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Create Self-Storage Manager Redundancy to Maintain Quality of Service in a Pinch

Task for task, a self-storage manager’s job may be as multi-faceted as any property-management, retail or service position, which complicates the process of setting up labor redundancy but also makes it necessary. How prepared is your business should the manager or owner/manager be unexpectedly incapacitated for an extended period?

Tony Jones

September 24, 2015

4 Min Read
Create Self-Storage Manager Redundancy to Maintain Quality of Service in a Pinch

Redundancy isn’t always preferential in life. After all, most of us would prefer not to eat the same type of food or wear the same outfit every day. But when it comes to running a successful business, including self-storage, cross-training and building skillset redundancy across an enterprise can be invaluable to long-term success.

For many independent self-storage operations building overlap is a difficult endeavor, but failing to do so can also be a source of stress for facility managers who may feel pressured against taking vacation or time away from the property because no one is available to keep the business running smoothly for more than a weekend or occasional sick day.

The number of staff present at any given self-storage facility varies widely, as this thread on Self-Storage Talk attests, but the number of solo-manned shops out there is probably more than anyone would like to admit. Having a part-time or weekend manager fill in during pre-scheduled vacations is one thing, but how prepared is your business should the facility manager or owner/manager be unexpectedly incapacitated for an extended period?

Creating redundancy across positions should be generally easier for multi-site self-storage operators because the same training, policies and procedures should be applied across locations. In an emergency, if someone at a particular facility was incapable of filling in for a missing manager for several weeks or months, another employee within the operation should be qualified to step in temporarily to right the ship and/or train an assistant or part-time help to competently hold the reins. Of course, just because something should be easier to implement doesn’t always mean there are adequate contingencies in place.

Task for task, a facility manager’s job may be as multi-faceted (or more so) as any property-management, retail or service position, which complicates the process of setting up redundancy but also makes it necessary. As an extreme example, if a manager were to slip into a coma, is there someone on staff who could seamlessly step in and know how to access important information from the facility’s management software? Where does the facility stand on its collections efforts? If a customer showed up to sign a rental agreement and said he received a special price quote over the phone, how would you be able to verify it? When are rental rates scheduled to be raised, by how much, and who is set to receive them? When a tenant can’t get through the access gate, is the issue mechanical or a problem with the key code? When was maintenance last performed on the unit doors in Building C?

The situation could start to feel dire and overwhelming rather rapidly, and none of the above broaches the myriad questions that could arise with your facility’s add-on profit centers, whether they’re related to pack-and-ship services, retail products, truck rentals, wine storage and so on. Who besides the manager is qualified to discuss and sell tenant insurance or property protection plans?

For owners, this is one reason why performing regular facility audits is critical, so at least you have a frame of reference on the vital signs of the business. But an audit is just a snapshot; it can’t train someone how to perform tasks and procedures or provide expectations for outcomes. At the very least, operators should start by implementing and adhering to an operations manual and employee handbook, but those will only cover the basics.

The heavy lifting on creating skill redundancy comes through formal cross-training, where practical experience is gained and insider knowledge is shared. There’s really no other way around it. This hands-on approach should be repeated periodically not only to refresh skills but to help everyone keep up with evolving technology and responsibilities.

Creating knowledge overlap on critical tasks not only helps ease the burden when someone leaves or is unable to work, it can also help create a pipeline for promotion when positions become available. Competence and confidence within an existing staff enable smooth transitions in labor, whether temporary or permanent.

Ultimately, this is about maintaining quality of service. Redundancy creates continuity, which in turn generates customer-service consistency. Whoever is behind the office counter is the face of the brand. He or she not only needs to look the part but must be knowledgeable and capable of maintaining or enhancing customer confidence in your business.

Please share an example of how you create skill redundancy in your self-storage business by adding a note in the comment section below.

About the Author(s)

Tony Jones

ISS Store Manager, Contributing Editor, Inside Self-Storage

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