Self-storage manager: An individual who’s able to wear many hats. Someone who prefers to be busy rather than bored. Detail-oriented and able to multi-task throughout the day. Various roles played in the position include diplomat, accountant, counselor, enforcer, negotiator, repair tech, customer-service representative, and marketing and sales director.
How many of you read the passage above and are nodding their head in agreement? A self-storage management position isn’t an ordinary desk job. From collecting rent and addressing delinquencies, to negotiating vendor contracts and marketing, a manager’s daily tasks are varied but all equally important.
First and foremost, a storage manager works to increase occupancy and revenue so the owner is successful and the site is profitable. A profitable owner can then invest in growing his company, which will benefit him and his employees.
However, the manager also works for the customer. He needs to provide the best service as well as help solve the tenant’s storage problem. The manager makes recommendations for the best size unit, shows the customer around the property and suggests retail merchandise to help with his moving and storage needs.
A self-storage manager must also send invoices, process payments, keep customers informed regarding site issues, and communicate effectively with them by phone, fax and e-mail. These tasks make renting a unit a stress-free experience.
Now, let’s look at that definition again: able to wear many hats. In any given day, a facility manager might:
- Put on his customer-service hat to assist a tenant with a move-in
- Wear his construction hat to make a repair on the property
- Put on his housekeeping hat to clean out a storage unit or sweep and mop a hallway
- Switch to a marketing hat to attend a chamber of commerce function and network with other business leaders
- Don an accounting hat to process payments or explain an invoice to a tenant
- Dust off his counselor hat to console a customer when his life is in turmoil and the crisis has reached the crying point
Any and all of these situations can and do happen on the job. Some roles are more challenging than others, but all are critical to operating a successful site. Now, let’s take a closer look at a few of the hats managers wear most often.
The Gatekeeper Hat
In many cases, a facility manager is the public face for the owner. He meets each customer, networks in the community, deals with vendors on contracts and onsite projects, and assists with the disposition of delinquent accounts. As the public representative, he’s expected to be professional, courteous, properly attired and a positive reflection of the company.
This role also includes being the “gatekeeper” between the owner and customers. Being able to make decisions, enforce the lease, resolve tenant issues and look out for the owner’s best interests is an important responsibility.
The Maintenance and Housekeeping Hat
This isn’t the kind of job in which you sit and wait for the phone to ring or for someone to come through the door. There’s always something that needs to be done. Maintenance and housekeeping are two important hats for a facility manager. When wearing the maintenance hat, there are light bulbs to change, unit doors to adjust, trash to be picked up around the property and emergency lights to maintain. In addition, floors, doors and walls need to be painted, bollards should be cleaned and signs should to be washed. Gutters, roofs and sidewalks also require regular maintenance.
Sporting the housekeeping hat involves cleaning the office and bathrooms, washing the windows, organizing the front counter, and ensuring the customers’ first impression is the best one possible. These two hats can consume much of a manager’s time.
The Safety Hat
A storage manager also wears a threat-assessment hat. In this role, he looks for safety concerns, hazards and ways to protect the property from accidents, weather-related issues and theft. He’s looking out for the owner’s interests and the reputation of the facility as well as for his own safety and that of his tenants.
The Accounting Hat
This hat has many uses. Related tasks include collecting payments, sending invoices, charging late fees and e-mailing receipts. A manager also maintains the retail inventory of packing and moving supplies. These items need to be ordered, priced, inventoried and displayed.
In some cases, a manager might also pay vendor invoices, order maintenance and cleaning supplies, or follow up on contracts. Some managers are involved with street-rate comparisons and rental-rate management, which includes assessing rate increases or rental discounts.
The Customer-Service Hat
Customer service is a hat that’s used every day. Managers wear this when helping with move-ins, transfers and move-outs. Other tasks include answering questions from prospects and responding to existing customers who have questions about their unit or need information regarding their account.
Managers regularly work with customers who are in a life transition that can be emotionally challenging. They may need to comfort someone who’s had a death in the family, encourage a person moving or changing jobs, be a cheerleader to a tenant who’s getting married, or counsel a customer who’s getting out of a bad relationship. Listening to the person, and showing empathy and compassion are all parts of the customer-service hat.
The Marketing Hat
The marketing hat deals with charity and community events, publicity, ad creation, press releases, chamber of commerce meetings and other networking opportunities. It also includes e-mails to customers and social media posts promoting the property. Networking with apartment managers, business owners, builders, real estate offices and other community organizations that can refer customers to the storage facility also play a part.
The self-storage manager fills many roles. Some days, he performs many different functions, while at other times, he may only need to focus on one or two. Each hat is important in the success of the storage facility. The manager must be able to switch from one hat to another throughout the day to achieve the best possible results for the owner and his customers.
Donna Edwards is a manager at Plantation Self Storage in Bluffton, S.C., which is operated by Southeast Management Co. She joined the company in 2013 and has more than 10 years of experience in property management. Her marketing experience includes setting budgets, designing yearly marketing plans, and creating and writing all types of advertising. For more information, call 843.815.8000; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.southeastmanagementcompany.com.