One of the most difficult and costly aspects of self-storage operation is team-member turnover. More than 75 percent of facilities are still owned by individuals or families, many of whom don’t live near their storage property. They entrust their source of income to front-line management staff. When an employee quits, it can be devastating.
How do you prevent employees from leaving? Some will say to vet candidates, pay better wages, offer benefits, etc. I argue that while these things matter, what really counts is the work culture you create. If you’re paying a livable wage, most staff would much rather work for an organization with a great culture than leave for a little more money.
There are three aspects of your business that, if you get them right, will facilitate the type of culture that drives employee loyalty. If you establish a strong mission, vision and values, and then support them with the right processes, procedures, training and incentives, your team will embrace them and love working for you.
Mission, Vision and Values
To set the foundation for your culture, the first thing you must do is establish a mission statement. It should briefly articulate your vision for the business and the values that are important to you. Your mission should be short and sweet. It can be one or two lines that get your team members enthusiastic about working as part of your company. Even if you own only a single site, this is imperative.
Your fully stated company vision can be a bit longer than your mission statement and should clearly explain, in plain language, where you want your company to be in the future, say, five years out. Consider what it’ll take to get your business there. It should contain your purpose and describe what success looks like to you.
Lastly, identify three to five values that are important to you. Again, put these in plain language and write out what the words mean. A common mistake with values is to just chose a word like “honesty.” Well, that can mean a lot of things. What do these values mean to you and how do they reflect and relate to your company’s mission and vision?
The Support Structure
To reinforce your company’s mission, vision and values, it’s important to implement processes and procedures that uphold rather than detract from them. For example, let’s say if one of your values is empathy; you want your team to listen to your customers. But then you set a rule that your managers must make a minimum number of outgoing marketing calls every day, which keeps them so preoccupied, they don’t have time for the quality interaction empathy requires. In this case, your operation would be at odds with your values.
Once you’ve established best practices that buttress your culture, you must train staff in what they are and how to follow them. Provide annual training, and make sure the education your team receives strengthens your culture. It’s critical to vet all training opportunities based on this criteria. Training dollars are precious, so maximize every one of them.
Finally, laying the foundation of a good culture does no good if your team isn’t incentivized to actively participate in and maintain it. I’m more of a carrot vs. stick guy, so I like to tie employee bonuses (at least in part) to culture-supporting behaviors. It’s often a surefire way to guarantee team members act accordingly.
Develop a performance plan that lists your values and ways employee actions can meet, exceed or miss expectations. Review this plan quarterly to ensure any out-of-line behaviors can be quickly corrected before they become bad habits or damage your facility’s reputation or bottom line.
The late management consultant and author Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Having a great work culture is a fantastic way to reduce employee turnover. To create it, establish and reinforce your company mission, vision and values at every team meeting. Don’t just write them on the wall and forget about them. Live them and talk often about how you and the staff have embraced and sustained them.
Next, develop operational processes and procedures that enable your team to fully leverage your culture as they complete day-to-day tasks. Train them in these best practices using supportive methods and resources.
Finally, incentivize your team to behave in ways that underpin your mission, vision and values. When you strike the right balance, you’ll improve your work culture and reduce staff turnover.
Scott Lewis is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Spartan Investment Group LLC (SIG), where he’s responsible for developing business strategies and overseeing all operations and business activities. Scott has led several successful real estate projects ranging from single-family flips to ground-up self-storage developments. He’s also a major in the U.S. Army Reserves and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. SIG has completed $9 million in development projects, with $70 million underway. For more information, call 866.375.4438; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.spartan-investors.com.