By Aycha Williams
As a self-storage owner, how big of a role would you say your facility manager plays in the successful performance of your property? Would you agree the job requires the manager to wear many hats and entails covering a lot of ground on a daily basis? Here are just some of managers' daily tasks:
- Selling on the phone and face-to-face, and selling ancillary products and services
- Meeting and exceeding monthly occupancy and other sales goals while providing excellent customer service
- Marketing the property to businesses and apartments on an ongoing basis
- Maintaining the facility so it functions at its best
- Providing weekly reports to upper management
- Price shopping the competition to ensure rates are where they should be
- Responding to Internet leads, which have not only become the main source of business for many facilities but are also the most urgent, as prospects will move on to the next property in their search results
These tasks make for a busy and extremely demanding workload, and even the best site managers may have difficulty delivering their fullest in all areas. This is why most large operators focus on automating processes to limit the manager’s role to tasks that are physically done on site. This way, they can focus on selling to walk-in customers while the call center handles incoming calls, for example. Managers can also give emphasis to site cleanliness and functionalities while letting corporate handle marketing, specials and necessary reports.
However, if you’re a small to mid-size operator, you may not have the resources and systems in place to concentrate your site manager’s efforts in this way. What you can do is clearly define the parameters of the manager’s responsibilities so you’ll have a more targeted approach when hiring.
If you were hiring a facility manager today, what skills would you look for? The first qualification should be sales experience—the natural ability to sell regardless of product or service—plus a basic knowledge of the sales cycle in a retail environment. Notice I didn’t say to look for someone with industry experience. Sure, it may be nice to come across a candidate with a self-storage background, but it’s not necessary. A candidate with great retail-sales experience is a perfect fit.
Here are seven tips to consider when hiring your next self-storage manager.
1. Hire a Retail-Sales Professional
You need someone who understands the sales cycle. The candidate should have a proven track record in closing sales over the phone and in person. He should be familiar with delivering on monthly sales and occupancy goals while knowing how to run and operate a store. The candidate should have at least a proficient level of computer and management-software skills.
Sound familiar? I’m essentially describing anyone who comes from a great retail-sales background. Think of Home Depot, Target or Walmart. Don’t feel pressured to search for candidates limited to the self-storage industry, and don’t undersell your facility by looking at those with little or no experience. Open your search to retail-sales professionals and you’ll access a large base of qualified prospects.
2. Customer-Service Skills Reign
Chances are the retail professional you’re interviewing will naturally have great customer-service skills. All large retailers have extensive training programs for employees.
The self-storage business is all about word-of-mouth and referrals. With the power of the Internet, communications about your facility is spreading fast via online reviews and posts. Therefore, looking for excellent service skills and a natural aptitude for pleasing customers will be the second most important quality to look for in a candidate.
3. Understanding Accounting and Finance
It’s important to share the facility’s financial goals with property managers. Managers should be provided with their facility’s monthly and annual goals for occupancy, ancillary sales and total revenue. You can then share, on a weekly basis, facility performance as a result of their efforts. This allows them to see their progress and proactively fix areas before they become troubling.
For a manager to understand your annual financial goals, he needs a basic understanding of numbers. It’s important for a site manager to be able to read a simple budget sheet and make sense of profit-and-loss statements.