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January 1, 1998

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Relief Managers

Relief Managers

Baby-Sitters Or Part Of Your Management Team?

By Pamela Alton

A typical self-storage facility is open seven days a week andstaffed with full-time on-site management that works five days aweek, with a team or person to work on the other two days of theweek. This team (or person) is generally titled "reliefstaff," and one of its primary duties is to relieve thefull-time managers, so that they can have time off to relax,rejuvenate and attend to personal business.

There are usually three trains of thought when it comes torelief-staff employees:

  1. They are there to act as baby-- sitters--to keep the status quo while the full-time manager is away.

  2. They are hired as the full-time managers' personal "slaves" to do all the cleaning, filing, or work the managers don't want to do.

  3. They are thought of as a very integral part of your management "team."

From a professional standpoint, it is preferable to think ofthe relief staff as part of the management team. They areresponsible for handling all operations for two out of seven daysa week and, as such, should be given the same level of training,attention and motivation as the full-time staff.

Let's examine who relief-staff employees typically are, whereyou find them, the training they should receive and why, andsteps to make them a part of your team.

Defining Relief Staff

Generally, relief staff don't reside on-site, but in thegeneral location of your facility, owning a home or renting anapartment. At larger self-storage sites, members of the reliefstaff might be named "assistants," and may reside in anon-site apartment along with the senior management staff.Although they may work five days a week, three of those daysmight entail assisting the senior staff on the busiest days ofthe week. In addition, they may work alone for two days, allowingthe senior staff time off.

The relief manager could be an older retired or semi-retiredcouple or person, a college student, or someone who is justlooking for a part-time position to supplement his regularincome. Retired couples often make for the best relief managers:They are generally more reliable, flexible as far as workschedules, and are often available to work a temporary full-timeschedule in case of an emergency or during vacation time.Typically, too, they tend to stay longer with the company.

Hiring Relief Staff

When looking for relief people, begin searching in your ownlocal community. In a large metropolitan area, don't waste youradvertising dollars running an ad in a newspaper that goes tomillions of people. It is too costly and covers too broad of anarea. Instead, advertising space in a small, community newspaperthat may only publish once or twice a week is much morecost-effective. It's less expensive and will likely create agreater return.

Contact the on-site managers at local retirementcommunities--the 55-plus apartment complexes and mobile-homeparks--and ask if they know anyone looking for a part-timeposition. Ask if you can post an ad in the community hall,recreation area or laundry room.

Call your local churches or synagogues and see if they know ofone of their congregation who is looking for part-time work. Ifyou are in a college town, call the college; they usually have ajob line, free of charge, where you can post the job opening.Post a "help wanted" sign on the inside of your entrygate, so current tenants exiting your facility can see it. Maybeeven place a sign in your office window and ask your currenttenants if they know of anyone looking for work.

Be prepared with job applications for the prospectiveemployees to fill out, along with reference check sheets, I-9 andW-4 forms, and a relief-manager's job description of duties.

Your on-site manager should conduct the initial interviewswith job applicants, as well as check references of theprospective candidates. Once the field has been narrowed down,then the owner and full-time management staff should discuss eachcandidate's application and come to an agreement as to which onebest suits the management team.

When choosing the person or persons to hire as your reliefstaff, your full-time management staff should be consulted as towhich candidate will best suit the team's needs. Relief managersshould not be considered as the owner's "spies" at thefacility, nor should the on-site manager feel threatened that therelief manager is out to take his job. They must work together asa team to obtain the results needed to make a facility successfuland profitable.

Generally your relief staff will be paid an hourly wage vs.your full-time staff who could receive a base salary plus bonus,benefits and perhaps an on-site apartment. Relief staff may ormay not earn a bonus or receive benefits such as medicalinsurance, retirement plans or so on. The hourly wage should becomparable to what your job market pays for similar types ofpart-time work, i.e., convenience store, retail shops, receptionwork, janitorial duties, etc.

Training of Relief Staff

As stated earlier in this article, the relief staff should beconsidered an integral part of the management team and,therefore, should be trained in a similar manner as the full-timestaff. Training should always cover the basics: telephonetechniques, facility tours, showing of units, marketing,collections, maintenance, lien sales, customer-service skills anddaily, weekly and month-end closings.

Skeptics of such a rigorous training program are likely towonder, "Why train the relief staff so extensively when theyare only there two days a week?" Because, for instance, mosttenants do not rent a unit on the same day that they shoppedthrough the Yellow Pages and collected rental quotes. Instead,they come in a few days later and rent space. If the relief staffis not properly trained in telephone techniques, then they willnot be able to lure the customers to the site over the next threeor four days; hence, rentals will likely drop during themanagers' regularly scheduled days. If you pay a per-lease rentalbonus, then the full-time manager will not receive as manyrentals, yet, the relief manager will get the benefit of rentingspace because the full-time manager used the telephoneeffectively. Try tracking your telephone calls, walk-ins andrentals over a month's period and see which days receive the mostrentals; you could see a pattern that reflects this concept.

Collection calls and maintenance checks should be conducted ona daily basis, and the relief manager should be trained for both.In addition, should the month's end coincide with a reliefmanager's scheduled work day, he will need to know how to conductthe month-end reports. And, of course, the relief staff should bewell trained in all areas of customer service.

One of the most compelling reasons to properly train yourrelief staff is that you will always be assured that you have awell-trained staff to take over a new facility should you buildone, fill in if a manager quits without giving notice, or fill induring a manager's vacation or emergency leave of absence. Youwill always have staff available if you take the time to properlytrain your relief staff.

Making Them Part of Your Team

In order to make your management staff a successful part ofyour organization, you should take the time to select propermanagement, give them the tools and training to do their jobseffectively, set attainable goals, reward them for a job welldone, give them support and make them part of your managementteam. By building a quality management team, you are givingindividual members of your organization greater control overtheir lives; they will participate in solving problems and learnfrom each other as well as from you or your supervisors.

Being part of your team provides opportunities to satisfy manyof their higher level needs for self-esteem and acceptance. Don'tforget to ask for the relief manager's input. Just because hetypically works at your site only two days a week doesn't mean hedoesn't have ideas on how to run things more effectively, havenew marketing ideas or other skills and talents that you canexpand upon.

Making a solid team between your full-time staff and therelief staff will surely increase the facility's income, relieveyou of staffing headaches and make a rewarding work environmentfor everyone.

Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management, one of theindustry's largest nationwide manager placement services.Mini-Management also offers policy and procedures manuals, salesand marketing training manuals, inspections and audits,consulting, telephone shopping and training seminars. For moreinformation on the services offered by Mini-Management, call(800) 646-4648.

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