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Defining Company Culture for Your Self-Storage Business

What do we mean when we talk about “company culture” in self-storage, and why is it important? This article explores the concept and provides advice for shaping and defining the culture of your own operation.

Allicyn Bowley

November 24, 2022

5 Min Read
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The term “company culture” can mean different things depending on whom you ask, but in general, it’s a combination of values, goals, attitudes and practices that help define an organization for those who may be looking in from the outside. It’s also a reflection of how people are expected to behave and can expect to be treated within the workplace, often expressed through policies and procedures. It shapes critical business elements like workflow and communication.

Does your self-storage operation have a clearly defined culture? If not, it’s time to gather internal decision-makers for a conversation. Without a consensus in this area, it’ll be difficult to set the company’s tone and expectations for existing employees and new hires.

First, culture is important to your job candidates. You want to attract workers who are well-suited for your business; but how will you do that if you can’t communicate who you are as an organization? By establishing a strong culture and making it clear in your job postings and descriptions, you’ll draw prospects who identify with the spirit of the business. There’ll be fewer surprises during the onboarding process. You’ll also improve employee retention, as staff are more likely to be content in their roles.

A robust culture can also help reduce disagreements between staff members, as employees are more likely to be on the same page about the way things should be done. When conflicts do occur, it should be easier to resolve them by leaning on the company’s core principles.

8 Cultural Types

If you haven’t already defined a clear work culture for your self-storage operation, it can be difficult to know where to start. In the wider world, eight types of business cultures have been identified, according to O.C. Tanner, a provider of employee recognition software and services. Let’s look at each to see which may be a good fit for your organization.

Adhocracy culture. These companies tend to grow and change quickly. Their employees are highly flexible, which can be a strength. However, this can also be a difficult environment for people who are resistant to change, as things are constantly evolving.

Clan culture. There’s a family-like atmosphere, which can feel both welcoming and exclusive. Everyone appears to share similar goals and values, but that can make it difficult for some employees to express their ideas or opinions, especially if they go against the grain.

Customer-focused culture. Here, the customer is at the center of every decision and action. Employees are often empowered to address customer concerns quickly and easily, but they can also feel less important to ownership.

Hierarchy culture. This type of workplace strictly adheres to structure. On one hand, there’s a clear chain of command and everyone knows their place. On the other, communication tends to be limited to those in higher-up positions. Employees can feel their opinions aren’t valued.

Market-driven culture. These businesses are known for being product-focused and highly competitive. That competitiveness tends to occur within the organization itself as well as in the greater industry, which is incentivizing but can be difficult for those with a less-driven nature.

Purpose-driven culture. All employees are encouraged to support a common cause, and staff tend to be like-minded. There’s often a high retention rate, but motivation and income can be low.

Innovative culture. This type of business encourages “outside the box thinking.” Employees feel comfortable brainstorming and often have a direct pathway to company leadership. There can also be a danger of burnout, as there’s constant pressure to come up with new ideas.

Creative culture. Employees are encouraged to collaborate and create “stories” that move customers. High creativity forges powerful work relationships, however, constructive criticism can be a challenge, as is the pressure to be perpetually imaginative.

Choosing a Path

As you can see, there are a lot of forms your self-storage culture can take. The above definitions are just a place to start. To begin, your culture should align with the beliefs and values of company leadership. Their principles should be central to your corporate identity. Next, consider the overall traits that best fit the organization as a whole. Which qualities make your operation stronger without creating unnecessary friction?

If you’re an established company but don’t yet have a well-defined culture, you might also consider what’s important to your employees. Talk to them and pay close attention to the dynamics and innerworkings that go on within your corporate structure. Once you have a good understanding, you should be able to make educated decisions that help you steer your workplace in a direction that aligns with your values and goals.

Putting It to Use

Once you know which cultural traits you’d like your self-storage company to embrace, it's time to make things official. Define your culture in writing within your employee handbook and share it with all staff, old and new. Meet with team members to discuss it and address any questions or concerns they have.

The last step is the most difficult but also the most fulfilling: You have to live up to your company culture on a daily basis! Leadership must set a consistent example for employees to follow. Practice what you preach, and make any adjustments and enhancements you believe are necessary to achieve the results you want.

The right company culture should keep your self-storage employees excited and engaged. It gets everyone moving in the same direction and minimizes rogue, negative actions. When your key values and guiding principles are documented, there’s little grey area as to how you want things done.

Keep assessing and engaging with staff on cultural matters because they’re the ones who put it into wide practice. If you want your work environment to be competitive but your employees are more customer-oriented, it may be wise to steer toward the middle. Once established, your culture is about more than a single owner and vision, product or service. It’s a reflection of your company as a whole.

Allicyn Bowley is director of policy and procedure for Self Storage Science LLC, a provider of audits, consulting and property-management services. With 10 years of industry experience, she’s responsible for minimizing liability, ensuring policies are up to date and overseeing the company’s Colorado locations. To reach her, call 720.707.9277; email [email protected].

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