If you own a self-storage company or oversee several facilities, staffing is always a concern. For your sites to do well, you need managers who are driven and dedicated; but these can be hard to find and even more difficult to keep.
If you’re seeing performance plateau during the year, employees leave for other jobs and mystery-shop scores decline, you may have a problem with team motivation. It’s a challenging dilemma, as not everyone is inspired by the same things. One person’s idea of an incentive may not work for another. There are countless resources and plenty of advice on the topic, but I’ve identified 10 practical ways to motivate your self-storage managers and earn their devotion.
1. Be a Coach, Not a Boss
Employees like leaders who work alongside them and teach, not just make demands. While a boss just wants results without explanation, a coach leads by example. A boss says, “Go,” but a coach says, “Let’s go!” A boss talks while a coach listens. Staff do what a boss says out of duty; but for a coach, they do it out of respect. Coaches want the best for their self-storage managers. If you want your team to work hard and stay committed, lead like a coach, not a boss!
2. Decentralize Command
In his book “Extreme Ownership,” author and former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink discusses the secret to team success: decentralized command. It refers to giving staff the freedom to carry out company objectives without being micromanaged. An employee will stay with a self-storage facility, company or owner when he feels he’s trusted to make decisions and doesn’t have to plow through layers of red tape to do his job.
“To be effectively empowered to make decisions, it is imperative that frontline leaders execute with confidence,” Willink writes. “Tactical leaders must be confident that they clearly understand the strategic mission. They must have implicit trust that their senior leaders will back their decisions. Without this trust, junior leaders cannot confidently execute.” This includes having well-defined visions, goals and expectations. If these aren’t clearly communicated and agreed upon, decentralized command doesn’t work.
3. Fine-Tune Your Compensation
Money is a great motivator. If complacency has set in among your self-storage team and productivity is lacking, look at your compensation and bonus structure. The wage or salary you pay your managers should communicate that you value the work they do. Any bonus structure should be challenging but attainable and simple to explain. A properly structured bonus program increases employee performance and can easily be tracked through common facility metrics like rentals and revenue.
4. Gamify Goals
Make self-storage responsibilities entertaining by turning certain tasks and goals into games and competitions. For example, start a contest between multiple locations to see who can get the most rentals in a single day. Turn weekly chores into a tournament bracket like college basketball’s March Madness. A fun work environment won’t only motivate your managers, it’ll help keep them around longer.
5. Focus on the Why
Giving managers a purpose—a why—will greatly increase their motivation to perform. Make sure they know your company’s mission statement. If you don’t have one, include them in creating it! Author and speaker Simon Sinek put it this way: “Very few people or companies can clearly articulate why they do what they do. By ‘why,’ I mean your purpose, cause or belief. Why does your company exist? Why do you get out of bed every morning? And why should anyone care?”
When giving staff a new directive, tell them the reason behind it. For example, you might say, “In their exit surveys, tenants are telling us they love our location. So, starting next month, to draw more drive-by traffic, we want you to stand outside for 20 minutes a day, holding this sign and waving at passersby.” This will come across a lot better than, “Starting next month, you’ll need to spend 20 minutes per day waving this sign at traffic.”
6. Be Transparent
Self-storage managers are motivated when their leaders are upfront and honest. Instead of waiting until a weekly conference call to address a problem with an employee, whether it’s something he’s doing wrong or failing to do, discuss it privately and in person. Find ways to resolve it one on one. People value candor. When you respect your team enough to be transparent, they’ll feel included, which inspires them to work harder and stick around.
7. Recognize Good Work
Start a tradition of recognizing employees for good work done. Track monthly self-storage performance metrics for things like number of rentals, occupancy, retail sales, five-star customer reviews, secret-shopping scores, etc., and honor those who exceed expectations. Perhaps create a monthly or annual awards program. (Come on, who doesn’t love “The Dundies” from the TV show “The Office”?)
In a 2016 survey by the WorkHuman Research Institute Report, 79 percent of respondents said recognition and rewards make them work harder. If you’re consistent in acknowledging your self-storage managers when they do well, it’ll spur them to greater success.
8. Show the Bigger Picture
This is a great motivator for star managers who consistently exceed goals, or those whose facility is perpetually above 90 percent occupancy. They need a new challenge! Help them understand how the things they do every day impact the company as a whole. For example:
- Bring these employees into the annual budget process for their store.
- Show them how higher merchandise sales increases annual revenue and facility value.
- Invite them to attend state and national industry conferences.
- Subscribe them to industry trade magazines.
- Take them on field trips to new development or acquisition sites.
When these managers begin to see the bigger picture, they’ll feel renewed energy!
9. Implement IDPs
A manager will be motivated and desire to stay with a self-storage company that invests in team training. Consider sitting down with each employee and creating an individual development plan (IDP), which can set a path toward the skills the manager would like to learn or perfect and, ultimately, advancement within the company. Teams with IDPs tend to enjoy more staff longevity.
10. Learn What Makes Them Tick
Spend time with your managers and learn about their hobbies and interests. Who are they outside of work? If you have a manager who plays guitar, bring him a set of picks the next time you visit the facility. If someone’s a big hockey fan, discuss the Stanley Cup playoffs. Get to know your employees on a personal level.
There’s no one-size-fits-all way to motivate a team, as every person is unique. But if you take some of the ideas mentioned here and tailor them to your staff, you’ll not only inspire your managers, you’ll enjoy their loyalty for years to come.
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. For more information, email [email protected]; visit www.beesafe.com.