By Brad North
One effective way for self-storage owners to combat competition in their markets and enhance the profitability of their facilities is to create an appropriate atmosphere of order and discipline in their operations. This will not only hold staff accountable for their actions, it can motivate them to achieve their goals and objectives. One of the biggest differences between good storage operators and great ones is their ability to create such an environment.
Most owners need a better system to make their teams responsible for achieving results. For instance, it is imperative to track and measure key areas of a facility’s sales program—such as how many callers and walk-in prospects are being converted into renters—to improve the business in the long term. Everyone involved in the selling effort should be aware of this conversion rate and what is expected in terms of future outcomes. This will give each person a “scoreboard,” showing him where he stands on the performance scale. It’s important everyone be involved in setting the standard and creating the consistency needed to achieve long-term success.
One Month at a Time
One method of creating accountability is to set goals within key areas of the business. For example, you might set a monthly goal for unit rentals that is realistic but challenging. This will give your team an objective to work toward and help set the expectation in terms of acceptable and exceptional performance. Employees tend to like monthly goals, as they are more immediate and easier to track. If the staff has a challenging month, it can wipe the slate clean for the following month and look forward to refocusing its efforts.
Providing a monthly storage goal also creates a way to measure results and pinpoint areas for improvement within the sales program. Once weaknesses are recognized, additional training can be administered to rectify them. This can take accountability to a higher level and ultimately create an atmosphere of order within the organization.
Most storage operators have a subjective review process for evaluating employees’ performance. This takes away from the semblance of control and often causes employees to be complacent in their jobs. For example, if a facility manager does not clearly understand his job description and what is expected, he will probably not perform as well as he would if he had control over his own destiny and the outcome of his performance review.
If appraisals are handled objectively, owners can develop much needed consistency in their operations and increase employee responsibility. For instance, consider a monthly audit/review that becomes a part of the annual performance evaluation. Areas to measure might be monthly storage goals, telephone mystery-shopping scores, sales-conversion ratios, customer referrals and key-influencer referrals. Also examine administrative functions and other key areas of the business. It is important to measure items the employee can impact through his own efforts. This will give him a sense of control over his outcomes.
Success as a Journey
As self-storage markets across the county experience saturation, the average operator must find new methods of improving efficiencies and creating employee accountability. Economic occupancies have decreased, largely due to operators’ reactionary tendency to “give away the store” when competition moves into their markets.
The philosophy behind a self-storage operation and the mindset of its owner determine its outcome. In other words, if the attitude of the team is to be proactive and find ways to improve, it will weather any storm. If handled properly, adversity can take operational performance to an entirely new level. The question is not whether competition will continue to increase, but how to deflect its detrimental effects.
Success is a long-term journey. It’s running your business consistently and well. Unfortunately, many operators feel they have already arrived at their highest level of success. They become complacent and stagnant, and the competition passes them by. Always remember that success is not a finite destination but a continual effort.
Brad North is the founder of Advantage Business Consulting, which specializes in on-site sales, marketing, feasibility and operational training for the selfstorage industry. He has produced two live videos and a workbook titled “Maximizing Your Sales and Marketing Program,” which can help managers improve their sales and marketing efforts. He also launched A TelePro, a mystery- shopping service that assists in educating, evaluating and improving the phone-sales performance of self-storage professionals. For more information, call 513.229.0400 or visit www.advantagebusinessconsulting.com.