Over the last few years, I've had numerous conversations with fellow self-storage operators and small-business owners regarding the ups and downs of life and owning a business. I’ve also been reading a few books on boundaries, which has been a real eye-opener for me, and numerous comments on the Self-Storage Talk online community and other social media platforms. I think setting boundaries with our customers is something we can all practice and use in our daily life. Let me explain.
I used to be that owner who never had an end to the workday. I’d take calls or answer emails at all hours. I’d respond even at 9 p.m. Sometimes I still take after-hour communication, but only if I’m not with my family.
Is this you, too? And how do you stop? You make a commitment to be done with work each day by putting a boundary in place. As a result, you’re actually working smarter.
In my house, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. is family time. I want to hear what my kids did at school, what they learned, wrap up their homework, eat dinner, and watch our favorite game shows. I don’t want to field business calls and emails.
When we set a boundaries in our lives, we “train” people in how to treat us and how they can expect to be treated by us. For example, when a new self-storage customer signs a lease with my company, I go over the rental agreement in detail and make note of specific rules and terms to rent with us. I also say things like, “After 6 p.m., we do not pick up the phone for anyone.” I’m available to my customers for 12 out of 24 hours. That's more than enough time for someone to reach me!
Setting boundaries doesn’t just apply to the hours you’re available to customers. It also pertains to how you run your self-storage business. I hear a lot of questions about policies and procedures from operators who new to our industry. They ask, “Should I lock out a tenant when they’re past-due on the rent?” Yes! Or they want to know what they should do when a customer yells at them. Set boundaries! My company added a conduct clause to the lease agreement that states customers will no longer be permitted to rent at our facility if they direct profanity our way. I won’t tolerate that for one second, and neither should you!
I understand self-storage tenants are often going through life challenges when they rent space with us. Of course, we need to do our best to provide a safe facility and top-notch customer experience. However, we also need to set limitations, so work doesn’t spill into our personal life. Define your own boundaries and teach them to your customers!
Adam Armstrong is president of A&G Storage Solutions, which operates a facility in Blue Ridge, Georgia. His newest startup, The Self Storage Consultant, aims to provide newcomers to the self-storage industry with knowledge and resources to make their projects a reality. To reach him, call 770.776.8464.