers. The CSSA recognizes site managers are a key element in the operation of local facilities. It wants them to join the association and contribute their ideas and expertise.
If more managers across the country would work together and form their own loosely based social clubs, it could be a win-win situation for all parties involved--owners, management companies, managers and tenants. By taking a positive approach to competition and changing the attitude from antagonistic to cooperative, many possibilities can be explored. Not only could all facilities enjoy the highest level of occupancy and income, but they could offer excellent benefits to customers.
Managers could learn from one another about marketing, reducing delinquencies, using software or offering ancillary services. And there is no reason owners can't get involved in clubs such as these by supporting their managers. They could begin by providing a budget for the bimonthly dinner or newsletter, or hiring industry professionals to speak to managers at the social gatherings.
By working together, we can build a strong, well-educated industry to meet customers' needs while earning greater profits. Kudos to those managers in Moreno Valley. Congratulations on a job well done!
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.