A very close friend of mine has been asked to relocate from Phoenix to the East Coast as part of a corporate transition. He’s open to the idea, but as this is a profound decision that will impact his entire family, he’s cautiously weighing the pros and cons. Of course, at the core of the conversation is the issue of compensation. While the company has a strong relocation program that will cover all of the expenses and some portion of the inconvenience associated with a cross-country move, he hasn’t been offered what he believes is sufficient financial incentive.
He received a proposal that includes a moderate pay increase, but he finds it lackluster. He’s been with the firm for almost 15 years, and while his supervisors have hinted that he’s up for a significant promotion, it wasn’t included as part of the deal. He believes it’s time they put their money with their mouths are, finally making good on the new title and an appropriate raise to match. That would make the pain of the move worthwhile, inspiring some enthusiasm around the venture.
So he asked my help to write a strong counteroffer. “You know how to work with words … Help me weave some magic into this thing,” he said. I was happy to, but there was one thing I needed to know before getting down to brass tacks.
“What are you worth?” I asked. Then I got a blank stare. After a few seconds of charged silence, he cleared his throat and began to rattle off all his professional qualifications. I cut him off: “I didn’t ask for your resume, I asked what you’re worth.”
“What do you mean? All of these skills have value.”
“Great. Put a dollar figure on them.”
He knows he wants and deserves a raise, but like most of us, he’s uncomfortable putting a price on his professional prowess. Perhaps it’s because we’re so invested in our work, and it consumes so much of our lives, that we find it impossible to separate our value in a specialized capacity from our value as human beings. Under these circumstances, any discussion of worth becomes deeply metaphysical; and that’s not easy to resolve in a one-page synopsis to an HR department.
We decided to do some research. What we needed was a salary benchmark for people in my friend’s occupation with commensurate skills. So we started at glassdoor.com, a career community where you can access a massive database of company reviews, salary reports, job listings and more. We searched around and found positions similar to the one my friend currently holds as well as the promotion he desires, taking note of salary ranges and benefit packages.
After an hour of investigation and debate (as well as an excellent bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir), we had a number that was motivating but fair based on what my friend brings to the table. We also assembled a list of add-on incentives to round out the package. All that remained was to put it on paper with eloquent words to remind his superiors why he deserves this new challenge (and the accompanying benefits) in conjunction with the move. If they have sense, they’ll realize it’s less expensive to give him what he wants and retain his expertise than to cut him loose and be left with the task of recruiting and training a new employee to do the job.
Everyone knows the success of a modern-day self-storage business is contingent upon the quality and skills of the facility manager. The person in this position can make or break an operation. It’s like industry expert Bob Copper often asks: “Would you give the keys to your brand-new sports car to your teenager?” Of course not. Similarly, you shouldn’t turn over control of your multi-million dollar investment to someone who isn’t qualified to run it properly.
Everyone also knows you get what you pay for. Manager compensation has become a provocative issue in our industry as owners and their employees acknowledge the hefty impact of the manager role. What should a self-storage manager be paid? That’s the million-dollar question.
Of course, the answer will depend on many factors, such as facility size and location and employee experience. After the recent Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas, where manager pay was discussed in a seminar devoted to the topic, it’s clear that many people in this industry have no idea what the answer should be. Few managers know what they’re worth, and a lot of owners out there either don’t know what they should be paying their staff or they’re doing a great job pretending.
The trouble is largely one of information. Not all employers are seeking to take advantage of their managers, and not all managers are naïve. It’s just that there’s very little data available regarding industry compensation. The larger operators have their own internal statistics, but what’s an independent owner to do? It’s one thing to shop your competition for rental rates; discovering their salary structure is an entirely different trial.
This is why Inside Self-Storage has launched its 2015 Manager-Compensation Survey, an anonymous questionnaire for facility managers that seeks authentic information on wages, salaries, benefits and other incentives. We want to find out what managers are truly being paid, both in cash and inducements. The results will be shared with ISS readers this fall. We hope it helps managers understand what’s common and possible by way of compensation, and helps owners create more realistic and enticing packages for their hires.
I know there are some owners out there who are uncomfortable with this endeavor. They may be concerned that the data will cause unrest among their staff, particularly if the benchmarks are higher than their current rate of pay. All I can say is if you’re worried that you’re underpaying your team, you probably are, and it may be wise to address it. After all, it’s your own investment you’re protecting.
If you’re a manager, I strongly encourage you to participate in the survey. It’s completely anonymous and will only take a few moments. If you’re a facility owner or represent a third-party management firm, encourage your managers to contribute. This is valuable information that will ultimately create a stronger, more profitable industry. If you have questions or comments about the survey, feel free to post them in the comments box below.
Let’s make sure self-storage managers are compensated commensurate to the responsibilities they carry, which are significant. If they are the backbone of this business, we want to ensure they’re healthy and strong.