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When a Good Manager Goes Bad: Protecting Your Self-Storage Investment From Employee Theft

By Linnea Appleby Comments

Trust plays a crucial role in the self-storage business. Tenants choose a facility they feel they can trust over one that may be closer or even cheaper. They trust you, the facility owner, to maintain a safe place to lock away their valuables, usually while their life is in some transition. They trust you to honor your part of the bargain in this exchange of money for service.

You in turn hire staff, conducting a background check, drug test and reference check, and investigating and evaluating each candidate as thoroughly as possible. There’s a lot of time and money that goes into finding the right manager. Once you find someone who seems to be a good fit, you train the new employee, evaluate and coach his performance, and ultimately trust him to operate the business.

As time passes, you become more confident in your manager’s abilities and the owner/manager relationship develops. As you get to know him, and often his family, your level of trust deepens. With this you start delegating tasks, trusting him with additional responsibilities and maybe checking on him a little less, confident he has your best interest at work.

Then something happens that puts a blip on your radar. You suddenly feel something is not quite right. You might overhear a random comment from another employee or tenant, see something on a playback of the security cameras, or suddenly spot a questionable cash-handling trend. As you dig a little deeper, you discover it’s true. Your trust has been betrayed. This manager is stealing from you.

Watch for Red Flags

When a good manager goes bad, it often happens quickly. Usually some occurrence or circumstance has suddenly created a problem in his life. Any assortment of events—divorce, marriage, birth, death or illness in the family, addiction—can cause financial turmoil in the life of a good manager. The thought “just this once” has taken many otherwise good managers to a place they never thought they would be—caught stealing from their employer.

Sometimes a manager develops a sense of entitlement. He feels he deserves more, so he starts to take a little here, a little there. No one is looking over his shoulder and the thought “they’ll never know” usually starts this snowball. Soon he has a little side business. He’s almost convinced that if you found out you wouldn’t believe it and he could just talk his way out of it.

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