I’m always amazed when people outside our industry make assumptions about how easy a self-storage facility manager’s job is. The misconceptions are sometimes hilarious, but often degrading to the people working in the business. Industry outsiders generally have no clue as to how many tasks managers undertake in their daily routines.
In trying to think of another occupation with responsibilities that match those of a self-storage manager, I can’t find one comparable. In most cases, managers are expected to be:
- High-powered in-house and outside salespeople
- Customer-service representatives
- Marketing representatives
- Call-center salespeople
- Community spokespeople for the business
- Collection agents
- Subcontractors in electrical work, plumbing, HVAC, metal doors and buildings, asphalt and concrete, signage, landscaping, gate operators, etc.
- Legal gurus in many different areas such as sale and disposal, onsite criminal activity, deceased tenants, tenant bankruptcy, etc.
- Arbitrators for customers
- Consultants for our lender, insurance agency, etc.
- High-tech computer specialists, software experts, programmers, etc.
- A sounding board for an owner or management company who isn’t making enough money (in his opinion)
I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The average facility manager is generally competent at most of the above tasks, but is it right for an owner to expect you to be the best in every category? Of course not. Even facility owners often overlook your broad expertise. For example, when they plan to build self-storage, how many consider what the facility should be like from a manager’s viewpoint? If they spoke to several of you in advance, I wonder how different our facilities would look today.
Using Outside Sources to Get the Job Done
Some self-storage owners and management companies recognize the burden they place on their managers, and many have spent money, time and lots of effort in finding the perfect employee for each store. It’s particularly rewarding when they land a manager who can accomplish all of their goals, has a great attitude, and still works for a, not great, but living wage.
Over the past several years, the industry has evolved by hiring more professional managers who understand the many duties necessary to run a successful facility. Some facility owners have even looked to outside resources to complete some of the manager’s tasks. Hiring an outside call center, for example, frees up a manager’s time to focus on in-house sales, community outreach, property maintenance or other pressing issues.
Some owners have hired full-time staff for maintenance issues including tasks such as landscaping and painting, or have taken a more of an active role in the planning for capital and replacement items. Some companies employ dedicated employees to work outside the facility in sales and public relations, which helps bring the facility to the public in a more professional manner.
The use of kiosks at many facilities has allowed managers to take payments and rent units even when offsite or performing other duties. More facilities will likely install kiosks, but they will primarily act as your aid, not your replacement.
Many companies now have full-time staff focused solely on collections or auctions, too. This, again, has allowed the manager freedom to perform more tasks aligned with helping customers. It also puts you in a more positive role for the facility.
However, there are still many self-storage facilities that continue to operate with a single manager who performs all the duties described above with competence and professionalism. So the next time a non-industry participant talks about what an “easy job” you must have, pull out your to-do list and hand it to him. Once he understands all of your responsibilities, he’ll be in awe, and gain a higher level of respect for what you do every day.
Mel Holsinger is president of Professional Self Storage Management LLC, which manages more than 40 facilities in Arizona, Colorado and Texas. Holsinger has been in the self-storage industry for more than 25 years. He is a frequent speaker at Inside Self-Storage World Expos and other industry events, a contributing writer to Inside Self-Storage magazine, and a founder of the Qualified Storage Manager program. To reach him, call 520.319.2164; e-mail [email protected].