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Moving Up

David Fleming Comments
Posted in Articles, Archive

When it comes to their work, most people want to do a good job, be recognized for it and, hopefully, rewarded. Most of us have, at one point, experienced the great feeling of being complimented by the boss on a job well done, the inner glow of pride, the satisfaction of knowing someone has recognized the hard work and extra effort we’ve put forth.

Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to get that bonus you weren’t expecting, whether something personal like tickets to a game, a gift certificate to a local restaurant or a little extra money (my favorite). A few of you may have even experienced the Holy Grail of recognition, the one that not only acknowledges the exceptional work you’ve done and rewards you financially, but also makes you realize your boss sees you as an asset and a key player in the company’s future—that’s right, ladies and gentleman, nothing puts a little zip in your doo-dah like a promotion!

What better way for a supervisor to say you’ve mastered your position than to appoint you the one to train incoming personnel, act as their immediate supervisor, and be rewarded when they do a good job. Nothing says “You’re our man (or woman)” like someone trusting you to handle things that, until now, were left to someone with a higher rank and pay scale.

Storage-facility managers aren’t unlike the rest of the working class in this respect. Unfortunately, we are solitary creatures. We work mostly unsupervised, and often have little or no contact with the corporate office or even other facilities in our organization. Although we are entrusted with incredible duties and tasks, such as caring for and maintaining million-dollar properties and customer bases comprised of hundreds and even thousands of residential and commercial, short- and long term customers, it seems anti-climactic when we receive a paycheck more befitting an employee than a manager.

Most of us are so good at what we do, our positions seem mundane; and we always want to make more money. The only thing that cures both these ailments is the aforementioned promotion to area manager or other similar position.

Watch What You Wish For

What better to cure what ails you than to do something different for a change? A promotion will often allow you to test your limitations and enjoy what you’ve been secretly longing for: extra money, perks, a change in scenery, the power and ability to actually make a difference. The best part is the feeling someone else has validated you.

The only problem is, now that you’ve “made it,” it may not be quite what you thought. You might not make as much extra money as you were expecting (it’s funny how the numbers always look better on paper). If there is travel involved, perhaps it’s not as much fun as it looks. And while that goldcard expense account may say power and give you a sense of confidence, it also gives you a false sense of security. As for a change in scenery, Dorothy learned the hard way, “There’s no place like home.”

The Grass Is Always Greener

A promotion will give you plenty of responsibilities to test your skills. You now have the task of answering your managers’ biggest questions, calming their deepest fears, and helping them solve their biggest problems. All that takes place on your regular monthly visit, during which you have 8 to10 hours to address all company and facility concerns, bring the manager up to speed on the newest operational initiative, try to measure how well the last initiative is going, and hold the monthly auction—before, during or after the site inspection/audit.

And by the way, the boss is on the phone. He needs you to go over last month’s profit and- loss statement on property x (which he’ll fax to you). Did you notice the spike in discounts? You need to isolate those figures and identify how many are for the current month and how many for future months, because that number is messing up the refinancing process. And there’s no rush—as long as he has the information by tomorrow, that will be fine.

Oh, by the way, you and/or your position is being reassigned, redistricted, restructured or re-evaluated. And that’s if, in your new position, in a new place, interacting with new people, under new circumstances, you don’t (gasp) actually make a mistake! Maybe then you’ll be just plain old eliminated.

As a self-storage manager, I often heard from competing facilities about their “new” district managers. It seemed they turned over pretty quick—at least the ones who were trying to make a difference. It seems the ones who last the longest are the ones who try the least.

Making the Leap

People don’t often change until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of transforming. Even fewer change without it being hoisted upon them or there being a life altering circumstance that precipitates it. When it comes time to make the leap, it is usually because we were forced to do so, or because we just couldn’t stand to see things stay the same. Either way, it is not often we make the leap under the best of conditions or on our own terms.

This is especially true when it comes to starting your own company. In my opinion, the only thing people want more than to be promoted is the opportunity to start their own business. Many managers tell me if they had the means to do so, they would buy their own facility and work for themselves.

I agree. I love what I do and, given the choice, I would continue doing it. Although I cannot yet afford my own facility, I’ve decided to take the lessons I’ve learned as a facility manager and pull together the necessary tools, skills and knowledge to begin my own consulting and management-services business. Sometimes you have to take control of your own destiny. This is true in self-storage and any other facet of life. I wish you all the best in your own fortunes.

David Fleming is the founder of Fleming Management Services, which specializes in facility operations, profit maximization and liability management. Specialty services include operational consulting, systems analysis, manager training, auditing and site inspections, as well as policies and procedures review, creation and implementation. Mr. Fleming has more than 10 years of practical experience in managing self-storage properties. He is a columnist for Inside Self-Storage, a contributing author to the Self-Storage Telegram and a regular speaker at industry tradeshows. For more information, call 610.724.1002; e-mail

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