When I built my first self-storage facility 17 years ago, I didn’t have to worry about constructs like employee goal-setting, bonuses or incentives programs. But things are different in today’s competitive environment.
These days, operators seek to hire talented individuals with charisma. Employees must be able to connect with customers and have the ability to sell them on the unique advantages of the product. We need staff members who will take “ownership” of a store and be driven by incentives. They must have a passion for customer service and a desire to enhance a facility’s success. If they meet these criteria, they will maximize a site’s profitability.
Measure, Then Set Goals
To develop an effective incentive program, you must constantly track and measure your sales and marketing activity. Most storage operators shoot from the hip when it comes to setting goals for their staff, but it’s difficult to set challenging and realistic objectives if you don’t know what to expect. You might set aims that fall short of what’s truly possible or aspirations that are too far-reaching.
To avoid being counterproductive, build discipline and consistency into your operation. Continually measure and track the performance indicators that are most critical to your success, for example, monthly move-ins and move-outs, the conversion of callers to visitors, mystery-shop performance, merchandise sales, customer appointments, etc.
Once you have made a habit of monitoring key areas of your business, design a comprehensive incentive plan that will motivate staff members to maximize performance. They should be rewarded every time they achieve goals. Driven individuals will rise to the challenge of realistic but demanding expectations. Performance-based bonuses will also give employees a sense of ownership and create greater morale within the organization.
Frequency and Consistency
Your incentive plan can operate on a weekly, monthly or annual basis. The important thing is to adhere to the plan consistently and tie it directly to the performance of each team member. If you base monetary rewards on an employee’s annual review, make it contingent upon an accumulation of monthly “points” to encourage year-round excellence. For every month he reaches his goals, he accrues performance points.
This can help make the yearly evaluation process much more objective, easing tension and anxiety. It also gives each staff member a very clear indication of how well he is performing throughout the year. If an employee understands the “law of the scoreboard,” he feels much more in control of his accomplishments and aware of his potential to impact store revenue.
When team members know an owner’s expectations and what it takes to be successful, they have a much better chance of having a positive impact on the business. They feel empowered to direct their own achievement as well as that of the facility. In addition to a sense of ownership, they have the tools to improve profitability and to grow and develop as professionals.
In self-storage, a facility’s employees are its greatest asset. They contribute the most to the success of the operation, so they must understand each aspect of the business and take responsibility for improving performance. A properly implemented incentive program creates an atmosphere for higher productivity and encourages people to excel. It also provides a clear context for achievement, alleviating confusion and inconsistencies within the team and the operation as a whole.
Brad North is the founder of Advantage Business Consulting, which specializes in onsite sales, marketing, feasibility and operational training for the self-storage 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. Mr. North 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; visit www.advantagebusinessconsulting.com.