By Norm Spitzig
Great self-storage companies are populated by great employees. While a talented and efficient general manager is necessary, this sole position is typically not sufficient for the long-term success of your company. Storage businesses that succeed and flourish over the long run have general managers who possess the vision, wisdom and courage to identify, attract, hire and mentor great assistant managers.
For example, let’s say Mark is an accomplished and respected general manager who, by and large, does an excellent job for his company. Like many self-storage general managers, Mark also spends too much time on tasks that should be handled by assistant managers. Mark claims he’s "just too busy to hire and train an assistant" and "he's better off doing it himself."
These are typical refrains from those in his position, but by securing and mentoring the right assistant manager, Mark would have significantly more time to do what someone in his position should be doing, such as strategic planning, community outreach and developing long-term business plans.
The self-storage business, in turn, would run more efficiently and profitably. Equally as important, the next generation of senior leadership would be firmly in place. Following are attributes savvy general managers should look for when hiring key assistants.
1. Complementary skills . Good assistants are typically not clones of their general manager but bring new and different talents to the senior managerial mix. For example, a "low-tech" general manager would be particularly well-served to hire someone who really understands when and how to use high-tech tools that are available and applicable to the company’s business needs.
2. Practical experience. While in no way diminishing the fundamental importance of formal, industry-specific education, good assistants also need relevant hands-on experience before they are truly ready to function effectively. Ideally, this practical experience should be garnered in a variety of positions within the company or with another company in the industry. Assisting with accounts payable is always a good place to start.
3. Loyalty. Good assistants in any profession must be totally loyal to their boss—in this case the general manager. Anything less is unacceptable. Office politics might make for a good television sitcom, but they make for bad assistant managers. There is more than a modicum of truth in the old saying, "When the boss looks good, everyone looks good." Effective assistant managers fully trust in the experience and knowledge of their bosses and, over time, they earn the complementary respect and admiration of their superiors.
4. Good work ethic. Successful assistant managers are willing and able to put in the necessary time to help make their businesses successful. Nine-to-fivers need not apply. Acclaimed filmmaker John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate and Birdman of Alcatraz) once said, "The importance of hard-working assistants cannot be overemphasized."
5. Desire to be a general manager someday . Today's assistant manager is potentially tomorrow's general manager. Someone who’s content to "just be an assistant manager" without fervently aspiring to become a general manager is, generally speaking, not someone most general managers would want on their senior management team. (Yes, there are always exceptions.)
6. Passion and enthusiasm for the industry. Successful assistant managers are those who genuinely love their work and industry. Hall of Famer Ernie Banks reiterated throughout his baseball career that he gladly would have played for free.
7. A willingness to be creative . Truly successful assistant managers are willing to think outside the proverbial box. Better yet, they don’t think about boxes at all. A common shortcoming of new assistant managers is they are sometimes too rules-oriented or too rigid. Common sense applied to the storage industry will come to most assistant managers over time, especially when they’re working for a mature, supportive and nurturing general manager.
8. An interesting person . Finally, successful assistant managers are not one-dimensional. They have creative, fulfilling personal lives and myriad interests and activities independent of their work. Nerds may be particularly good at the specific tasks they perform, but seldom do they rise to positions of real leadership within a company.
Hiring the right assistant manager can only increase the likelihood of long-term success for your self-storage business. Better yet, top assistant managers make the workplace more enjoyable. W hen people truly love their work, productivity, customer satisfaction and profit all naturally increase. Locating, attracting, hiring and mentoring the right assistant manager is well worth the effort.
Norm Spitzig is principal at Master Club Advisors and an internationally recognized speaker and private club industry expert. He has provided presentations for professional associations, individual businesses, private club leaders and civic groups on six continents. For more information, call 352.735.5693; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org ; visit www.masterclubadvisors.com .