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Writing Your Self-Storage Policies and Procedures Manual

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By Magen Smith

Policies and procedures keep your self-storage business running smoothly and profitably. Policies are the rules of the company, and procedures explain how the job gets done. Both should be spelled out in your facility’s operation manual.

If you haven’t updated your manual lately, you should. While the basics of operating a storage business don’t change much, you’ve likely adopted some new practices since your handbook was originally created. For instance, your current manual may not include guidelines around texting customers or using electronically signed leases. Technology is changing every day, and your rules have to change with it.

If you don’t have a manual at all, now’s the perfect time to write one. It should include detailed information outlining everything it takes to operate your business successfully. The following explains the aim of sound policies and procedures, and provides guidance for writing the best possible manual for your operation.

What Will the Manual Accomplish?

A policies and procedures manual will tell your managers everything they need to know, from what to do after showing up for work on Monday to whether they can offer discounts to customers. These guidelines should be in writing and easily accessible to everyone in the company. As the owner, you need to clearly explain your rules and why they’re in place. Make them part of the company story. Repeat them until employees understand your expectations and are doing their job in line with them.

Some rules are set in stone and the same for every facility. For example, you would never allow an employee to change a lease, alter vendor contracts without approval or renegotiate bank loans. Maybe you don’t ever want employees to change rates, give discounts without approval or use concession plans. These may all be firm policies.

Managers need to know what’s absolutely non-negotiable and what’s up to their judgement. Most owners will allow employees to waive some late fees or offer discounts depending on the situation. While this is up to the discretion of the employee, you still need a guideline around these issues. Is there a limit on concessions that can be offered? Does anything above a certain amount require approval? Do managers need to file paperwork for concessions? Your job as the owner is to make sure your employees clearly understand what’s expected of them.

Policies and procedures should be designed to protect your employees, customers and business. Facility managers hear stories of woe from customers every day, and they need protection against these excuses. Your policies are their defense. For example, if it’s your policy to only accept full payments on delinquent units, then it’s easier for the manager to decline a partial payment. Sometimes it’s just simpler for an employee to blame the policy than make a tough decision on his own.

Policies and procedures also keep you mindful of your bottom line. For example, you may have a policy to never waive a late fee, which safeguards your revenue stream. However, you wouldn’t want to upset a 15-year customer who’s late one time, or the customer who referred 15 new customers to you and is late by a couple of days because he was out of town. So, sometimes it’s good to allow your manager to use his best judgment on rule enforcement.

Finally, good policies deliver excellent service to customers while offering security. For example, accepting packages on behalf of your tenants is a wonderful value-add service, but if you don’t follow the proper procedures, it can harm your business Know your state laws before you write a policy. Is it legal to enter a tenant’s unit to deliver a package or should he pick it up in the office? The written guideline will ensure all packages are properly handled.

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