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Being a Self-Storage Manager in a Challenging Age: Tips for Success

Bob Copper Comments
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Improving Collections

When I interviewed for my first self-storage job, my employer said he had “a huge collections problem,” and needed someone to solve it. My response was, “We have their stuff, how hard can that be?”

You see, I came out of an industry where the customers had my stuff, and I had to either get them to pay for it or get my stuff back. To be successful, I needed an effective collections system, something self-storage managers also need.
Here are some basic collections tips:

  • Effective collections begin with a great sales presentation.
  • Fill out the tenant-information sheet with as much information as possible.
  • Make sure the tenant clearly understands the lease agreement.
  • Reiterate the due date and late fees and the tenant’s obligation to make on-time payments.
  • Have a clearly defined system. When do you call? Who do you call?
  • Document customer contacts and follow up on broken commitments.

Time Management

Far too many managers struggle with getting all their work done in eight hours. This is primarily due to poor work habits and a lack of discipline. Self-storage is one of those businesses that should not be an all-consuming, living-and-breathing way of life. With good time-management skills, a facility manager should get it all done in eight hours and have a life.

Here is a simple exercise to help you better understand where your time goes. Managers who use it always seem to find two to three hours per day for which they cannot account. On a blank sheet of paper, draw a vertical line to denote your day’s start time and then draw lines at 30-minute intervals. Document your activities every 30 minutes. Try this every day for 30 days. Here are some basic time-management strategies you can try:

  • Make better use of downtime. Plan ahead for the busy times.
  • Schedule tasks. Things seem to get done if they’re scheduled to be done.
  • Write things down. Don’t rely on your memory to take care of customer service and other issues.
  • Do things right the first time. A great customer-service attitude doesn’t mean a willingness to fix problems; it’s avoiding customer-service issues in the first place.
  • Share responsibilities. Everyone should do their thing on their day. Never leave tasks for the next day.
  • Have clear communication. Make sure everyone knows what everyone else is doing.

Self-storage used to be so easy that even a caveman could do it. No more. The economic realities of today indicate that mom-and-pop, seat-of-your-pants management is out and well-trained professionalism is in. But keep it simple: sales, collections and time management. That’s it.
Bob Copper is the owner of Self-Storage 101, a full-service consulting firm specializing in training, market and feasibility studies, and helping owners and managers reach higher and more profitable levels of operational effectiveness. To reach him, call 866.269.1311; e-mail; visit

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