Outsourcing Your Self-Storage Manager Training and What to Expect

The best way to train a self-storage manager is often by outsourcing to an industry professional. This article discusses the benefits to hired training, choosing a partner and what to expect from the process.

Staff training is a big issue for most self-storage owners, one many struggle with daily. For many, the extent of training they provide is, "Here are the keys. Call me if it's an emergency." This attitude is bad for the asset as well as the manager who’s thrust into being in charge.

For some operators, the answer is to outsource. This is especially important for green owners who have no operating experience. Whether you’re new or established, a professional trainer or consultant with self-storage expertise can help deliver a successful, income-producing property. However, if you Google “self-storage training,” “self-storage consultant” or “self-storage education,” you’ll get tons of search results. Confusing, right? Where do you start?

Not only are there many resources available, training comes in a variety of formats—online, onsite, group, one-on-one, state-specific and even customized. Which will satisfy your specific requirements? That depends. Are you looking for help with basic management skills, advanced marketing and sales training, lien-law compliance, phone techniques, delinquency processing, revenue management, or something else?

Sifting Through Resources

There’s a plethora of resources you can mine to find a suitable self-storage training partner. Read articles from industry trade publications, watch educational DVDs and attend conferences. Many of the experts who write articles or present at self-storage events offer training and consulting services. This is a great way to find someone in whose expertise you can feel comfortable, knowing they’ll be a good fit for your business. State associations are also a great source, as they nearly all provide training, conferences and other tools to improve your operation.

When hiring a trainer or consultant, it’s often best to choose someone you’ve met, heard present or been referred to by another operator or vendor. Among your considerations should be whether the person matches your management style and philosophy. Also, will he be using the same management software you use (or are interested in learning)? Does he have experience and references in self-storage? How deep is his understanding of your unique challenges?

Getting Started

You can often begin the training process by “mystery shopping” your staff by phone and in person, and there are several industry companies that provide this service. Each call will be recorded for you and your team to review. Each in-person report should include details about site curb appeal and cleanliness, and impressions about the manager’s sales skills and closing ability. As a rule, it’s good to phone shop your managers monthly.

In-person training is another strong option. It could be that a visit from a professional who can review facility reports and company processes with your team will have the most impact, pinpointing exactly which kind of training would most benefit your operation. Most consultants will perform an evaluation of your needs and recommend a path to achieve your goals.

Owners sometimes opt to sit in on manager-training sessions, though it may make sense to first have an owners-only session to ensure you and the provider are on the same page about programs, offerings and techniques. Classes can sometimes be held on Sunday afternoons or in the evenings so facilities don’t have to close. Otherwise, you may choose to close the site for a day or afternoon so the entire staff can be together for training.

The best outcomes are often achieved by having the trainer work one-on-one with your manager or entire staff, at your facility, using your own reports to guide the session. For multi-site operations, it’s beneficial for the trainer to first visit your locations to gather reports from each. This way, he can address issues relevant to each manager or facility.

What to Expect

Many industry trainers offer a basic, two-week program that covers all the duties and functions related to managing a self-storage property. Often, the first week of instruction is held at a specialized training site, with the second week conducted at the trainees’ facility. Here’s a list of commonly addressed topics and tasks:

  • Human resources
  • Office overview
  • Product overview
  • Property layout
  • Computer basics
  • Management software
  • Office filing system
  • Operating funds
  • Opening procedure
  • Overnight payments
  • Morning walk-through
  • Daily checklist
  • Phone and walk-in sales
  • Leases and addenda
  • Charges and fees
  • Vacate process
  • Closing procedure
  • Evening walk-through
  • Electronic forms
  • Merchandise/retail inventory
  • Supply ordering
  • Vendor invoices
  • Incident reports
  • Delinquencies/auctions
  • Space audits
  • Unit cleaning
  • Site maintenance
  • Curb appeal/maintenance
  • Basic marketing
  • Property layout
  • Standard office equipment
  • Operation systems
  • Access-control system
  • Competition report
  • Revenue management
  • Rental-truck program or other ancillary sales (if applicable)

Once basic training is complete, a mentor is usually assigned. A third phase of training is often done to cover more marketing as well as social media use.

Training Pays

Whichever path you choose, training has big rewards for everyone. Increased income, reduced delinquencies, improved operational efficiencies and happier employees will immediately impact your bottom line. Turnover is reduced when managers feel well-trained and supported by ownership. So, get out to the next industry event in your area or attend a national conference to see how formal training can benefit your organization.

M. Anne Ballard is president of training, marketing and developmental services for Universal Storage Group and the founder of Universal Management Co. She’s past president of the Georgia Self Storage Association and has served on the national Self Storage Association’s board of directors. She’s also participated in the planning, design and operation of numerous storage facilities. For more information, call 770.801.1888; visit www.universalstoragegroup.com.

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