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While there’s always been a lot of hoopla about manager compensation, the topic has been pushed to the forefront in the past few years as the self-storage industry has taken center stage as one of the best real estate investments around. It's time to shine a light on staff wages and push the industry toward creating a standard.

Amy Campbell

October 15, 2015

4 Min Read
Shining a Light on Self-Storage Manager Compensation

By Amy Campbell  

No matter what your job is, the amount of money you make is a touchy subject. Fact is, few people will openly discuss their earning wage. It could be due to embarrassment—because the number is high or low—fear of judgment, or just that most of us prefer to keep this information private. One negative component to keeping mum on what we make is it’s difficult to create standards around job titles.

This is especially true in the self-storage industry. While there’s always been a lot of hoopla about what manager’s make, the topic has been pushed to the forefront in the past few years as the self-storage industry has taken center stage as one of the best real estate investments. The days of the “caretaker” self-storage manager are long gone. They’ve been replaced with professional managers who are adept at sales, marketing, customer service and more.

The big question is: Are storage owners adequately compensating these individuals? Often times, the answer is no. Managers and owners alike have expressed their concerns over management compensation, which includes not just pay, but also things like health insurance, paid-vacation days and other perks.

In fact, a seminar at the 2014 Inside Self-Storage World Expo on the topic drew a huge crowd. If you missed or want a refresher, you can purchase a recording of the session in the ISS Store. Speaker Stephanie Tharpe, senior vice president of operations for A Plus Storage of Tennessee LLC, also talks about manager compensation in this Self-Storage TV video.

The biggest crux is, unlike in many other industries, there’s simply no industry standard for what managers—those who live onsite or off—should be paid. It really runs the gamut—from minimum wage to salaries based on tenure. Compensation for some managers is rolled into a total “package” that might include a residence and utilities. Pay is often determined by regions and even property size. Wages for a manager at an 800-unit facility in San Diego will differ from that of a person who oversees a 350-unit property in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Not only is this confusing for owners, who have a hard time determining what to pay their staff, it leaves many managers in the lurch. With no industry standard, how do they know if they’re being paid well. A mechanic, for instance, has a handle on what the going rate should be. As does a plumber, accountant or engineer. Self-storage managers and owners are left to take a guess. And all too often, the number comes up on the low end of the pay scale.

While an industry standard for manager compensation isn’t on the immediate horizon—but may come in the next few years as the profession evolves—managers do have some recourse. Of course, you can always seek employment elsewhere. However, for those who’d like to stay put, why not consider making a solid case for more money? An article on MSN.com offers five steps employees can take if they feel they’re being underpaid and deserve more compensation. It suggests writing a summary of key accomplishments and highlighting ways in which you've exceeded expectations. It also offers advice on choosing your timing and how to approach your supervisor.

Owners, if you think you might be underpaying your staff, do something about it. Your managers are tasked with operating what’s likely a multi-million-dollar real estate investment. Are you handing over the keys to someone who makes minimum wage? You know the saying, “You get what you pay for.” Instead, recognize this person is a key to your business’ success and deserves to be compensated as much. If you provide a residence, make sure it’s a nice one! And if you have an excellent manager, pay him well, praise him often and you’ll earn his loyalty.

In the coming months, ISS will release a series of resources to aid in the quest for industry standardization of manager compensation. As such, I’m seeking owners and managers willing to share their thoughts on the topic. You can remain anonymous. If you'd like to participate, please e-mail [email protected].

It’s time to shine a light on manager compensation. A quality wage doesn’t just help managers make a good living; it also ensures owners have access to a pool of quality, professional staff. It’s time to stop hiding the dollar amount found on paychecks. Instead, let’s promote the value managers bring to the self-storage industry by paying them what they’re truly worth.

About the Author(s)

Amy Campbell

Editor, Inside Self Storage

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