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Delivering a Termination: Preparing to Fire Your Self-Storage Manager

Fired Termination
A job termination is uncomfortable for all parties, but sometimes it’s necessary. If you need to let go of a self-storage manager, being prepared to handle the event in a professional manner will help a difficult process go more smoothly.

If you’re the person responsible for hiring your company’s self-storage managers, you’re likely also the one who does the firing. Hiring a good manager takes effort. Self-storage isn’t a difficult business, but there are a lot of pieces that must be managed on a timely basis for things to run smoothly. It takes a certain kind of person to juggle all the parts of a successful operation.

That makes it even harder when it comes time to let someone go. Sometimes a termination is needed immediately, as in cases of theft. Sometimes it’s the result of a gradual decline in performance or customer service. Regardless of the reason, it’s an unpleasant task.

No one wants to fire people often enough to get good at it. Unfortunately, it’s part of the job, and the better you are at it, the easier it will be. Luckily, you can be good at it without a ton of actual experience. Properly delivering a termination is all in the preparation. Below are some tips.

Be Fair

Consider the events that led to your decision. Was there coaching, counseling and disciplinary action? Did the employee know your expectations and that they weren’t being met? In many cases, a conversation with a written to-do list and a 30-day follow-up can resolve a lot of issues. This is much easier than hiring and training someone new.

However, if you’ve been down the disciplinary road with this manager and he can’t or won’t make the necessary changes, then you must let him go. In any case, a termination should never come as a surprise.

Never Demote

While the manager in question may make a great maintenance person rather than a property manager, it’s best for both of you he does it elsewhere. You both need a fresh start. It may be the alternative job isn’t right for him either, but no one wants to admit failure. A demotion just prolongs the agony.

Consider Living Arrangements

Decide ahead of time how you’ll handle the situation if your manager lives on site or stores stuff in a unit. It’s best that he vacate the premises as soon as possible so he has no reason to be on the property or speak with tenants.

If he needs to vacate the apartment, consider that he may have questions about buying boxes or using the moving truck. Your goal is to get him moved off the property quickly and quietly.

If he had a complimentary storage unit, three days is usually sufficient for him to move out. If he pays for his unit, provide him with a lease non-renewal letter.

Think About Benefits

Determine how any company or health benefits may be affected. What happens with health insurance, and sick and vacation days? Get help from your human-resources department or benefits agent. The more questions you have the answers for in advance, the less you’ll need to interact with the employee after the fact.

Practice Your Speech

Rehearse what you’re going to say and how you’ll say it. A successful termination should generally take no longer than five minutes. Your delivery should be business-like, unemotional and deliberate. A termination is, in effect, a one-sided conversation. For the most part, you talk and the employee listens.

Cover you basis for the decision, of which the employee should be aware; but there’s no need to go into details. Keep it simple. It’s likely he’ll want to counter, give reasons or explanations. Be prepared to limit his participation in these proceedings.

Don’t Procrastinate

Once the decision to terminate has been made, follow through as soon as possible. Determine where and when you’ll have this discussion. Pick a quiet place away from other staff or tenants. Plan how business operation will continue during and immediately after the termination. The phone still needs to be answered and tenants served. Prepare to change the office and apartment door locks as well as gate access codes.

Once you’re there, get right to it. By this time, the employee will likely know something’s up. There’s no need for small talk—it’ll only make everyone uncomfortable. This is a business decision and it’s final. Regardless of how the employee responds, stick to your plan and stay the course. Be cautious of giving unsolicited advice. It won’t be well-received.

Tell the manager how long he has to move out of the apartment if he lives on site, vacate his storage unit if he has one, and what will happen with health insurance or other benefits. Provide this information in writing as well. He may feel a little stunned at the time, and he may mishear things. Get the correct address to deliver his final check as well as collect keys and any other company items in his possession.

End on a Positive Note

Although it’s a difficult conversation, you should still try to end the relationship on a positive note. Wish the employee well and mean it! Look him in the eye and shake his hand. Your goal is to transition him out of your business with as little drama as possible. Give him the appropriate time to collect his personal belongings, but not enough time to loiter on site or talk with other staff.

Afterward, count petty cash and verify all monies and company property. Change the locks and the alarm code, remove access to the management software and gate system, and take any other measures needed to protect the business.

Give your new or remaining staff training on how to appropriately answer the “what happened to…” question from tenants and others. Advise them on how to handle things if the employee returns or there are unforeseen repercussions.

Self-storage facilities are valuable investments that require the right staff. A termination is uncomfortable for all parties, but occasionally it’s required. Being prepared and handling the event in a professional manner will help the process go smoothly.

Linnea Appleby is the owner of Lime Tree Management, a self-storage management and consulting firm based in Sarasota, Fla. For further information, call 941.350.7859; e-mail [email protected].

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