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Tony Jones

Tony Jones
Manager, Inside Self-Storage Store
tjones@vpico.com

Is Your Self-Storage Manager Prepared to Take the Wheel?

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I’ve got a teenage driver in the house armed with a learner’s permit. Would you be shocked if I admitted that not all has gone smoothly with her training? Don’t get me wrong, she is an extremely bright young woman who I believe will be a confident and capable driver—someday. It’s just that our early attempts at applied learning in this particular arena have had some challenges.

I really felt like I was up to the task of training her. After all, I taught her how to ride a bike in what seemed like a blink of an eye. It was a joyous moment for both of us, so I imagined this would be a similarly rewarding experience. It still might be, but so far—not so much. As a result, she’ll be receiving some instruction from a certified trainer, and my wife and I will help reinforce what she learns.

One problem I’ve had is underestimating the complexity of driving for someone who has never been behind the wheel. At the outset, nothing is natural when sitting in the driver’s seat. What eventually becomes second nature with experience is initially foreign and confusing. The controls are intimidating and all the variables of the road can be overwhelming.

The same can be true for an inexperienced manager of a self-storage business. Even if he’s been an able understudy, watching intently the day-to-day management of a facility, being handed the keys and responsibilities can be a challenging endeavor for a new manager and his immediate supervisor or owner.

How does your self-storage operation train its managers? Is there a formal program in place with skilled trainers, or do you rely on your own experience or someone else in the office to show new hires the ropes? If the latter is the case, how confident are you that the ropes they’re showing aren’t frayed or flawed?

Similar to driving, there is no substitute for quality experience in knowing how to respond correctly to common work challenges at a self-storage facility. Having some concept of how to deal with unruly customers, upsell services, handle a crime incident, implement rate increases, process delinquent tenants and so on is much different than sitting in the driver’s seat forced to react to the real thing.

Experienced training professionals certainly need to slow down the processes and communicate best practices and procedures, but they also need to be proficient and capable themselves. Bad drivers may know the rules of the road, but they’re just as likely to teach bad habits as they are valuable skills. Industry consultant and storage owner Bob Copper argues that a similar training dynamic can occur within storage operations in his recent article, “Busting 5 Myths About Manager Training.”

Copper identifies the top five training areas for facility managers as sales, collections, time management, customer service and revenue management. These are critical areas for every self-storage operation and will be largely covered by several industry experts on March 31 in the Management education track during the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas. Sessions will focus specifically on expense management, collections, selling techniques, tricky customer-service issues, pricing strategies and maintenance.

In addition, the Management Workshop hosted by Mel Holsinger, president of Professional Self Storage Management LLC, will provide four hours of in-depth instruction for novice and experienced managers on how to be productive, profitable and successful in their position. The workshop will be held on April 2 and is always among the most popular during the ISS Expo, so be sure to reserve your space before all the seats are filled.

If you can’t join us in Vegas, we also have an abundance of on-demand insight and education on tap in the ISS Store, including manager-training materials in the form of books and online courses. The popular ISS Facility-Management Guidebook 2014 also offers tremendous value, with 85 pages devoted to collections, legal issues, sales, service, money management and more.

It can be a bumpy road trying to take on the training responsibility alone, which is why we work diligently to provide informative, useful resources to help operators smoothly implement a manager-transition plan, new managers to grow competently and confidently into their positions, or grizzled veterans to continue their industry education and keep up with a rapidly changing workplace.

What’s been the most valuable manager-training experience you’ve experienced while working in the self-storage industry? Let us know in the comments section below.

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