Provide your manager with some guidelines. Here’s the fine line: Be broad enough to allow honest input, and specific enough to attract valuable feedback. Encourage managers to be very specific with this exercise, focusing on internal strengths and weaknesses as well as market or economic threats and opportunities. If this type of formal self-evaluation is new to your employees, it can be a good idea to give them a sample of a completed evaluation, such as this one:
- Write your ideal job description, custom-tailored to your strengths and weaknesses. Be specific as to duties and time requirements.
- List and describe specific details of our performance over the last year. What could you have done better?
- What is the facility’s biggest weakness? What’s your biggest weakness?
- Provide an analysis of the local self-storage market. Who is the best competitor?
- What opportunities do we need to capitalize on this year? Are we ready?
- What is the biggest threat the facility faces in the marketplace?
Be creative in guiding the process. Let managers know the objective is to strengthen the business, and their honest―blunt, if necessary―input is important to the process. Ultimately, you want to encourage your staff to review details of their own performance, and look ahead in offering specific goals and objectives for the year. This also allows you to set a tone of expectation for the future.
By starting with the self-evaluation, you should gain insight to their perception (accurate or not) of the market and their role in your business. Following a careful review of what they present, you can follow up with key objectives for their position.
For example, if performance weakened in 2009, begin reworking goals for 2010, and invite your team to submit ideas for reaching them. When goals and objectives are developed with their input, it’s easier to get their “buy in” on specific new initiatives and activities.
Setting the Tone
As the owner, you must develop the type of dynamic that keeps the business strong. If you take details seriously, so will your employees. If you accept a dirty office, so will they. If you give the manager incentive to sell, he’s more likely to think about ways to rent more units, sell more retail or add more to the bottom line. When you create an environment that’s attentive to customer needs and profitability, your team will follow.
After the economy jumped off a cliff in late 2008, everyone talked a lot about efficiencies and cost-saving approaches to operation. But let’s be careful, though, of falling into a single-minded approach in cutting costs. As the owner, you can control expenses through a strict budget. But the quality of your sales and customer-service force is where income is created or lost, and that tone is set by the owner.
In many ways, 2009 forced us all to take a hard look at where we spend money. Perhaps now, in a leaner operational mode, we can focus on better sales, better collections and a stronger bottom line. Get serious, keep your boots off the counter, and take the first steps to strengthening your business in 2010.
Benjamin K. Burkhart is owner of BKB Properties and StorageStudy.com, a full-service self-storage consulting and resources firm. He works with developers around the country in assessing site feasibility, market strength, marketing strategies, financial analysis, profit enhancement, site design and deal structure. To reach him, call 804.598.8742; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.storagestudy.com.