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Little Changes That Make a Big Impact: Becoming a Better Self-Storage Manager

Self-Storage Manager Superhero
The role of the self-storage manager is changing, so it’s time to get with the times. Here are small changes managers can make that will have a big impact on their role within their company and the success of their facility.

By Rick Beal

As I’ve visited various self-storage facilities, I’ve seen the different roles managers play. Some have a great deal of responsibility over the day-to-day management of a property while others have less. Wherever you might fall in this spectrum, it’s important to know the role of the modern storage manager is changing—and you can be part of that change.

In this article, you’ll be introduced to concepts and suggestions you can implement within your own company to improve your role and the performance of your facility. Little changes can have big effect!

Be Professional

You have a responsibility first and foremost to yourself. Who do you want to be? Are you the manager who shows up at 9 a.m. to open the store or the one who gets there 20 minutes early to plan the day? You must decide which kind of manager you are.

Most people don’t realize that the difference between successful and unsuccessful people isn’t their ability; it’s their commitment to personal growth. It’s why you’re reading this article and another manager isn’t. You want to better yourself. You need to push yourself as a person and as a facility manager. Do things that will make you grow. If you’re not willing to evolve, you’re not willing to reach your potential.

A professional manager learns more about the industry and organization of which he is a part. There are many resources that can help you, including associations, publications and tradeshows. Take advantage of these opportunities, and use them to better yourself and your company.

A professional manager takes time to get to know the facilities in the market around him. It won’t be easy and it will take time; however, make the effort to meet with the other self-storage managers in the community and share pricing. I’m a huge believer in sharing rental rates. Prices aren’t a trade secret nobody is supposed to discuss! Good managers will share pricing, as it’s pretty simple to get it other ways anyway.

A professional manager plans his day. If you don’t organize your day or week, you’re setting yourself up for a hectic one. Storage is a business in which your days are always different. You never know when the phone will ring, when a customer will walk through your door or an emergency will come up. You’ll have an hour of chaos as well as blocks of time that are slow. To be productive, you need to have a plan.

A year ago, I bought day planners for myself and all of my employees. I asked them to plan out their days and weeks whenever possible. After a few days, I had some planning ninjas! Not only did the planner keep me on point to ensure I completed my own projects, it helped ensure my team was getting their tasks done. As their supervisor, I had the ability to check their planners and see what they did during slow times. It also helped create a system of accountability.

Embrace Customer Service

Your next priority is your customers. Without them, you wouldn’t have a job! Notice I didn’t just say “customers,” I said “your customers.” By making a customer “yours” throughout the initial contact and rental procedure, you’re more responsible for him and his stay at your facility. Providing excellent customer service in self-storage can be tricky. We often only see our tenants when they sign or terminate their lease. We greet them if they come into the office to make a payment or buy retail products. But there might be months or even years between these contacts.

As a manager, how do you take advantage of the limited time you have with your customers to provide the best service possible? By getting to know them as well as you can. Ask them questions; be friendly and open.

Take advantage of any customer-relationship functions in your facility-management software. For example, a day or two after you sign a lease, send your new customer an automatic e-mail thanking him for his business. This is also a great time to ask for an online review! You might send another e-mail 30 days after the initial lease signing, again thanking him for his patronage. You can send a “happy birthday” e-mail, or a “thank-you for storing with us” message on the anniversary of his lease. Following a move-out, send another e-mail to once again thank him for his business. Many software programs can auto-generate these correspondences.

Another practice you can put into play is to create a “customer-relation list.” I keep this list on the facility counter to keep track of all thing things we do to “go above and beyond” for our tenants. Many are simple, but customers really appreciate them. For example, I had a couple of tenants who recently moved to the area and were seeking a good Mexican-food restaurant. Being a self-proclaimed nacho expert, I e-mailed them my favorite three restaurants. They loved that I took the extra effort to send that information. This is a great example of doing a small thing for your customer that will pay dividends in the end.

Improve the Business

There aren’t too many business owners who build a $5 million building, fill it with people’s valuables, hand you the keys and trust you to run it. If you really think about it, you’ve been given a high degree of trust and stewardship! You have a responsibility to your owner to provide him with your best. Below are two key points that will help make you a better manager, thus improving the facility and business.

Finances. Your primary responsibility is to rent units and collect money. After this, you need to understand the financial reports in your software. What’s your facility’s gross potential? What’s your property’s net income? What’s your total in retail sales? Insurance penetration? How much in discounts are you or your team giving away each month? What are your account receivables?

A more important question you need to ask yourself is how you can affect these measures in a positive manner. As a storage manager, if you don’t know these answers, you’re doing a disservice to yourself and your employer. Take the time to learn how to pull financial reports from your management software as well as how read and use them to make positive changes at your site.

Facility. Your property should look second to none. I understand it gets busy. I understand there are only so many hours in a day. However, the key to facility upkeep is to do a little bit every day. It’s hard to schedule a large block of time to mop the halls or pull weeds, but it’s easy to schedule 30 minutes to perform these types of tasks. You need to do that daily. If you don’t, these chores will pile up. Sooner than later it will become easier to say, “Oh, well, missed today.” If you stay on top of it, however, your facility will look stellar.

When’s the best time to start becoming a better manager? NOW! So often I read articles and think, “Wow, that’s a great idea. I think I’ll start doing that.” Then I move on to the next article, close the magazine, and eventually it gets thrown away and I forget the idea. Don’t let that happen here. If something struck you in this article, stop, write it down and start doing it. Remember, it’s the little changes have will have the biggest effect!

Rick Beal is the district manager and part owner of Cubes Self Storage in Salt Lake City. He discovered his passion for the self-storage industry a number of years ago. Since then, his goal has been to help operators embrace new and innovative ideas. His approach to constant industry changes are based on a practical “rubber hits the road” application. His professional motto is “Storage is a business of inches not miles.” He can be reached at [email protected].

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