Every self-storage owner should want to get the most out of their investment, and perhaps the most important element to achieving that goal is facility staff. Having well-trained managers in place won’t only keep your site operating at peak performance, it’ll help you sleep well at night, knowing your asset is in good hands. Sure, there are other critical aspects to success, such as customer service, retail sales, marketing, curb appeal and site maintenance, but good employees are the ones who ensure those items fall into place.
There are countless examples of facility managers who were hired into this industry, handed the keys to a self-storage facility and left to figure it out. Though a dedicated self-starter may find a way to succeed in this situation, they would be a rare find. That person would also likely make unnecessary mistakes throughout the learning process that could easily have been avoided with proper guidance.
This is where training becomes critical. The right education can help an employee embrace his role in the company, flourish within it, and ultimately help the property reach its full potential. The question is, who should provide it? Can you do it yourself (DIY), or would the help of a professional partner benefit your operation? Many self-storage owners find outsourcing alleviates their burden, ensures greater staff success and contributes to the overall improvement of the business.
A DIY Approach
There are no ifs, ands or buts about it: Once you have the right self-storage employees in place, training is imperative. If you’re thinking about taking a DIY approach, you need to ask yourself a few pointed questions:
- Am I the right person to train new staff?
- Am I equipped with enough knowledge in all areas?
- Do I have the time to invest in training?
- How will the training be accomplished—in person? Virtually? Both?
- Do I have the necessary training materials?
If you answered “yes” to all the above, you might be the right person to teach your new hires, but let’s take a closer look. Even if you’re stellar at your own job, that doesn’t necessarily make you a good trainer. Think of all the great athletes who’ve tried to transition to coaching and failed miserably!
Do you really have a plan and the expertise to guide employees in all areas of the job? To be sure, it’s a time commitment. Most people who are new to self-storage require a minimum of 80 hours of training. You’ll also need the right materials, including an operations manual and a copy of your state self-storage regulations. If you’re training in person, you’ll also need adequate space.
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you should strongly consider outsourcing your training to a third-party provider. Many self-storage management companies offer these services and view themselves as personnel-development experts. To find a reputable partner, it can be good to start with your state association, as it’s imperative to find a provider that’s familiar with the industry laws in your state. Most associations maintain a list of local vendors.
Here are some additional considerations:
- Program length: A good training program will take 40 to 80 hours. Look for a company that offers a minimum of 40 hours.
- Track record: Ask for a list of references from each outsource candidate. Contact these references to inquire whether their staff received adequate training from the company and were well-equipped to succeed in their roles.
- Support: Trainers should offer at least some level of ongoing support. Even an employee who did very well in training is likely to have lingering questions or need a refresher now and again. Most third-party providers offer a certain amount of phone and online support at no charge for the first 30 days after the initial training. Beyond that, additional charges typically apply.
- Software: It’s difficult to train your staff effectively if the trainer isn’t familiar with your self-storage management system. Make sure you inquire about the software with which the provider has expertise.
- Cost: As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Prices for a two-week training program typically start around $3,000. That may seem like a lot, but a well-trained manager will more than make up for the expense in short order. Trying to cut corners could cost you much more in the long term.
Because every self-storage facility is unique, there may be things you want your staff to know how to do that are outside the norm for a typical self-storage operation. That’s OK, but address those items after you’ve established your training partnership. At the outset, look for a knowledgeable provider that can teach the basics really well.
Monty Rainey is owner of Texas-based RPM Storage Management LLC, a third-party management company that operates 28 self-storage facilities across Texas. The company also performs feasibility studies, due diligence, staff hiring and training, and more. With more than 27 years in the industry, Monty has personally trained more than 200 employees, and his staff have trained many more. For more information, call 830.832.9496.