By Jana Basler
Self-storage is a niche industry like no other, and property managers are the key to making each facility successful. Stepping into a new role as site manager and learning all the tricks of the trade can feel daunting; but educating yourself can make it easier by helping you discover your strengths and passions.
If you’re struggling in your new role or just want to be a stronger employee, fear not: Great managers are made, not born. Here are four things you can start doing today to become a better self-storage manager.
1. Master Your Service Skills
As a facility manager, your community will see you as the face of your brand. Their opinion of your company (and maybe even of self-storage in general) rests on your customer-service skills.
Even when you’re not at work, be mindful of how you interact with people in the area. You never know who could walk into your office the next day looking for a unit. Your new favorite tenant just might be your waitress from the diner! Carry business cards with you, smile, and make a personal connection with people you meet so they know you’re genuine. Throw in a firm handshake, and you've got a winning first impression.
First impressions aside, you’re still going to have difficult customers and tenants who seem like they want to push all your buttons. The rules still apply to these situations: Be friendly, confident and patient. Your communication skills are vital to de-escalating a difficult situation and fixing the customer’s problem. Being self-assured will also help you maintain your poise and display your expertise. Keep working on your service skills and seek opportunities to learn more throughout your career.
2. Be Flexible and Dependable
The worst excuses usually start with those four dirty words: "That's not my job." As a self-storage manager, you're also a salesperson, housekeeper and maintenance person. You have to take responsibility for your property and be flexible about the scope of your job duties. Your managerial tasks can easily range from cleaning units to creating marketing materials within the span of an hour.
Be prepared to sweat and get your hands dirty when necessary. Remember the importance of first impressions on new customers. When potential renters drive by the facility, it's your job to make sure everything looks well-kept, tidy and clean.
Self-storage isn’t always a 9-to-5 job. Whether it’s coming in early to assist a new tenant or getting a late-night phone call about a broken gate, you're going to work odd hours every now and then. Take full responsibility for ensuring the facility is running smoothly. Being dependable is part of the job.
3. Get Involved in the Industry
As the facility manager, people in your community will naturally look to you as the local expert in self-storage. You can be prepared for these conversations and show your expertise by getting involved in and being informed about the industry. It's always a good idea to do your research and stay on top of current events. Here are some great ways to grow your knowledge base:
- Join your state or national association. Almost all states and many countries have a self-storage association you can join to get information and meet other experts in your field.
- Attend events. Going to industry conferences and tradeshows is a great way to network and learn more about the business.
- Research tools of the trade. Being familiar with the latest products and services available for self-storage will make you a stronger asset to your boss and company owner. For example, knowing more about what types of software and hardware your facility uses can make or break your everyday task list. Check out tradeshows or company websites to learn more about new products and their features.
- Study your competition. Knowing all your closest competitors and their pricing trends is a must. You don’t necessarily have to match their specials or deals—especially if you have high occupancy rates and extra features—but you should visit nearby facilities and pay attention to their customer service, unit amenities and tenant perks. Your biggest competitors may change over time, but you can stay ahead of the curve by doing research and adjusting as necessary.
- Learn more about your market. A good way to do this is to set up a Google alert for “self-storage” and get weekly summaries of industry news. It’s also a good idea to follow trends in the stock prices of industry real estate investment trusts to see how the industry is performing.
- Follow industry blogs. Self-storage blogs offer a wealth of great information for managers. From how to store sensitive items to mastering search engine optimization, industry blogs can offer expertise on a variety of topics. Plus, reading posts over your morning coffee can be an educational and relaxing way to start your day.
4. Use Feedback to Improve
As a self-storage manager, you're going to get plenty of feedback from customers about how well you're doing your job. Sometimes it feels like unwarranted criticism, and your immediate reaction might be to become defensive. Most people find negative feedback hard to swallow, but you can teach yourself to be better at receiving feedback and use it to improve your performance.
If you've been in self-storage for a while, it’s especially important to listen to outside remarks. Customers know exactly what they're looking for, and they're excellent at seeing the big picture. You can use this feedback to see where you currently excel and make adjustments to bring in new renters. Implementing changes based on customer comments also helps bring in word-of-mouth leads.
You can start using these tips today to set goals, educate yourself on the industry and become a more effective self-storage manager. Remember to keep a positive, hardworking attitude and focus on providing high-quality customer service. Achieving your long-term professional goals starts with challenging yourself to be better. And with these pointers, you can keep learning and improve throughout your career.
Jana Basler is a marketing-content writer for storEDGE, which offers a comprehensive suite of technology solutions designed specifically for the self-storage industry. A resident of Kansas City and graduate of South Dakota State University, she enjoys bringing technology, Web marketing, and industry news and tips to self-storage owners and managers. For more information, call 913.954.4110; visit www.storedge.com.