Designing a Self-Storage Work Culture that Lifts Up All Company Contributors

How would you describe your self-storage company culture? Can you? It takes work to establish a positive, healthy work environment based on shared goals and principles, but here’s some guidance to help you craft a culture that benefits employees, customers and leadership.

Dwight Broering

September 12, 2023

5 Min Read
Designing a Self-Storage Work Culture

About a year ago, I was asked by a friend and self-storage colleague about my work environment. Considering a job change, he wanted to know what’s kept me here for 16-plus years. It took me a moment to answer. I finally said something like, “I work with some wonderful people, and we have a great company culture.” Less than insightful.

He flustered me further by asking me to describe our culture in detail. I realized in that moment that I’d never really put this into words and had no clear answer. This conversation put me on a mission to better define our values as a company, to ensure all employees have a positive feeling about the philosophy and direction of the business.

Work culture isn’t something that immediately becomes reality as soon as leadership puts it in words. It evolves over time, based on ideas and principles expressed by all company contributors (employees, leaders and customers). It’s important for any business to have a well-defined set of goals and values that everyone can get on board with and loyally uphold over time.

Defining and sustaining your self-storage culture is important for several reasons. First, it allows everyone to be on the same page and work toward common goals. It helps hold staff accountable if objectives aren’t being met. It leads to increased team satisfaction and productivity, which creates a competitive advantage when it comes to hiring. Finally, it equips you to answer quickly and confidently if someone ever asks you to describe your culture!

Creating on a Definition

A good way to begin defining your self-storage work culture is to create a mission statement and set of core values. This is something my company didn’t have a year ago. Our leadership group started by researching the mission statements of other corporations we admire. As you can imagine, there are an endless supply of examples! Some are paragraphs long while others are a single sentence.

Our focus was on clarifying what we wanted our company to stand for in the eyes of employees and customers. We looked at the mission-statement samples we’d gathered, and then took pen to paper. We ultimately arrived at the verbiage we use today. It’s only four sentences, but it speaks volumes about our company and its values, including words like teamwork, accountability, dedication and supportiveness. These are now the bedrock of our culture.

Transforming Culture

Once we had our mission statement, we began to transform our organization from being a “great place to work because we have great people” to one that’s committed to common goals and values. These are things we all strive to achieve in our day-to-day interactions with each other, customers, investors, vendors and even our online audience.

One of the most important things to understand is this process doesn’t happen overnight or simply because you put some words on paper. Your work culture is part of your corporate identity and can take years to develop. It involves gaining credibility and commitment through transparency, reliability and inclusivity, resulting in employees being inspired and more engaged overall.

Most self-storage team members will commit to and be inspired by leaders who follow the same principles and ideals they’re being asked to uphold. Further respect is garnered by holding accountable those who don’t abide by these values. In other words, it isn’t enough to talk the talk; everyone needs to walk the walk, as the cliché goes.

Sustaining Culture

At my company, to keep our culture in the forefront of our minds, we printed cards and table tents with our mission statement and values. These are given to employees and prominently displayed in our offices. Additionally, we make it a point to ask for feedback from team members during site visits. We have open discussions about what we could be doing better or differently. Occasionally, we ask employees to participate in group activities to help drive any necessary course corrections.

We also dedicate a portion of our quarterly team meetings to our mission statement and core values. This presentation is usually led by a member of our leadership group and typically includes a question-and-answer session. Many of our teammates like to be heard and share their experiences. There’s generally a good range of new and tenured employees present, which leads to great conversations and ideas.

Return on Personal Investment

A great objective when developing your self-storage work culture is to answer the question: What’s in it for me? What’s in it for the owner, facility manager, customer, office administrator, etc.? Everyone wants a return on their personal investment. This is true across the board, whether you work at the home office or in the field.

Work culture can take many forms, but here’s my simplest advice: Invest in your self-storage team’s growth and provide them with the support and feedback they desire and deserve. Take an active interest in their success. By taking care of them, they’ll take care of you. Your company will be a happier, more productive place to work and attract the best possible candidates when it’s time to grow your team. That’s what’s in it for everyone.

Dwight Broering is vice president of self-storage operations for The Jenkins Organization, a real estate investment and development firm specializing in self-storage and RV parks. With more than 25 years of industry experience, he joined the company in 2007 to oversee properties in multiple states. He’s responsible for implementing of operational strategies, with a goal of minimizing expenses and maximizing margins. He also owns Dayton Texas Storage in Dayton, Texas. To reach him, email [email protected].

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