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The Science Behind Being Happy: What It Means for Your Self-Storage Business

By Amy Campbell Comments

By Matthew Van Horn

You can convey it over the phone, in person, by a facial expression, or by the tone of your voice. It can turn people off, on, or send them running for the hills. It can be the difference between someone renting a unit at your facility or one at your competitor’s facility. It can be the difference between getting a positive review or having someone bash your facility on Facebook and Twitter. It can be the deciding factor in a promotion or other life-changing event. Your happiness matters. It matters to your family, customers, coworkers, and even your dog.

Scientists have been researching everything from how to power our cars and homes to what makes us truly happy and productive. Recently, they’ve confirmed what most hiring managers have known for a long time: If you’re happy and have a great attitude, you’ll be more successful at work and life.

I love to read, especially when it involves the discipline of psychology. I’m currently reading “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor. This isn’t pseudo-science, but an actual study conducted at Harvard University in regards to happiness.

So what makes us happy? According to Achor, we’ve had the following statement hammered into us since elementary school: “If you work hard, you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy.”

The argument against this line of thinking comes in the very next paragraph of Achor’s book, “If success causes happiness, then every employee who gets a promotion, every student who receives an acceptance letter, everyone who has ever accomplished a goal of any kind should be happy. But with each victory, our goalposts of success keep getting pushed further and further out, so that happiness gets pushed over the horizon.”

In a nutshell this entire process is backward. The book goes on to state, “We now know that happiness is a precursor to success, not merely the result. And that happiness and optimism actually fuel performance and achievement-giving us a competitive edge.”

Let’s apply this thinking to the self-storage business. How many times have you shopped a competitor? Which competitor’s stick out the most in your mind? Yes, there are always the “super self-storage facilities” in every market. The stores with all of the bells and whistles, look like five-star hotels, and give you a Ferrari when you rent a unit, but which ones do you truly remember?

For me, it’s always the facilities that have the best managers. I can’t even count how many facilities I’ve visited in my career, but I do remember which ones made me feel at home, secure and comfortable. I remember which managers smiled, treated me with respect, were polite, smiled, and took the time to understand my situation. I remember the managers who were happy and looked like they loved what they do, versus the one who couldn’t wait for me to leave so he could go back into his apartment.

Research has shown that when you hire someone, only 25 percent of his job success will be educationally or technically related. For example, if you hire an accountant only 25 percent of his job success will come from knowing how to complete an income statement or a balance sheet. The other 75 percent comes from his attitude, personality and overall happiness. Just a little food for thought when looking to fill a position at one of your self-storage facilities, and even more food for thought when reviewing your facility’s overall performance.

Unfortunately I don’t have enough space in this blog to review the book fully, but if you take one thing away for this discussion understand that happiness and attitude is a bigger precursor to success then knowing how to run your facility’s management software or cleaning a unit. Remember the manager of a facility is the single most important part of the operational success of your facility. He’s not a robot. If you haven’t taken the time, sit down and get to know your manager, take him to lunch or a ballgame. In the end it could pay more dividends than a bonus check.

Matthew Van Horn is vice president of Cutting Edge Self-Storage Management, a full-service management company specializing in management, feasibility studies, consulting and joint ventures within the self-storage industry. 


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