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Motivating Self-Storage Managers in Tough Economic Times

Matthew Van Horn Comments

As a self-storage owner or investor, you’re facing a number of obstacles: a battered economy, a weak real estate market, increased delinquencies, decreased occupancy, reduced net operating income, and more competition than ever before. Most of this is cyclical, and strength will be regained. In some areas, recovery has already begun. 

In the meantime, there’s still a need to set a positive and inviting tone with our customers and facility managers. One of the challenges in dealing with lackluster economic conditions is keeping managers motivated without letting complacency take over. Creating motivation starts with hiring the right manager and setting the right goals, along with having positive leadership and rewarding employees when they go above and beyond the scope of their position. 

Hiring a Go-Getter

The easiest type of manager to inspire is one who is motivated intrinsically. Intrinsic motivation is simply that which comes from within a person rather than any outside reward, such as a bonus. Typically, this type of manager is motivated by the satisfaction of completing a job well, rather than a bonus on the amount of units rented or inventory sales.

An intrinsically motivated storage manager will take “ownership” of his facility. For example, you may have a manager who consistently creates and implements new marketing ideas without direct solicitation, keeps the grounds around the facility in impeccable condition, makes the rental office a calm and inviting place for customers, decorates the office for the holidays, always has a bright and positive attitude, and gives the facility a personal touch.

The drive to succeed is not typically something that’s trainable. A person usually has this motivation or doesn’t.  During interviews, look for those who have this quality. Often, they will provide letters of recommendation along with references. These should be used to gauge not only the qualifications of a potential candidates, but to find out what kind of manager a person will be overall. Look for people who have been in a position in which intrinsic motivation is expected, such as a former business owner, military personnel or an apartment manager.

Define the Manager’s Goals

One of the easiest ways to motivate a facility manager is to provide goals that are clear, concise and realistic. Nothing will de-motivate a manager faster than looking at a set of goals, whether financial- or customer-oriented, and knowing he has no possible way to attain them. This doesn’t mean you should lower operating standards or allow a manager to talk you out of a goal that’s attainable but difficult; it means you should keep your perspective in the present economy.

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