There a good number of fantastic self-storage owners out there. I’ve learned much of what I know about the industry from these sort—experienced and generous men and women who’ve proven to be excellent examples of industry success.
Then, there are the others. It’s kind of like the comedian who says, “My wife and I have three wonderful kids … and another one.” Frankly, some of the folks I’ve met in this industry have taught me a lot about how not to own and operate a self-storage facility—or any other business for that matter.
My experience with those “others” has caused me to develop some pet peeves. I could probably go on for pages on this topic, but for the purposes of brevity, I’ve come up with my top five pet peeves about self-storage owners, and reasons why they should stop doing these things.
Pet Peeve No. 1: Thinking They’re More Important Than Their Managers or Customers
The most successful owners in this business are humble and clearly recognize they aren’t—and don’t have to be—the smartest person in the room. Effective owners are willing to keep learning and listen to new ideas. They make sure their managers have the tools to succeed. They don’t park right at the front door. They even pick up trash on their way into the office. They find things right on their visits, answer the phone when the manager is busy, and offer to show customers units, because they know how to do that.
As for the “others,” if you let your ego get in the way, constantly harass your managers and refuse to set a good example, you’ll have constant turnover. You’ll also never be as successful as you can be.
Pet Peeve No. 2: Being Too Cheap to Invest in Manager Training
During industry conferences, I regularly ask attendees about their company training budgets. I’m continually amazed at how few storage owners provide their managers with any type of training. The most successful owners make sure their managers are properly trained—and the training continues over and over. They make sure their managers know how to answer the phone, document leads and sell potential customers on renting space. These managers receive instruction in collections, customer-service and ancillary sales.
The “other” owners expect their managers to do all those things (and do them well), but then refuse to invest in training—probably because their country-club dues are too high. Poorly trained managers aren’t successful. They’re unhappy with their jobs and never do as well as they should or could.
Pet Peeve No. 3: Refusing to Fix the Broken Stuff
I have a substantial collection of facility photographs showing minor to major dents, dings and cracks at storage facilities. In many cases, I’m embarrassed for our industry that there are owners who refuse to get that stuff fixed. We’re in one of the largest industries in the world—bigger than the National Football League as well as the motion-picture and music industries; yet we have many owners who, for some unknown reason, seem to like having a crappy-looking site. They expect their managers rent space, collect money and provide good customer service in a dented, dinged and cracked environment. It’s an unfair and ridiculous demand to place on staff.
Pet Peeve No. 4: Being Too Cheap to Buy Managers Their Own Business Cards
I know this one seems petty compared to first three, but come on … When you make your new manager use the old manager’s cards, crossing out the old name to add his own, it’s the clearest example of the disdain some owners have for their employees. I feel sorry for any manager who works for such an owner. It’s disrespectful and a self-esteem-crusher that could be avoided for almost no money.
Owners aren’t usually forced into this situation due to lack of money, as you can find business cards online for practically free. Some owners just don’t care. They see their staff as unimportant and will just keep churning through manager after manager.
And what about those owners who just keep a supply of blank cards and make the managers write in their name? What kind of job security does a person feel with temporary business cards? Managers, if you work for someone like this, please know there are a lot of great self-storage owners who don’t treat their managers this way. I suggest you seek a new job.
Pet Peeve No 5: Making Managers Use Their Cell Phones to Conduct Business
There’s nothing more hokey, mom-and-pop or horse-and-buggy than when owners have their facility phone calls roll over to a manager’s cell phone when the manager is off site. Most managers have only a few chances per day to rent space. If one of those chances comes while the manager is in line at the bank, he has no chance to provide a professional sales presentation.
With the high-tech, low-cost alternatives now available in our industry, operating this way is just silly. Many of today’s management software programs have online-reservation and billpay capabilities. Think about how you can still rent units when your managers are otherwise occupied with other operational duties.
Some of you owners out there need to change your ways. Learn to invest in your managers and operation, and you’ll increase your profitability and asset value.
Bob Copper is the partner in charge at Self Storage 101, an industry consulting firm that assists facility owner/operators and managers in developing more effective and profitable operational systems. The company also aids in conducting performance reviews and providing the necessary tools to perform at higher levels in a competitive industry. To reach him, call 866.269.1311; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.selfstorage101.com.