Now that spring is almost here and the long winter months almost past, it is time to take a deep breath and relax a little. This is the time to begin thinking about your facility manager, if you are an owner, or your own sanity, if you manage your own site.
Being a storage manager is not an easy job. I get such a laugh out of those people without self-storage experience who call me to be placed in a manager’s position. The first thing they say is, “It looks like such an easy job. All you have to do is chat with people, rent a few units, collect the rent, and just sit back and watch the time go by. Plus you get a free apartment!” If these people only knew a site manager wears many different hats: salesperson, collections agent, lien-sale expert, maintenance person, security guard, office manager, supervisor to relief staff and psychologist to tenants. Not to mention most on-site managers are a team or married couple, and it takes a very special and talented person to work and live with a spouse 24/7.
When you live and work at a property, it seems you never really have any time off—no real private time. If you’re lucky enough to find a relief manager, you have to train him and have confidence that 1) he is capable of performing the job and 2) he will actually show up, on time, on your days off. When you live on site, even on your day off, you inevitably get stopped on the way out to run errands, go to lunch, etc. Your tenants or relief manager will often stop you to ask questions or ask for help. You almost want to sneak out of the house and run as fast as you can before they see you.
When you live in this type of environment, it is easy to experience “burnout,” especially if you don’t make the time to get away and relax. When was the last time you took some time for yourself, got away for a long weekend or went on vacation? Now is the time to think about it because, as we all know, the summer months can be very hectic in the self-storage business. People are buying and selling their homes and need storage; college students are going home for the summer and need space; and commercial businesses are picking up and need room for merchandise or supplies. If you rent trucks, that is a whole other issue.
Owners and managers need to sit down shortly after the first of the year and make some plans. Most companies give managers vacation time. The length of time will usually depend on the length of employment with the company, but at the very least, managers should get a one-week vacation each year, perhaps two weeks. I suggest one week every six months rather than two weeks per year. First, it’s easier to have relief managers work seven days straight than 14; plus it’s good to give managers a break twice a year. Long weekends should also be encouraged.
Owners need to realize the value of their management staff and understand that living on site can be stressful. They should demand that managers take time off and get away from the site. They might even want to treat their managers to a vacation or long weekend, all expenses paid, for a job well done or achieving goals they have set together. It is a small price to pay to have good, relaxed, alert managers. Just knowing their owners appreciate them helps motivate managers more than you know.
Even if your managers don’t live on site, they still need time away from the day-to-day operations of the facility. Facility managers are in the trenches daily. They have to deal with people who are moody and tired from the stressful task of moving or other lifechanging event. This is not always easy.
Self-storage managers are a unique breed. Most enjoy what they do. They like the fact they can live and work at a property, and most love working together with their spouses as a team. But now is time for owners and managers to make those vacation plans. Everyone should have something to look forward to so they can re-energize those “batteries” and avoid burnout. They will return to work with a fresh, renewed outlook on their jobs. The manager, relief staff, owner, tenants and facility will all win if this is a top priority in the new year.
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.