Finding that perfect team member to operate your self-storage facility is only the beginning of what you hope is a long and profitable relationship. We know that hiring and training is a costly venture, so its important to get the right candidate for the job.
But what about years later when you notice your great staff is getting complacent? Maybe the facility isnt as clean as it used to be, phone skills start to fall off, income isnt rising but delinquencies are, and things in general have just fallen into a ho-hum routine. Maybe you've also become a bit complacent. Youve asked for changes from the staff, but you havent been good at enforcing things. It happens. The key is to break out of the rut as soon as you notice it.
You wont get different results if you keep doing the same things. Drastic results only come from drastic changes. To get a better outcome, you need to turbo charge your staff. Most likely, you have great people who have just wound down over time. Your job is to wind them back up.
Begin with a team meeting. Let employees know things have gotten a little lax and you have some ideas to re-energize the business. Let them know that you, too, have fallen into a routine and are committed to breaking the cycle.
Its perfectly OK to say, We need to step it up a notch. Set the tone that youre the coach. Express your confidence in their ability to make the necessary changes. Make the meeting fun and lively. Brainstorm and talk about ways to raise energy and enthusiasm. Encourage a free flow of ideas and creativity. Get fired up! Talk about what can be done to move the needle.
Use this as an opportunity to talk about everything from income and expense goals to how the phone is answered, to uniforms and cleanliness. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Make an Action Plan
Make a list of whats going to get done, by whom and when. In addition to things the staff will work on, include items to which you are personally committed. Get a pledge from employees to follow through with the tasks assigned to them. Additionally, ask them to hold you accountable for your action items.
Set a date for follow-up meetings to review your progress. These should be short and positively focused. Make it fun by using a poster or whiteboard where everyone can track the progress.
Make It Sparkle
A clean environment is a vital part of self-storage services. If the office hasnt had a deep clean in a while, it may be overdue. Built-up dirt and dust can have a negative effect on your business. You may not even see it because it's been there so long. (Go look behind your computer or printer, and youll see what I mean.) Its time for it to go. Hire a service or hold a staff cleaning and pizza party. However you do it, address everything inside and out. Employees will do a better job when the facility is clean, and tenants will love the fresh look and smell.
Get Back on Track
As you empty all the office cabinets and drawers, youll come across stuff you havent seen for years. These might include lead-tracking sheets, marketing reports, tenant-referral cards, vacate notices and such. Most of these items were a good idea then and are still a good idea now. Rummaging through the office can unearth some priceless tools that can help you and your team track progress.
Nows a good time to get back to basics. Require the use of these tools and audit the staff to make sure its getting done. As their coach, they expect you to keep them on track. Its your responsibility to help them perform their best.
Check In on the Dress Code
People are dressed in business attire generally feel and work better. Encourage employees to dress professionally by supplying company shirts. Baggy pants and flip flops probably dont give the image you want. Encourage the golf-pro look, not the surfer-dude look. Consider springing for a new pair of shoes. For an hourly employee, work shoes are not where they want to spend their discretionary income. For you, $40 to $60 results in a better business image and an appreciative, well-shod employee. Easy fix.
Assign Investigations and Reviews
To keep managers engaged, delegate assignments or projects to investigate and review. Over time, even good managers get complacent on things such as competitor surveys. Send your staff or, even better, go with them to visit the managers at competing stores.
When was the last time you really looked at your market? Managers get comfortable e-mailing prices back and forth. By verifying the information together, you can get back to more structured reviews. Visiting your competition is a good starting point to renew enthusiasm for the business. It can be the jumping-off point for your re-energized action plan. Schedule to do this no less than twice per year and stick to it. You should also assign a goal around reducing discounts each month, or track and reward managers who rent without a discount.
Try creating assignments and action plans for each of the items on which you want staff to focus. As the leader, your assignment is to review your business forms and letters. If you have the same lease you had seven years ago, have it reviewed and updated by an attorney. A number of states have made changes in self-storage legislation. Remember, the rental agreement is the document on which your entire business is based. Do you really know what it contains?
Set staff goals based on the results you want. Make it measurable. Instead of do better on the phone, make it achieve a score of 90 or greater on my next three phone shops. Phone-shop programs, by the way, are a great training tool and an easy way to offer staff bonuses.
Build a contest or bonus based on an occupancy or income goal. Make it a stretch but attainable. Good managers dont want a gimme, they want a challenge. If its too easy, they just toss it off.
Find out what motivates staff outside of work. Encourage them to create and pursue personal goals. Support them in their charitable activities. Most important, recognize and reward employees when goals are met. Take every opportunity to have a little fun. When the team is enjoying the job, that vibe carries over to tenants.
Offer Benefits and Encourage Training
In todays world, being able to offer benefits to employees can be difficult. But not all benefits need to be costly. Consider adding simple items to your package such as a membership to Toastmasters International. This club can make a huge difference for people. Membership is only $36 every six months, and theres a club almost everywhere. Just go to Toastmasters.org and search for one in your ZIP code.
Foster learning by offering to reimburse managers for business books, courses or seminars. Pay for a computer class if it will help them in the office. Your interest in their success will be appreciated, and theyll learn something they can use for the benefit of your business.
There are lots of ways to re-energize your staff and storage facility. It all starts with the desire to get different results. After that, its just a matter of taking action and a commitment to ongoing coaching to get there. Good luck!
Linnea Appleby is the owner of Lime Tree Management, a Florida-based self-storage management and consulting firm. Shes a frequent contributor to ISS, an instructor for the Self-Storage Training Institute, and a speaker at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo. For more information, call 941.350.7859; e-mail [email protected].