There are myriad elements that influence the success or failure of a self-storage business, but in my decade-plus of managing a facility in the Utah desert, I’ve come to believe in four core tenets. These are what make the difference between operations that flourish and those that don’t.
Tenet 1: Staffing Is Supreme
In visiting dozens of self-storage facilities in my own market and other areas of the country, I believe the major factor that separates thriving operations from others is staff who genuinely care about their property and customers. They love what they do. Those who go above and beyond to help and always have a welcoming smile make a world of difference in the overall success of the business. To me, these are the qualities of an outstanding management team:
- Genuine care for the customer
- Strong work ethic
If the staff at your facility don’t reflect these characteristics, it may be time for additional training or employee changeover. Consider looking inward at things you can change as a team member to improve everyone’s overall job fulfillment. I’ve been fortunate to work with owners who listen, and trust and empower me and the rest of our staff to come up with resolutions and suggestions. They listen and act.
Tenet 2: Service Quality Matters
Customer service and facility management go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. In our industry, not every customer is happy to see us. Tenants come from all walks of life, and the circumstances that create their need for storage can vary wildly, from divorce, death, disease and disaster to the purchase of a new home, boat or other significant asset. It usually involves moving something, though, which can be stressful.
Self-storage managers often deal with people who are tense and sometimes unpleasant. But if we do our job correctly, we can make the rental process easy and worry-free, which helps them leave with a smile on their face and the feeling that their moving and storage problems are resolved.
Most of us have been on the receiving end of one of those dreaded customer calls … when your rental truck breaks down, a tenant’s items are destroyed, someone’s entry code doesn’t work, or a renter can’t access their unit due to late payment. But these interactions don’t have to be terrible. Applying excellent customer service can end most of these discussions with a “thank you” and an appreciation for your help and understanding.
Granted, there’s a minority of consumers who just want to yell and scream no matter what you do. Managing these instances comes down to exercising empathy while upholding company policy. It often just takes a listening ear to truly understand the underlying concerns. Problems will always arise, but how we handle them is what makes the difference. No matter where you are in the world, outstanding customer service will always be welcome.
Tenet 3: Marketing Is Paramount
It’s imperative to use strategic, effective marketing tactics, whether you’re a new facility engaging in lease-up or an established, 20-year-old property. If you’re unable to generate traffic to your website and facility, you’ll eventually fail as a business.
The wrong marketing methods can cost you a lot of money and won’t produce the results you need, so it’s critical to track all promotional efforts and adjust them regularly as needed. Marketing is your vein; without it, your operation will shrivel and die.
Tenet 4: Learning Never Ends
If you’re in lease-up, it’s time to get hungry and hustle. Hard-working self-storage operators who are open to new ideas, learning and marketing will find a way to differentiate their business from their competitors and get it done.
A lot of positive examples come from the top down. Owners and management need to choose staff wisely and train regularly. There’s always an area that can be improved or a task we could do better. Be teachable and learn from others.
Brad Nelson is manager at Monster Storage in St. George, Utah, where he helps oversee 1,300 self-storage and covered-RV spaces as well as a fleet of rental trucks. He’s been with the company for nearly 11 years, coming onboard about a month after the facility opened. He’s a graduate of Southern Utah University, where he earned an MBA in 2013. Brad enjoys learning and challenging himself in all aspects of life. He’s married with four kids.