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Tried and True Training

December 1, 2006

5 Min Read
Tried and True Training
As the saturation of self-service storage services grows, managers find employment opportunities aplenty, enticing them to shift from one facility to the next. As they relocate, they bring to their new jobs previous training experiencefor better or worse.

Many multi-facility companies rely solely on employee manuals for training of day-to-day operations. This is a mistake. Untrained employees are more likely to make numerous errorslarge and small. Even little problems can lead to major headaches. Imagine if a manager recorded the wrong telephone or credit card number, or failed to fill out an envelope properly for a tenant. This could result in costly litigationall because the owners neglected to train the employee properly.

When you hire fresh help, get them on the right track by educating them correctly from the get-go. If your new hire has previous self-storage management experience, its possible he needs to be untrained and retrained. Those whove learned management on the fly or through an unreliable training program may be old dogs requiring new tricks. Dont underestimate the fact that retraining is invaluable.

Recently, I went into a national cell phone sales store on a Sunday morning. I was fourth in line of five customers. After waiting an unjust period of time to speak with the sole employee, who proudly wore a Trainee badge, three of us left in disgust. Obviously, the store was grossly understaffed. A hands-on trainer should have been there to guide the newcomer through the process and address the needs of waiting customers.

Owners consistently say they want managers to simply follow procedures outlined by company headquarters. I maintain its a recipe for disaster to rely on checklists and manuals without investing time to be certain employees have the knowledge they need. They should understand policies and procedures as well as basic self-storage law All managers should know how to deal with the following problems:

  • Police intervention 

  • Government intervention 

  • Partial payment plans and what constitutes waiver of your lien 

  • Superior liens 

  • Death of a tenant 

  • Power of attorney

  • Bankruptcy filings (the difference between Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13) 

  • Multiple parties on an occupancy agreement 

  • Divorce 

  • Corporate customers with individual names on the agreement 

  • Court orders 

  • Service of process of legal papers 

  • Restrictive covenants 

There is absolutely no replacement for hands-on training for all of the above. Dont try to save time by cheating your employee out of necessary skills. Youll be the one shortchanged in the end.

Hands-on training requires a manager or assistant manager to conduct sessions covering all company procedures. Obviously, this person needs in-depth knowledge and experience in running operations.


National and state associations and private entities are more geared toward the training process today. Seminars on a national level are primarily focused on new entries into the marketplace, but its easy to find a managers seminar that will enormously benefit employees. In addition to the lectures, networking will present outstanding educational opportunities.

Large operators often send their district managers to regional meetings where an industry expert will address the group. The managers may then be required to conduct home meetings with regional and facility managers. Or, a consultant may be hired to provide hands-on training at the site.

While this may see like a costly option, the price is nominal compared to litigation resulting from an expensive mistake. Weigh the odds wisely and youll find employee training is highly valued and well worth the investment. 

Kenneth M. Piken has practiced law for more than 25 years and is the senior partner in New York-based Kenneth Piken & Associates. Mr. Piken was general counsel for the New York Self Storage Association for more than 15 years and participated in drafting and lobbying a New York lien law. For more information, visit www.pikenlaw.com.  Note: The information contained in this article is not intended to provide legal advice and no attorney-client relationship exists.

Avoid Litigation With Staff

By Kenneth M. Piken

Do you have a probationary hiring policy at your site? It allows you to train and evaluate a new hires performance before signing him on for long-term employment. Statutory periods for probationary hiring differ from state to state. But a signed agreement alleviates the potential for a staffer to file unemployment insurance claims if things dont work out.

In many litigious states, new employees have been known to initiate landlord tenant or discrimination claims. This is particularly the case with resident managers. In addition, they may take trade secrets to a competitor when they leave.

Employment agreements solve many of these problems. Make sure the employee signs the document indicating he fully understands the probationary period. A provision should clearly state that if the employment period ends, the resident manager must vacate the premises within an agreed-upon time period.

The agreement should also state that utilization of company manuals, mailing lists or any other company information constitutes proprietary information and trade secrets; therefore, the probationary employee agrees the facility is entitled to an injunction on consent when the relationship ends.

Provisions in the agreement should also include relief for pirating information; conducting side businesses such as sale of boxes; disclosure of relatives in the industry; and an acknowledgment the staffer has read the employee manual and agrees to be bound by its terms.

If a legal situation arises and it appears an agreement hasnt been read or understood, in many jurisdictions these ambiguities are construed against the party who drafted ityou. This becomes particularly sticky in right-to-work states. Make sure your agreement is well drafted and easily understood to avoid such scenarios.

To prevent further problems, make sure you review employees at the end of their hands-on training and the probationary period. Keep the reviews in individual employee files. Documentation should also be filed for staff members who neglect to follow correct procedures and are repeat policy offenders. For example, they are tardy, practice poor customer relations, or frequently call in for sick days or personal days.

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