When I was going through my early college years I remember a professor who gave me some advice that I have never forgotten. He told our economics class on the first day that whatever we learned from his course, we should never think for a minute that we would be qualified to speak intelligently about economics until we have lived the experience.
Just as important, he always told us to remember economics is a never-ending subject, and we should engage in learning as much as possible about it and the ramifications of the past, the potential of the future and the application of our knowledge today.
As a self-storage owner/management company executive/facility manager/assistant manager or whatever role you have in the industry, can you really ever learn enough about our products, customers, facilities, markets, competitors, etc? In my humble opinion, the answer is “no.”
At any level, training for our respective positions can come from many sources. For example, we have a “training manager” who teaches all employees about the company policies, procedures, computer system, marketing program, preventive maintenance program, administrative responsibilities and, in general, the way we want them to manage the facility.
The training program encompasses four to seven full days in most cases, with follow-up training lasting another two to three days. Is this realistic for everyone? Of course not, but if you happen to work with a management company the advantages are tremendous. By having a corporate training program, procedures and policies can be changed as needed, professionalism in our stores increases and innovative ideas are presented to employees.
If your company doesn’t have the resources to provide a corporate training program, but you would like your managers to learn more about the business, other resources are available. For example, say you are interested in learning how to answer the telephone more professionally, how to compete with the larger facilities in your market, or would like to save money through preventive maintenance programs.
First, research firms that offer specialized self-storage training programs. There are numerous resources, including the Inside Self-Storage Buyer’s Guide and website, and your state and national association newsletters and periodicals.
Many self-storage vendors also offer training sessions either onsite or via the Web. The advantage to using consultants is they have vast experience by working with a variety of companies and can teach you what they’ve learned to be successful. Often, hiring a training consultant is more affordable than you would think. Consultants also have no biases and tend to be objective.
The Tradeshow Circuit
If hiring an outside training consultant just isn’t in the budget, there are still other avenues you can pursue. How about attending a tradeshow? It is amazing how many people are in this industry yet less than 10 percent have ever attended any kind of industry or state-sponsored tradeshow.
For a real reasonable cost—including travel, hotel, meals and registration—you and your managers can attend a tradeshow over the course of two to five days. In addition to attending seminars with specific topics of interest, you’ll be able to visit with industry vendors on the tradeshow floor and during cocktail hours. The networking is always terrific and the opportunity to share with your fellow self-storage managers/owners/experts has great value.
If you are still not able to afford one of the above methods of training or are not able to travel for an extended period of time, what options do you have? Enter the magical kingdom of the Internet. If there was ever an educational tool that has truly changed the world, this is it. You can take online courses, attend “live webinars,” participate in chat rooms, read blogs or ask questions to get almost instant answers from experts of every imaginable skill set from all over the world.
There are numerous sources for online courses—from industry specific to accredited college courses. Some are free, others are relatively inexpensive, and most can be taken at any time from any computer. I have taken an online course and participated in live webinars and chat rooms, all while traveling. It is truly amazing what you can learn and how easy it is.
Of course, let us not forget our industry publications. The tremendous amount of archived information is readily accessible and relatively easy to get. You can find many articles online, or you can purchase past issues for a nominal cost. Obviously, continuing to subscribe to industry magazines should be a priority. Look at how much you’ve learned just from this issue.
Training is an ongoing task. No matter what combination of tools is available to us, it is and should be a never-ending challenge. By continually learning new techniques, applying new ideas and trying new things, you will surely become the educated one and, in all probability, successful in your self-storage career.
Mel Holsinger is the president of Tucson, Ariz.-based Professional Self Storage Management, which offers self-storage facility management, consulting and development services. He is also a frequent speaker at industry conferences and a regular contributor to Inside Self-Storage. For more information, call 520.319.2164; visit www.proselfstorage.com.