Today the phrase "work from home" is common as many companies and employees have realized the benefits of telecommuting. But for many in the self-storage industry, "work from home" isn't as accurate as "work near home" or maybe "work at home." For on-site, or resident, managers, working in pajamas isn't an option, though the commute still isn't long, perhaps a flight of stairs or a stroll across the lawn or street.
On the other hand, resident managers always have work right around the corner—they never really escape it. Customers are known to bang on private windows and doors after office hours are over, begging and pleading to pay a bill or get access to a unit. In the rare but often inevitable events of theft and vandalism, resident managers must live within a stone's throw of the criminal act, perhaps putting themselves and their families in harm's way.
Self-Storage Talk, the largest online forum in the self-storage industry, is hosting a discussion on the pros and cons of on-site managers from the manager and owner perspectives. Member Satyra from PhoneSmart began the thread "On-Site Managers" by posing the question, "Any job that comes with a place to stay sounds like the perfect job, but is it scary at times with all the customers knowing where you stay—more specifically, the ones that lose their belongings or become upset for some reason? Where does your peace of mind come from?" So far, nearly 40 responses have surfaced.
The prevailing sentiment among the on-site managers respondents is tenants must be treated and screened like neighbors; you don't want to rent space to anyone whom you wouldn't want living next to you. Of course, some managers don't have the luxury of turning away seedy, "borderline" customers because they need the rental. Member SMSSId points out initial design of a facility with an on-site apartment is crucial. The apartment must be somewhat hidden and tough to access for the Joe Public customer to provide the manager and family with a little privacy. He also suggested putting resident-manager properties in generally safe, low-or-mid-rate crime areas only.
Member Lisa T says the biggest challenge is if the facility offers truck rental completely separate from the self-storage business. Though she understands the business benefit of renting trucks, in her opinion the service attracts even more undesirables than regular self-storage. She also tells a few on-site horror stories, including one where a tenant banged on a restroom door while she was using it, even though a sign out front said, "Manager Will Return Shortly." Other added saftey measures include dogs and alarms at the private residence.
Moderator and manager MusicCity Gal points to an obvious point beyond safety: "You have all of your eggs in one basket," she posts. "If something happens to your job, not only do you have to change jobs, but you also lose your home at the same time." Owners and personnel managers must also consider this complication. They are effectively the boss and landlord of their managers, which carries with it many more responsibilities, yet the salary or wage expectation is also lower.
Those who want to express how much they prefer or abhor on-site management roles can weigh in on the thread at http://www.selfstoragetalk.com/day-day-management/4557-onsite-managers.html. Only registered members can post, but registration is free, takes only a few minutes, and can be done at http://www.selfstoragetalk.com/register.php.
Live and growing since January 2008, Self-Storage Talk is the official forum of Inside Self-Storage, a dynamic services company that provides publications, events and educational resources for the self-storage industry. In addition to more than 4,100 registered members, SST has approximately 4,106 discussion threads and 36,200 posts in 23 different topical subforums.