By Aycha Williams
As a self-storage owner, how big of a role would you say your facility manager plays in the successful performance of your property? Would you agree the job requires the manager to wear many hats and entails covering a lot of ground on a daily basis? Here are just some of managers' daily tasks:
- Selling on the phone and face-to-face, and selling ancillary products and services
- Meeting and exceeding monthly occupancy and other sales goals while providing excellent customer service
- Marketing the property to businesses and apartments on an ongoing basis
- Maintaining the facility so it functions at its best
- Providing weekly reports to upper management
- Price shopping the competition to ensure rates are where they should be
- Responding to Internet leads, which have not only become the main source of business for many facilities but are also the most urgent, as prospects will move on to the next property in their search results
These tasks make for a busy and extremely demanding workload, and even the best site managers may have difficulty delivering their fullest in all areas. This is why most large operators focus on automating processes to limit the managers role to tasks that are physically done on site. This way, they can focus on selling to walk-in customers while the call center handles incoming calls, for example. Managers can also give emphasis to site cleanliness and functionalities while letting corporate handle marketing, specials and necessary reports.
However, if youre a small to mid-size operator, you may not have the resources and systems in place to concentrate your site managers efforts in this way. What you can do is clearly define the parameters of the managers responsibilities so youll have a more targeted approach when hiring.
If you were hiring a facility manager today, what skills would you look for? The first qualification should be sales experiencethe natural ability to sell regardless of product or serviceplus a basic knowledge of the sales cycle in a retail environment. Notice I didnt say to look for someone with industry experience. Sure, it may be nice to come across a candidate with a self-storage background, but its not necessary. A candidate with great retail-sales experience is a perfect fit.
Here are seven tips to consider when hiring your next self-storage manager.
1. Hire a Retail-Sales Professional
You need someone who understands the sales cycle. The candidate should have a proven track record in closing sales over the phone and in person. He should be familiar with delivering on monthly sales and occupancy goals while knowing how to run and operate a store. The candidate should have at least a proficient level of computer and management-software skills.
Sound familiar? Im essentially describing anyone who comes from a great retail-sales background. Think of Home Depot, Target or Walmart. Dont feel pressured to search for candidates limited to the self-storage industry, and dont undersell your facility by looking at those with little or no experience. Open your search to retail-sales professionals and youll access a large base of qualified prospects.
2. Customer-Service Skills Reign
Chances are the retail professional youre interviewing will naturally have great customer-service skills. All large retailers have extensive training programs for employees.
The self-storage business is all about word-of-mouth and referrals. With the power of the Internet, communications about your facility is spreading fast via online reviews and posts. Therefore, looking for excellent service skills and a natural aptitude for pleasing customers will be the second most important quality to look for in a candidate.
3. Understanding Accounting and Finance
Its important to share the facilitys financial goals with property managers. Managers should be provided with their facilitys monthly and annual goals for occupancy, ancillary sales and total revenue. You can then share, on a weekly basis, facility performance as a result of their efforts. This allows them to see their progress and proactively fix areas before they become troubling.
For a manager to understand your annual financial goals, he needs a basic understanding of numbers. Its important for a site manager to be able to read a simple budget sheet and make sense of profit-and-loss statements.
4. A Techno-Friendly Attitude
This era is one of communications, and the Internet certainly has changed how we do business in the self-storage industry. In the old days, minimal computer knowledge was acceptable. Today, facility operators are looking for managers who are Internet-savvy. Using online tools to follow up with prospects and keep tabs on time-sensitive information such as new leads or online reviews is only possible with a good knowledge of technology.
Upper management is also looking to communicate in real time with site managers, and online tools such as Google Documents makes this possible. Computer skills and technology knowledge is of upmost importance to look for in a candidate.
5. Accountability Counts
One of the qualities that may be hard to gauge during an interview process is a prospects commitment and accountability. Theres nothing like being able to delegate tasks and expect them to be completed promptly and accurately.
Number of years of experience at each of the previous jobs may tell something about the candidates skills and accountability. Nevertheless, the personality trait that allows a manager to run a property like his own is not easy to measure by a simple interview. You must rely on your instincts when making a decision on accountability and hope you make the right decision. The next tip for a successful hire will hopefully take the guesswork out of gauging accountability.
6. Conduct a Pre-Hire Test
Its not uncommon for an impressive candidate to fail to deliver once hired. He may have many years of experience and excel in the interview, but 30 days down the road, you come to the conclusion that no level of training can remedy his weaknesses and you have to let him go. Youve now lost an invaluable month of time and have to start all over again in your search.
The great news is there are several companies that provide aptitude-testing solutions to take the guessing out of the equation. For example, you can use an online hire testing interface that measures sales- and customer-service skills and personality traits. Yes, that includes measuring a sense of responsibility and commitment. Whats more, testing of basic mathematical skills and computer skills are also offered.
Everything is completed online and results are e-mailed with a detailed report. Based on the data, the system either recommends, highly recommends or doesnt recommend a candidate for the position. The results of various candidates can be compared through the online interface, which creates an archive of all completed tests. Using a new-hire assessment tool is essential to ensure you have the right employee to run your facility.
7. Background Checks Are a Must
These are essential to avoid any undesired surprises, such as a bad driving record or worse. Again, there are several companies that offer this service, including those specific to self-storage. For a minimal cost, youll know youre leaving your property in good hands.
Follow the hiring steps above, and chances are youll have a great, long-term storage manager in place in no time. Best of luck.
Aycha Williams, a marketing and training strategist for AC Commercial Property Management, has more than with 15 years of experience in the marketing of commercial real estate and high-tech and consumer products. Based in Orlando, Fla., her company manages more than 1 million square feet of self-storage and other commercial holdings in Florida and Texas. For more information, call 407.481.9899, ext. 111; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.accommercial.net.