A self-storage manager plays many roles: salesperson, money collector, marketer, financial analyst and even counselor. However, one of the most important is maintenance person. It’s day-to-day operations staff who handle facility upkeep, preventing future problems and tackling emergencies as they arise.
For your property to run efficiently and be a place where customers feel safe and secure, you must remain vigilant regarding property condition. Maintenance is one of the most important things you do over the course of a day or week. Don’t believe me? In a survey conducted at our Bee Safe Storage locations, 20% of customers said they chose our stores because of how clean and well-maintained they are.
Let’s take a look at what should be on your site-maintenance to-do list, plus a few ways to save time and money.
Why It’s So Important
A self-storage manager should develop an eye for cleanliness and a habit of routinely maintaining the facility. Sure, you could wait for things to fail like unit doors that become difficult to open or an HVAC unit that starts making strange sounds. It can be very easy to ignore the small weaknesses you might see or hear—until something goes seriously wrong. A better approach is to take a habitual, methodical approach.
You need to pay attention to everything at your property, from fire alarms to unit doors to drains to curb appeal. The exact list will vary, depending on your facility type and size; but it’s a good idea to develop daily, weekly, quarterly and yearly checklists to keep track of your duties. Creating a plan for regular upkeep won’t only lower the overall cost of repairs and replacements, it’ll keep facility standards, customer satisfaction and employee pride high.
It’s always smart to inspect certain items every day during your morning self-storage lock check. Again, this list will vary depending on your property, but there are some common elements for most sites. These might include:
- Throughout the day, check common areas where customers come and go including gates, elevators, sliding doors, keypads, etc. Frequent use tends to create malfunctions over time.
- Make sure unit doors on vacant units open and close smoothly.
- If you have elevators, ensure they’re operating as they should.
- The front office should be clean and orderly. Dust countertops, windowsills and blinds. Keep floors and windows spotless and your retail area well-stocked.
- Make sure the gate keypad and operator are functioning correctly. The gate must slide or lift smoothly.
- Pick up trash and other debris.
- Look for cracks in sidewalks and asphalt that require repair.
- Make sure all irrigation sprinklers are functioning.
- Examine your gutters and downspouts for debris. Remove any potential blockage.
- Check for exterior problems such as fading paint, building damage or evidence of pests.
- Examine your indoor and outdoor lighting and replace any expired bulbs, broken fixtures or torn wiring. View it at night as well as during the day to ensure it all works.
- Give your security cameras a once-over every day to ensure they remain in proper position and are recording. Sometimes, you need to clean away dust or debris, such as spiderwebs.
- Keep your maintenance supplies orderly and restock as needed.
- Regularly inspect any maintenance equipment and replace or repair as needed.
There are areas of your facility that’ll require additional attention at specific times of the year. For instance, if you have a climate-controlled building, consider scheduling an inspection of your HVAC units every spring and fall, before intense weather hits in the winter and summer. In most areas of the country, landscape irrigation requires winterization. The roof should be examined to verify stability for snow or hurricane season. Work these tasks into your seasonal maintenance schedule.
Money- and Time-Savers
“Work smarter, not harder” is a wonderful mantra to have as a self-storage manager, especially when it comes to site maintenance. By planning ahead, you’ll save a lot of time, sweat and frustration, not to mention money. For instance, you might implement a quarterly cleaning for all unit doors; but in the meantime, you can make it a goal to clean five to 10 doors per day. Just take a duster and give them a quick wipe when you do your lock check. This’ll make those quarterly cleanings much easier and keep dirt and dust from getting into the door tracks.
Have your customers help you out with maintenance. Teach them to how take care of the facility and its amenities while on site. For example, show them what to do if they need to keep a door, elevator or gate open for an extended period. Put signage in common areas explaining how to treat the restrooms, moving carts and other items.
It’s also good for them to see you sweeping vacant units and walking around the site. It shows them you care about the property. When they see that you do, they will, too!
You should know how to do basic things such as clean gutters, change air filters and other simple work, but there will be tasks you just can’t handle on your own. It’s good to have contracts with vendors for bigger, more complex projects. For example, tightening or changing springs in older self-storage doors can be dangerous, so it’s smart to get professional help. YouTube can teach you a lot, but it might not be wise to tackle a malfunctioning gate motor if you’ve never done so before. The price to pay a technician will be small in comparison to replacing the motor because you attempted to fix it and made it worse.
When you do need to call in a service contractor, take the time to learn about the problem and what caused it. Then ask if there are things you could be doing to prevent it from reoccurring. At the very least, it’ll help you pinpoint the issue if something similar arises in the future.
In the end, you might want to arrange regular, outsourced support to help you maintain your self-storage landscaping, access-control systems, elevators and HVAC units. This ensures a proactive—not a reactive—program for your facility and develops the high standards you desire. Plus, an ongoing contract tends to be less expensive than waiting for “the big malfunction” to happen.
The best thing you can do to keep your self-storage facility in working order is to know it inside and out—“better than the back of your hand,” as the saying goes. Walk your property at least daily, pay attention to its rhythms, and spot-check areas and items that are susceptible to wear or breakage. With diligence, you’ll be able to ensure cleanliness and upkeep are top-notch. A well-maintained and spotless site will attract customers, whether it’s brand new or 30 years old.
Steven Jeffers is the facilities and operations manager for Bee Safe Storage and Wine Cellar, which operates 21 self-storage facilities in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Texas. His experience and knowledge includes local marketing, management optimization and leadership training. To reach him, e-mail [email protected].