Operating multiple self-storage facilities can be difficult, but expansion is often a natural progression for a company. In some cases, it’s the only way to survive in a harsh competitive environment. Some of the common challenges of managing more than one property are:
- Regulating and standardizing expenses
- Maintaining the physical sites
- Establishing and nurturing a corporate culture
- Communicating between locations
- Rolling out changes or improvements
- Ensuring service quality and consistency
It’s easy to fall prey to “silo syndrome,” which is when each facility operates as though it’s independent rather than in synergy with other locations. The goal should be to align all operations across your portfolio. Think of it as a fleet of boats: You want them all heading in the same direction, together, not going off every which way. Let me give you an example.
Let’s say you have two properties. The access gate breaks at Facility B. You have a tested, affordable protocol for these kinds of issues laid out for Facility A, but the manager at Facility B doesn’t know it. In a panic to get the gate fixed, he finds his own solution, and later presents you with a hefty bill from the repair technician. Both time and money could have been saved with the right multi-site strategy.
Of course, daily operation at each location may differ depending on its size, number of staff, volume of tenants and other factors. The bigger the site, the greater the workload. Still, when you align your self-storage operations through a single, comprehensive approach, you’ll see them all improve. Employees will be more efficient, and expenses will decrease. Let’s look at some ways to accomplish this.
The importance of corporate culture can’t be understated. No matter how many self-storage locations you have, you must always strive to adhere to the same values and provide the same level of customer service at each. This is how you build a brand out of a business. If you aren’t sure how uniformly things are functioning across your sites, get feedback from your staff and customers! They’ll tell you what their experiences have been.
The first step in establishing your culture is to identify where your company has been successful and the behaviors you wish to nurture across all sites. Use them as an example of how every facility should operate.
Next, build a team of skilled people who can share their knowledge, and put them in charge of educating the rest of your staff. To build and maintain a consistent culture across all locations, you need to focus on training. Help your new employees learn from the experience of your most successful team members.
Make sure all employees undergo the same training program. Teach them to do their jobs efficiently and offer ongoing support. Perhaps choose a single corporate trainer. If you establish a trainer at each location, make sure they’re all in sync. Work closely with them on what to teach, when and how.
You can also outsource your training or creating a series of online courses. To engage and motivate staff, organize workshops with hands-on examples, and let them experience and learn from real-life scenarios. There are many options. The important thing is to nurture corporate culture and ensure your customers have the same level of quality, no matter which of your self-storage locations they choose
Having strong communication is critical in a multi-site self-storage operation. You must always know how every location is performing. If you don’t, you’ll start to see gaps in your business, which’ll result in financial loss.
Focus on communicating regularly with staff. Be thoughtful regarding which methods you use. Consider investing in quality communication software and equipment. Schedule online or in-person meetings. Discuss all important matters, and make sure you’re up to date on any potential issues. Since you can’t be in several places at once, choose someone at each location who can keep you informed.
You also need to think about the communication you have with customers. Make sure they’re familiar with all your rules and procedures, regardless of location. They should be aware of any changes occurring at their site, or any special promotions in which they can participate. They should also know who their manager is and how to get help when they need it. In addition to facility-specific contact methods, offer a general service number they can call at any time. Service quality is always a primary goal.
As you’ll quickly notice, a key element of operating multiple self-storage facilities is synchronization of work. When it comes to site maintenance, you need to implement a plan. Consider the busiest days of the week and the size of each facility. If they differ, they’ll require various amount of work and resources. Furthermore, one property might be in better shape than others.
With that in mind, you can take three approaches to maintenance:
- Schedule it when needed, depending on the state of the facility
- Schedule proactive maintenance every two weeks or once a month
- Implement day-to-day routines for managers
The option you chose will depend on your finances and the number of staff you have. See what works best for your business.
Advertising across multiple self-storage locations can be tricky. Even though it’s the same business, each property is unique. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each will help you create an effective campaign. You must find a balance between the needs of each site. If one of your facilities is operating better than another, allocate more marketing dollars and effort toward getting customers to the weaker site.
Take advantage of technology. It’s being used in almost every industry now to increase productivity, improve the customer experience, increase revenue and more. When it comes to operating multiple self-storage facilities, you can use it in many ways. For example, there are software applications that’ll help you manage and secure your business remotely. There are also tools that’ll help you automate processes. Do the research and explore what the market has to offer.
Final Words of Wisdom
Here are a few final bits of insight:
- Learn to motivate and educate your staff. A financial incentive isn’t always the best approach. Instead, offer them knowledge, opportunities to improve, and assistance in reaching their goals.
- Be able to recognize—and accept—when your company is in trouble. Listen to your self-storage managers when they tell you about site issues.
- Don’t take staff or customer feedback lightly.
- Closely monitor your competitors, but don’t shy away from learning from them. Those who’ve already walked the path of success know all the pitfalls and shortcuts.
- Don’t rush to expand your business. Know when to move forward and when to wait. If you decide to expand, have a solid plan.
There are many challenges to operating multiple self-storage facilities. It’s hard work, but with the right alignment strategy, everything can be done!
Graham Willis is a freelance author and blogger who writes for Master Moving Guide, which provides a moving-company database, free moving estimates and moving advice. He enjoys reading about technological advances and might even implement some strategies in his future ventures.