Be Aware of Gray Areas
A good procedure goes full circle. That means it’s clear, covers all the points, and has a chronological order. There are no loose ends. Well-written policies with procedures to back them up help you clearly understand the task and how to complete it successfully.
Some policies are set in stone. Most have to do with a company’s standards of conduct or business practices. For example, if it’s policy that you wear a uniform, then that’s the case 100 percent of the time―no questions, no excuses. The same goes for things such as auction procedures, cash-handling, legal items, delinquent tenants, and issues of safety or security. There’s just no gray area on those points.
Other types of policies are simply guidelines for good business. You’re expected to understand and comply with the spirit of the policy. This is where gray areas come into play, and your supervisor can give you direction or coaching for these types of situations.
Gray areas often emerge in the name of good customer service. The company policy may state that you close at 6 p.m., but let’s say a customer calls and can’t get there until 6:15. In this case, your company may want you to stay late to provide good customer service and get the business, even if you may incur a little overtime.
It’s the same with access hours, unless it compromises the security of the facility or puts tenants’ goods at risk. When it’s reasonable, by all means accommodate the customer.
We’ve all encountered that rude person who represents his company by saying, “That’s our policy,” and will not bend even if it causes the company to lose your business. There’s really no room for that in self-storage (no pun intended). Our business caters to people who are usually in a life transition of some sort when they need our services. We have to recognize that and be a little flexible.
Understand the difference between what your company sees as black and white, and what falls in the gray area. If you’re not sure, be on the safe side and call your supervisor for clarification before proceeding. Realize that you’ve been hired to operate the business in accordance with policies and procedures to the best of your ability, and it’s expected you’ll use good judgment in your decisions.
The next time you think “policy schmolicy,” remember there’s probably a pretty good reason for it!
Linnea Appleby is president of Sarasota, Fla.-based PDQ Management Solutions Inc., which specializes in the management of self-storage properties and offers complimentary services such as operational consulting, new-facility startup, property audits and the “Income Finder Service.” Appleby is a regular contributor to industry trade publications and a frequent speaker at tradeshows and events. For more information, call 941.377.3451; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.pdqmanagementsolutions.com.