Many developers, investors and operators believe the self-storage industry is recession-proof. However, the weakened economy, fueled by the subprime lending crisis, poor credit market, historically high gas prices and one of the worst housing slumps in history has had a negative impact on the industry.
The question now is: What can a self-storage operator do to improve facility performance?
Teamwork and Training
Having the best operational team and providing the right training is essential for your success. The more your staff knows about your operation and what it takes to be successful, the better the chance of improving your bottom line.
Training can improve product knowledge, which transfers to the customer. It will also maximize the retention of your employees because they will feel more “enriched” in their role within the operation. In addition, it will minimize burnout and frustration, which adds to a more productive environment.
Consistency develops and improves with training, and helps standardize the level of customer service. Plus, if customer service is a cornerstone of your marketing, you need to make sure your employees can live up to it.
Discipline and Expectations
The next step is to create an atmosphere of discipline within the organization to educate the management team on the key elements of the business. Discipline also leads to better understanding of each team member’s job description and company expectations.
Discipline creates benchmarks vital to the operation of any business. Once a self-storage operation sets benchmarks in the key performance areas of the business, it can make adjustments and improve the overall operation. Standards for performance in each critical area of the operation can be established.
Once your employees know these standards and your expectations, you must continually reinforce their awareness in these areas. In addition, there must be effective ways of measuring and tracking results. Tracking helps establish accountability and lets you reset operational benchmarks as improvements are made.
Improve Your Sales Program
The manager of a self-storage operation is the most important asset to the success of the business. However, the phone is the most powerful tool available to managers, enabling them to convert more callers and walk-in customers to renters and maximize the return on each marketing dollar spent.
It’s important to track and measure the important aspects of the sales program to improve on them. In addition, it is critical to know how you stack up against the competition, and to understand the unique features you offer. These special products and services can build value and trust with the customer. Training your staff to market your facility’s features to customers will lead to more units rented and bigger profit.
If done properly, marketing will also help develop a steady stream of referrals for your facility. The sales program must be developed first to maximize the return on the marketing dollar. It is critical that you identify your various target markets to know where to spend your time, money and energy.
Most self-storage operators are inconsistent with their marketing efforts and don’t establish a well-defined program. There must be consistency and repetition. Once achieved, the marketing plan will work in harmony with an effective sales program to take your operation to a higher level.
Reward High Productivity
Finally, it is vital to reward employees. Rewards improve performance and develop consistency. Proper goal-setting, incentives, contests and bonuses will focus stronger attention on what needs to be accomplished. Establish a formal program to recognize high achievers and motivate them to higher levels.
Brad North is founder of Advantage Business Consulting, which specializes in facility management, feasibility, onsite sales, marketing and operational training for the self-storage industry. He contributes articles to various self-storage publications and is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant within the industry. For more information, call 513.229.0400; visit www.advantagebusinessconsulting.com.