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April 1, 2003

7 Min Read

Change is inevitable. It will happen, and it isn't always easy. It is often said people don't change things until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing. We can choose to ignore circumstances if we wish, that doesn't make them go away.

I often speak to people who want to change their employment, usually because they are unhappy with their present situation. Then there are those who create change for the sake of advancing their career. I recently faced a similar situation. I was offered the opportunity to advance my career in the industry; but, unfortunately, it was with another company. As I pondered the pros and cons of such a move, it quickly became apparent it was not going to be an easy decision. The thought of new challenges in a management position, with more money, in a state I always thought would be nice to live in was very exciting to me. The thought of leaving a company I had helped develop; a kind, understanding and supportive boss; coworkers I genuinely liked and enjoyed working with; and an area of the country I had grown to love was very saddening.

When accepting the new position became a very real possibility, thoughts of everything involved in moving began to get a little overwhelming--from the financial and physical aspects, to the emotional and mental ramifications, such as having to uproot my children. Then I began to consider the risk factor. What if things didn't work out at my new job? The potential outcomes of the decision I was about to make suddenly took me on an emotional rollercoaster. I felt excited, sad, overwhelmed and just plain scared.

I did know one thing for certain: If I was going to make the change, I wanted to do it right, especially the way I left my original position. I wanted to handle this delicate situation properly. After all, I might need a good recommendation--or my old job back if things didn't work out! Besides, this is a small world and an even smaller industry. People talk, and this change was supposed to advance my career, not derail it.

When I approached my boss about the opportunity I had, I was very fortunate that he understood I was not trying to get out of where I was, but to better myself and advance my career. He understood I was doing what I thought was best for me, even though it would hamper his progress toward his own business goals. He told me exactly what he felt I should do to handle the exit from his company properly. Since not all bosses are as understanding, I asked him to share his thoughts with the readers of this column. (See the accompanying sidebar.)

I made the incredibly difficult decision to move, take the new job and subject myself to all the accompanying anxiety. It was comforting and insightful to remember many of the people I deal with every day are going through similar situations. This gives me a better understanding of what they go through. Instead of being impatient with the customer who has a million questions about what seem to be trivial things, I am sympathetic to his predicament. He is often in a new town, starting a new job, living in a new and strange place. He is sometimes disoriented, often overwhelmed and even a little scared.

It is not always easy to leave a good thing to try to accomplish something more. Nobody wants to leave his comfort zone and put himself in an uncertain position. You frequently don't know if a decision was a good or bad one until after you've made it, and then, sometimes, it's too late. But my new employer has a saying that has helped me through my moments of doubt: "Man lives by fear or faith."

Our industry has abundant opportunities for an individual willing to relocate. My career forces me to deal with the fear and believe everything happens for a reason. After all, "If you always do what you've always done, you always get what you always got." If you want more out of life, it is sometimes necessary to step outside of your comfort zone and live by a little faith.

David Fleming is the director of operations for North State Storage LLC of North Carolina, which acquires and manages properties throughout the Southeast. Mr. Fleming provides operational consulting, training and auditing services to the self-storage industry as well as third-party management. He can be reached at 919.313.2764; e-mail [email protected] 

How to Leave a Job Properly
[ An owner's point of view ]

Leaving a job can be a traumatic experience. This can be especially true for self-storage managers who are often not only leaving a job but a home. The following are my thoughts, as a property owner, on the most appropriate way for a manager to leave his position:

  • Give proper notice. The notice period should be at least two weeks, athough four weeks is better. This gives the owner adequate time to find a replacement and plan the transition to a new manager. Your new employer will respect the need for transition.

  • Treat your last day of employment the same as your first, when you wanted to give a strong, positive impression to your new boss and coworkers. You want your new company to know it made the right decision in hiring you. Similarly, the last days of your previous employment should leave them wanting more. Let your hard work properly reflect your time with the company.

  • Do not be offended if your employer audits your facility. An employer has an obligation to the company to make certain everything is in order prior to an employee leaving. A complete audit is an appropriate way for you and your employer to leave with no surprises. It allows for a clean transition to a new manager. This is a good habit for owners.

  • Keep the door open. You may wish to come back and work for the same employer again. Industry consolidation may cause your previous employer to puchase your new one. You could end up working together again. Be cautious and do not burn any bridges. Leaving on a sour note will not make you feel any better and could come back to haunt you. Once again, leave your current company wanting more.

  • Stay available for follow-up questions on your property. The new managers are going to have a lot of questions. Take some time to help them when they need advice or specific information. They are only calling because they have nowhere else to turn. Try to remember what it was like when you first took over the property. It would have been wonderful to have an experienced person to call. Make sure your new employer knows you will be doing this. You will gain a greater respect from him. It will help confirm his hiring decision.

  • Clean out your apartment and storage space. Leave the facility in the same condition as we ask of our customers. We charge a cleaning fee to our customers who do not respect our property. It is appropriate to ask the same of the manager.

A manager has an obligation to look out for his family's best interest. That will likely involve changing jobs from time to time. I recommend these changes be rare. You never want to be considered a job-hopper. The grass is never quite as green in the new opportunity as it first appears. Check out the new company thoroughly. Make certain the company has the financial strength and same commitment to values as you. The commitment to values is extremely important--you would hate to discover your new employer is dishonest or untrustworthy.

My company recently lost a valued employee to a terrific opportunity. He left in the right way and would be welcomed back should circumstances change. One of my goals as a property owner is to continually develop employees for promotion. Opportunity will not always be available in my company, but I will continue to hire the best people I can. Any goal the company sets is achievable with great employees.

The self-storage industry has a tremendous future. I am extremely pleased our family made the decision to get into it four years ago. We recently added our fifth facility and plan on growing more. The managers we hire and retain can also share in this growth. Yes, it would require change; but change isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Richard Hamister is the president of Premier Self Storage Inc. He can be reached at 716.881.4425.

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