As the self-storage industry has evolved into a Main Street retail business, the way we staff our properties has also progressed. We now arm the front desk with friendly, knowledgeable, sales-oriented customer-service professionals who understand how to market in the community, handle delicate tenant issues, manage collections and juggle the many other metrics of the business. When you find a manager who has these skills, using him to handle a bunch of facility maintenance is a terrible waste of resources.
Having maintenance staff on the payroll is the most common solution, though hiring an outside company is also a viable option. Which is right for you? Should you hire your own maintenance people or outsource the job? Let’s look at the pros and cons for each.
Cost is the main issue for most businesses and a chief motive for using in-house staff to keep a storage facility in top shape. These wages obviously increase your payroll, but they only account for a portion of the overall expenses. Payroll taxes, workers’ compensation, uniforms, cleaning supplies and equipment are all a part of employing an in-house maintenance person. Consider also the time and expense associated with supervising and administrating these tasks. The overall price per hour of an outsourced program might seem greater at first glance, but when you take into account the many other costs, the difference is not as big as it first appears.
Once you move past the issue of cost, there are other factors to consider. Below are some things to think about before you hire in-house maintenance staff or outsource to a third-party provider.
Expertise and Experience
It takes time and money to find the right candidate for an in-house maintenance position. The appropriate person should be fully trained for most of the required tasks, but there’s no way to truly evaluate his skills without committing to employment. It often takes several days or weeks before you can be confident in a new hire’s abilities, skills, speed and work ethic and determine the level of supervision required. The right employee is priceless. A poor hire results in having to repeat the process, often leaving your site maintenance to fall further behind.
Outsourcing eliminates the need and cost of hiring and supervising your own staff. The maintenance company generally has been vetted, and the skill level and work ethic of its staff confirmed. The workers report to their company rather than you, and any disciplinary action is handled by their supervisor. Just make sure the company is licensed and insured. Also ask if it conducts background checks on its employees.
There are times when your site maintenance will require more than one person, such as when you need to move heavy items. Sometimes a project can just be completed faster with more hands. An outsourced company can temporarily increase staffing to cover these instances with little notice or deliver personnel with the required skill set for a project quickly.
While an in-house maintenance person with electrical or other special skills may be handy to have around, he probably won’t stay long in a position that’s mostly janitorial. You’ll generally end up paying a higher hourly rate when the position doesn’t really warrant it. For the rare instances when additional skills are required, it’s better to contract for them on an as-need basis.
An outsourced company will come in, do the job and move on to other clients. The right in-house employee will take pride in his work and generally be proactive in identifying facility needs. In-house staff is inclined to have more years of service at a facility than employees of an outsourced company. They get to know the business and its expectations. They become a part of the team. Outsourced personnel generally don’t have as much commitment to the company, therefore, they’re less engaged in the outcome of your specific job.
When you outsource maintenance, any staff grievances, supervision and discipline are the obligation of the contractor. Activities such as payroll, time-keeping, labor relations, human resources, benefits, etc., are handled by the company you’ve hired, releasing you from the obligation and associated costs. An injury, illness or other event may derail an in-house maintenance program, while an outsourced service should be able to provide seamless coverage without any impact to you.
Tools and Supplies
A maintenance company will bring the necessary tools and equipment to do the job and may even provide the cleaning and paper supplies. These cost savings should be considered as you evaluate your options.
To outsource or hire your property’s ongoing maintenance staff is a unique decision based on many factors. These are just some of the items to contemplate when considering how to provide for your maintenance needs.
Linnea Appleby is the owner of Lime Tree Management, a self-storage management and consulting firm based in Sarasota, Fla. To contact her, call 941.350.7859; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.limetreemanagement.com.