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Who's Your Self-Storage Coach? Ideas for Getting Industry Learning

By Jim Chiswell Comments

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” ~Buddhist proverb

Many of us enjoyed watching the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. For these events, the attention is traditionally focused on the accomplishments of the athletes. What often gets lost are the contributions of the coaches who have labored behind the scenes to help the competitors hone their skills. Even a super-star swimmer like Michael Phelps has a coach by his side to objectively point out areas that can be improved and keep him focused on skills he's already mastered.

Now we're starting to get into the new NFL season and baseball’s post-season drive toward the World Series. As I watched NFL pre-season games, I looked at the number of coaches and assistant coaches working in the Washington Redskins organization. In addition to head coach Mike Shanahan, I discovered 18 offensive and defensive coaches and assistants. This made me reflect on our "athletes" in the self-storage industry, our front-line facility managers and assistant managers, and who they turn to for coaching.

During my 28 years in self-storage, I’ve met a few owners who have admirably served that role for their employees—motivating and inspiring, providing constant and concrete feedback, offering suggestions and direction to improve performance. The truth is those owners are rare. Self-storage is not always an owner's primary investment, and the variety of business skills necessary to be a successful manager are often beyond the knowledge of the folks signing the paychecks.

I’ve also met a number of owners who understand the positive impact an employee mentor or teacher can make on bottom-line results. It’s easy to identify these enlightened owners by simply looking at their operating budgets. There you’ll find a line item titled “manager training.” These funds are being used to send employees to state association meetings and conferences, or to allow them to participate in industry webinars or online training courses.

But where does that leave the majority of managers who still want to improve themselves and the success of the facilities they operate? Here are a number of low- and no-cost avenues to help you find that coach you need.

Self-Storage Talk

My first recommendation is to join the ranks of the more than 5,400 self-storage owners and managers from around the world who support each other via Self Storage Talk (, the official online community of Inside Self-Storage. As a moderator for SST, I’ve watched folks who have years of experience become beacons of information. Their insights and practical knowledge, gained from years of time spent behind the counters at their respective offices, have created an invaluable dialogue.

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