Routine, Rudimentary Upkeep
Checklists keep duties from falling through proverbial cracks
By Rebecca McMahan
A well-maintained facility is a self-storage operator’s No. 1 marketing tool. But “maintenance” is often confused with “repairs” when, in fact, a site that is consistently cared for will have fewer fixes, even if it is older. A manager no longer needs to have knowledge of electrical wiring, plumbing and HVAC equipment. He does, however, need to look for irregularities in any of these systems and perform routine preventive maintenance so the facility does not incur unnecessary expenses.
If you have worked at a facility for any length of time, especially if you are a resident manager, you may tend to overlook minor maintenance issues. But there are few tricks you can use to look at your facility through fresh eyes. First, change your routine. For example, if you always begin your walk-through at the front of the facility, start from the back one week. You really will begin to see things differently. Second, have another staff member (i.e., a relief manager or partner) walk the property and “grade” you on the maintenance. Challenge this person to find weaknesses and present criticism in a helpful manner.
Because so much of facility maintenance is routine, it’s important to create a checklist of duties to follow. You can be very detailed in the creation of your list, but be sure it’s an inventory you will actually use. A list can be a very important tool to verify you are performing all necessary tasks, one you can give your supervisor as proof you are involved and proactive in maintaining the site. You might consider using daily, weekly, monthly and annual checklists. Following are a few items you may want to include.
- Inspect driveways, sidewalks and landscaping for any damage and remove any outdoor debris. Check for leaves, stones, twigs, papers, bottles, cans, cigarette butts, etc. Haul any refuse left behind by tenants—such as old furniture—to the dumpster.
- Inspect the fence line for damage.
- Walk the property and look for damage to doors, hallways, partitions, etc.
- Clean the office and restrooms, checking them several times a day, including glass doors and windows. Stock paper goods and supplies as necessary.
- Test gate systems by actually entering an access code to ensure the keypads work and the gate is operating.
- Change any extinguished light bulbs or failing florescent lights. (Don’t wait for them to go out completely—the flickering of a faltering florescent bulb can be irritating to tenants.) • If you have elevators, verify they are clean and operating.
- Sweep facility corridors and entryways.
- Clean inside the golf cart, making sure the seats are in good repair and there is no trash.
- Check all surveillance cameras and monitors to ensure they are working correctly. Also verify your VCR or DVR is actually recording and recordings are visible.
- Dust and stock any retail displays, and remove all clutter from countertops in the office.
- In the office, wipe down window blinds and sills.
- Wipe down all computers and phone equipment.
- Perform required maintenance on your management software, i.e., compact and rebuild your files.
- Mop all floors and corridors.
- Wash the exterior of the golf cart.
- Perform a nighttime inspection to verify all lights and signage are working properly.
- Recommended gate maintenance to your supervisor. (Check with your gate installer or manufacturer for a detailed maintenance schedule.)
- Clean building gutters. (This may need to be performed more often during certain times of the year and in certain parts of the country.)
- Change air-conditioning filters.
- Paint or touch up curbs and bollards.
- Check overhead doors to ensure the tracks are clean and well-oiled, and replace any worn ropes or springs. A good time to do this is when a tenant vacates.
- Have the office carpet cleaned.
- Check the dates on all fire extinguishers and replace if necessary.
- Schedule routine inspections on all major facility systems, including the HVAC, elevators, fire sprinklers, etc.
A facility manager should document any minor repairs he has performed, notify his supervisor of any items that require an outside contractor, and follow up until the repair is completed. He does not need to be a jack of all trades—he simply needs to care about the property he operates and maintain it in a way that reflects pride. A well maintained facility will attract customers who are more inclined to respect it while they are renting and leave their units clean when they move out. It will also leave customers an overall impression of a well-run operation, encouraging them to recommend the facility to others.
Rebecca McMahan is the owner of Management On Site Training Inc., which offers consulting services, training and start-up services in the self-storage industry. She has taught several owner and manager classes, along with grassroots education seminars in Texas. For more information, call 713.838.2339 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.