Even though forums are wonderful places to gather information and learn from one another, I still feel strongly that there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction. So consider stopping into a local Toastmasters meeting. This is a learn-by-doing workshop in which participants hone their speaking and leadership skills. There are no instructors; instead, members evaluate each another’s presentations. Participants can also offer information on various topics and develop skills related to timekeeping and grammar.
We spend all day interacting with customers and prospects on the phone and across the counter, so improving communications skills is a constant journey, not a trip with a destination. You can find a local group meeting near you at Toastmasters.org.
Chamber of Commerce
If your company is a member of the local chamber of commerce, keep an eye on its upcoming events. Chambers often offer inexpensive or sponsored business workshops you can attend. Your local Small Business Administration (SBA) office or Small Business Development Center will also host periodic programs. In addition, the SBA offers a variety of free online programs at http://archive.sba.gov/training/index.html.
Some self-storage managers like to circulate books and articles they’ve read with others. Like the participants of Oprah's Book Club, they use their readings as a basis for personal interaction. It's another method to help each other learn and grow.
Let's not overlook a the need to seek mentors who can help you with your personal and business growth. While you can certainly take advantage of all the avenues mentioned above, attendance at a national self-storage conference is the best dollar-for-dollar investment you can make in your business career.
Yes, the education sessions are important, and the tradeshow aisles are filled with some of the most knowledgeable experts in the business. However, what’s truly unique is the opportunity to sit and talk with folks who have invested their lives in self-storage just like you. It's a great place for owners and managers to meet and share information. These relationships often grown into teacher-student connections.
Some owners go so far as to select an industry expert to serve as a coach for themselves and their managers. The insights provided can more than pay for the coach’s fee through additional rentals and the ability to troubleshoot problems that emerge in day-to-day operations.
Jim Chiswell is an industry veteran and owner of Chiswell & Associates LLC. Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence and customized manager training for the self-storage industry. He can be reached at 434.589.4446; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.selfstorageconsulting.com.