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Teri Lanza

Teri Lanza
Editorial Director
tlanza@vpico.com

Are Managers Underpaid? Everyone's Got an Opinion on Self-Storage Talk

By John Carlisle Comments
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The manager-compensation issue often resurfaces in self-storage. As often as facility owners declare the importance of their managers—they perform front-line sales, customer service, marketing, record-keeping, collections and auctions, maintenance, security, and other tasks—managers say they are unhappy with their pay. Of course, in many scenarios, managers earn more than an hourly wage. Many live in onsite apartments (though that trend is fading) or collect health-insurance or retirement contributions. On the other hand, some owners hire their managers as contract employees, which removes the obligation to pay benefits. This reduces the employers'—and increases the employees'—tax liability. Therefore, it's no surprise that Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s largest online community, is hosting a popular and heated discussion on the thread "Wages and Salaries Part II." (The thread's Part I was so popular it exceeded 100 posts.)

Managers, owners and representatives from third-party management companies have made several important points. First, most managers report hourly rates between $8 and $20 an hour, depending on market and cost of living, with the bulk coming in around $12-13. Member Hurlco, a manager, pointed out the onus to be valuable is on the manager/employee, not the operator/employer. He thinks managers should ask themselves what skills and mindset can they adopt to be at the top of the field, and once they make that change, they have the leverage to make more money, either from their current employer or a different one.

Having quantifiable results doesn't hurt, either. Any manager who can point to spike in occupancy, rental income or the implementation of smart revenue-producing initiatives boosts his value. Hurlco also added that even though employees see only their bottom-line take-home pay, employers pay much more than that figure to cover taxes and benefits. An onsite apartment has tremendous value, too. Several other posters, mostly owners, have generally agreed with this sentiment.

On the other side, a slew of posters, mostly managers, say it doesn't work like that. Some owners are unwilling to invest in managers, even if they're good ones, and it leads to turnover and discouraged though qualified candidates. Many owners complain of lazy, unmotivated managers who lack common sense, but how many people in any field are willing to work hard for a job that pays just above minimum wage? If an employee's job will never pay more than $15 an hour, what incentive does he have to go the extra mile? For that rate, he probably maximizes his utility by saving energy and working just hard enough not to be fired.

Another pertinent factor mentioned in the thread is, historically, self-storage management was a common husband-and-wife profession, particularly for retirees. That statement is true in some cases, but many managers at busy facilities today are far from retired and work long hours at a frenetic pace. In this situation, a meager wage isn't likely to keep an employee happy for long.

Does this issue get you fired up? Want to say your piece? If you don't have an account on SST, which you'll need to post, you can register for free by visiting www.selfstoragetalk.com and clicking "register." Just remember to adhere to community rules, which forbid personal attacks, foul language and name-calling.

Also, remember that SST is the middle of its "Loving Las Vegas" contest, which will result in two lucky managers winning a prize package including a roundtrip flight to Las Vegas, three nights' stay at the Paris Hotel & Resort, and standard education admission to the Inside Self-Storage World Expo. The contest, which runs through 11:59 p.m. EST on Feb. 14, asks managers to post up to three revenue-producing ideas for their facilities. The two managers who post the best responses will win the prize. Visit the thread for the complete rules and to enter.

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