By Aycha Williams
Some of the factors that determine a self-storage facility's profitability are location, curb appeal, price, unit mix and marketing. Of equal importance are customer service and manager sales skills. Managers who have a successful retail-sales background will generally be great at selling and will most likely have excellent service skills, too, as these go hand-in-hand.
Most successful self-storage owners hire experienced facility managers and put them through rigorous training. But what about the part-time help they employ to support those managers? Isn't it important that they share the same skills?
What qualifications do you look for when hiring part-time "relief" staff? Following are four tips to help you bring in the best support personnel for your team and ensure your own business profitability.
Tip 1: A Successful Retail-Sales Background Is A Must
Operators know to be diligent when hiring a self-storage manager and look for the right candidate with a proven track record in retail sales, service and operation. But when it comes to hiring a part-time manager, most tend to underestimate the skill set and experience they require.
Usually, when we hear the title relief manager, we think of an employee who is only working a few hours a week and is mostly responsible for site maintenance, busy with fixing things or cleaning units. In reality, site maintenance is only a portion of the job.
If yours is a larger facility with a lot of customer traffic, the part-time manager ends up being in contact with your prospects at least half the time. Your phones are ringing and you have walk-in customers. Your full-timer is either selling on the phone or in person, and your part-time help may be the only sales back-up. For example, at one of the properties my company manages, the part-timers work five days per week to keep up with the traffic and workload.
It doesn't make much difference if yours is a smaller facility with less traffic. The relief manager may only be working two or three days per week, but the whole point of hiring the additional help is to rent more units. If you hire someone with no skills, you can bet that he won't close any sales. The customer, with multiple other storage options and little time to spare, will not wait to be convinced. When hiring part-time managers, consider including retail-sales experience as a requirement in your job posting.
TIP 2: Look for Motivation, Ambition and the Ability to Work With Others
All jobs, no matter how big or small, require a certain level of diligence and a sense of ownership to be done well. While you may think that motivation and determination are not critical attributes to have in your part-timer, full-time managers who have to work with them disagree. I asked a few site managers what traits they look for when they interview candidates for a part-time position. Heres what they wanted in support staff:
- Can take initiative and run the facility in the absence of the site manager with minimal supervision
- Can multi-task
- Has a genuine interest in the business
- Is a team player
- Has great customer-service skills
Setting your part-time manager requirements at a higher level may make it harder to find the right employee. However, it will benefit your business in the long run by helping you create the right team for your facility that will work toward a common goal.
TIP 3: Clearly Identify Responsibilities and Offer the Right Training
You're spending thousands of marketing dollars to get that phone to ring or get that customer to walk in the door. How would you like to listen to a phone call on which your relief manager denies a prospect the existing special offer because he is unaware of it? Or takes too long to find the availability and price for a certain unit size because he doesn't know how to use your system? Or is just plain rude and uninterested in renting units because he doesn't think sales is part of his job?
The part-timer may very well be your future site manager in training. You may argue that the average relief manager spends the larger part of his working hours simply maintaining the property, but does he ever answer the phone? Does he interact with prospects or customers? If so, then he has to go through the same operations and sales training as your full-time managers.
Relief managers are mostly offered minimal training (if any) that has to be completed in a very short time before they start working, sometimes single-handedly. For your self-storage investment to be a success, carefully evaluate the responsibilities of your part-time employee and offer the right training program to help him help your business.
TIP 4: There Is a Way to Reverse High Turnover
Its not a secret that there's a high turnover rate for employees in the self-storage industry. Could this be partially attributed to a lack of investment in employee development? With average pay starting at minimum wage, the positions attract candidates who may be more transitory. This puts the owner in a position where he's not eager to invest in part-time staff, especially if they think the employee may not be around two months later.
You may not be able offer a higher wage. But by hiring the right candidate, clearly defining responsibilities and offering growth opportunities via training, your part-timers may not be as eager to move on to a different job. Add to this mix a performance-based bonus program, and you can sit back and watch while your managers and property thrive.
Small to mid-size self-storage operators work around the clock to improve facility profitability and cash flow. We come up with new techniques and strategies to advance the areas that need work. The hiring and training of part-time employees is an area that should not be overlooked. It will bring you one step closer to the objective of streamlined operation and increased profit.
Aycha Williams is a marketing and training strategist for AC Commercial Property Management, manages more than 1.2 million square feet of self-storage and other commercial holdings in Florida and Texas. Williams oversees the strategy, implementation and tracking of all company marketing efforts and property-manager training programs. She has more than 15 years of commercial real estate, high-tech and consumer-products marketing experience. For more information, call 407.647.9800; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.accommercial.net .