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I Got a Job as a Self Storage Manager, Now What? Understanding Tenants and What to Expect From Your Position

By Mel Holsinger Comments

You’ve successfully navigated the interview and application process and it’s official: You’re about to become one of the nation’s thousands of skilled self-storage managers. Although you may be new to the industry, you most likely have some of the abilities and attributes necessary to function well in this business. But when it really gets down to it, what should you expect?

Self-storage managers must work with customers in a retail environment. You’ll need to think on your feet, adapt quickly and be able to multi-task. This business is driven by need rather than want. In this setting, you’ll encounter people who expect to have their requirements fulfilled quickly and efficiently. Often in the throes of some life change, they may not always be in a good mood.

You’re dealing with people who have to move their possessions to your facility. They want their stuff protected and stored in a clean, safe, convenient location. In most cases, they’re using part of their disposable income to accommodate the transfer of goods. They may be going through a move, divorce, death in the family, job or career change, downsizing, or some other stressful event. They may be unhappy about their circumstances and, hence, their need for storage. It’s your mission to give them a positive experience, make them feel good about their decision, and realize they’re receiving a benefit for what they’re spending with you.

Know Your Customers

Once on the job, the more you know about your customers, the more successful you’ll be. For example, if you know they’re going through a tough economic time in their life, you may want to pay particular attention to how they pay their rent. Are they going to be easy to get in touch with via a home phone number, cell number, e-mail or social-media account on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.? Or are they hesitant to give out too much information?

Generally speaking, customers who want to share as much personal information as you ask for are those who understand and respect the need for communication. They’re more likely to stay in touch, even if they have problems meeting their financial commitments. On the other hand, evasive people are more inclined to be late and less inclined to meet their obligations. Understanding what may be going on in the customer’s life, without being nosey, will pay dividends in the long run.

Meet Their Needs

What’s important to each customer will vary. Those most concerned about security (or the perception of security) generally have a real bond to the possessions they’re storing. Those who care more about price may have a lesser bond with their goods. Those most concerned about access (convenience) may be challenging the decisions they’ve made about using storage. They could be thinking about getting rid of non-essential stuff and minimizing the clutter they’ve created. Be aware of what’s most important to each customer, and try to ensure they feel you’re providing for their needs as best as possible.

Set Limits

Know your limits and how to make customers understand them. Once facility rules are established, with few exceptions, all tenants need to conform to them.

For example, you likely have set office and gate-access hours. If you allow people to abuse them, you’ll find yourself working more hours than planned. You’ll be stressed out in short order, and become disgruntled with the situation. The same goes for customers who are delinquent. If you allow them to abuse your late-rent policy, you’ll quickly find yourself behind the eight ball with respect to collections, and it’s very hard to recover.

On the other hand, you want to accommodate customers within the guidelines so you can provide them with good customer service. Establish your rules and be reasonable, but be strong enough to enforce rules equally. This will ensure you’re be respected by tenants, and your job will go much easier.

Learn to Adapt

Lastly, know you have a job in which every day will be different. You’ll have to adapt quickly to diverse situations. While there will be slow times during the day, you’ll also be faced with numerous customers, challenges and circumstances, sometimes simultaneously. The ability to stay calm when you’re overrun with people and problems, focus on the most important task at hand, and turn a bad situation into a positive is a virtue.

The most successful self-storage managers are those who genuinely smile often, get satisfaction from helping people, and understand that the main objective of the business is to make a profit. Managers who are not willing to adapt, compromise, adjust, negotiate or care about customers are usually not in the business long. If they do manage to stay, they don’t generally outperform the other managers in their markets.

A manager’s best asset is usually his personality. A manager who shows respect to others, follows the rules, and is willing to go the extra mile for employers and customers generally does very well in this industry. If you’re willing to approach the position with an open mind, can-do attitude, positive outlook, willingness to work toward, and ability to channel customers’ negative situations into positive facility experiences, you’ll be a manager success story.

Mel Holsinger is president of Professional Self Storage Management LLC, which manages more than 40 facilities in Arizona, Colorado and Texas. Holsinger has been in the self-storage industry for more than 25 years. To reach him, call 520.319.2164; e-mail; visit

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