A self-storage owner’s greatest asset is his staff. Learn how to nurture your facility managers through training, recognition and empowerment so they’re more engaged in the success of your business.

May 9, 2016

6 Min Read
Fostering Great Self-Storage Managers Through Training, Recognition and Empowerment

By Shari Sutton

Self-storage is a customer-driven business and your facility managers are your frontline, so you must make careful considerations at the time of hiring. It’s important to look for individuals who have a strong customer-service and sales background, while marketing experience is a plus.

Your hires don’t necessarily need to have self-storage experience, as most of the day-to-day operation of a facility is pretty straightforward and easily taught. Some of the best managers come from entirely different backgrounds with little to no industry experience. What they do possess is sales and service experience—two crucial factors for any business. Without sales, you don’t have customers; and without satisfied customers, you won’t sustain long-term growth. Unfortunately, self-storage owners don’t always consider this in their hiring process.

There’s a strong correlation between a customer’s overall experience—what your facility and managers provide—and the likelihood that he will become a loyal tenant who’s also an advocate for your business and a great source of referrals. To ensure this conversion, here are some factors to consider in regard to staff training and motivation.

Train for Better Performance

Training your self-storage managers is extremely important. Investing in education sends a strong message that you care about your team and their success, which directly translates into how they will care for your business.

Regardless of the size of your portfolio, you can implement an internal training program or combine it with external training for a competitive edge. Most important, teaching new employees should go beyond explaining your software and day-to-day operation. It should cover your environment, your facility’s unique customer experience, and how to actually close sales on the phone.

Training your managers to sell more effectively is a motivating force for continued success and growth. If you have a training program in place, continue to evaluate it to ensure long-term development. If you don’t have a program in place, consider making this a priority. It’s an investment in your employees and facility that’s well spent and will come back to you through an increase in occupancy and higher yield.

Motivate and Build Teams

There are many keys to motivating employees. First and foremost is communication. Statistics show that companies that communicate most effectively are 50 percent more likely to report turnover levels below industry average, compared to only 33 percent for companies with the least effective communication.

Keeping your managers updated on the things he needs to know to succeed, such as new policies or facility promotions, is critical. There’s nothing more frustrating to a manager than having to learn about a new promotion from a customer, or finding out about a new policy after being chastised for failing to follow it. This can be more common with larger operations where it may take longer for new information to trickle down to all facilities.

Most employees want to perform well, and keeping an open line of communication will support this. If you’re a local operator with multiple facilities in a market, consider gathering your managers for a monthly strategy meeting. These get-togethers are productive for rolling out new information and provide an open forum for managers to meet with their peers, exchange stories, and discuss what is and isn’t working well at their facilities. They can even talk about areas in which they need assistance.

This is also an excellent format for training. Say you’ve implemented a new feature on your website or updated your lease. Going over these items in a group setting allows managers to ask questions and get real-time answers. Not only will you get great input from your staff, it supports a team environment. For smaller operators, this could be a quarterly function as opposed to monthly. It gives your entire management team an opportunity to contribute to the growth of your organization.

Set Goals

Setting goals with your managers and not just for them gives them buy-in. It’s OK to set lofty objectives, but make sure they’re attainable and realistic for your market. Establish weekly and monthly targets. Communication is the key here, so if targets aren’t being met, you can identify why. If there’s a problem, it may not be manager-related; it may be market- or price-related. You won’t know unless you’re paying attention.

You also need to be flexible and adjust goals when necessary. There’s nothing is more discouraging to a manager than to feel like his goals aren’t attainable or he’s failing.

In setting goals, it’s important for managers to understand the reports generated from your facility-management software, not just from the perspective of square-foot occupancy, but from the perspective of economic occupancy and how concessions and delinquencies impact it. This should be incorporated into your training process.

Build Recognition Programs

A little credit goes a long way. It’s important to realize that not all people are motivated by money. Many crave recognition because it’s not something we typically get in our daily lives. For example, offer praise to the managers with the highest monthly occupancy increases. If one of your goals is to increase customer feedback, then acknowledge managers who’ve inspired their customers to write glowing online reviews.

When a manager has an exceptional month, take him to lunch or present him with a special “thank you.” If you don’t create an environment where people enjoy coming to work every day, they’ll become order-takers instead of go-getters!

Create Employee Advocates

An employee advocate is a socially engaged employee who creates and shares your brand content on his personal social networks. When employees share content, they reach 10 times as many people as your brand’s social media pages. Why is this so powerful? Seventy-seven percent of consumers are more likely to purchase a product or service when a friend recommends it. An employee’s friends and other consumers consider them trusted resources. Advocate marketing programs also benefit employees as well by empowering and engaging them, providing opportunities to demonstrate thought leadership, and helping them build new skills.

When implementing an employee-advocacy program, it’s important to create a social media policy. You have to establish rules to ensure compliance, regardless of how socially savvy your employees might be. First, you have to identify goals. These programs have the potential to reach new audiences, create thought leadership, and establish and improve brand identity.

Recognize your employee advocates, which helps keep them engaged in brand promotion. Share their content on your company website to highlight their successes and offer third-party training to enhance their skills.

You employees are your greatest asset. Giving them the training to succeed, the recognition they deserve, and the empowerment to advocate for your brand not only helps them become more engaged in the success of your storage business, it improves your  communication, human resources, marketing and sales.

Shari Sutton is president of Sutton Watkins Advertising & Marketing Inc. and MMS, a division of the company that focuses on self-storage and multi-family housing. Shari has been a respected agency principal since 1998, with expertise in advertising, marketing and senior management. She’s responsible for several prominent accounts, serving as marketing director for Nevada-based StorageOne and overseeing the direct and grassroots marketing efforts of 17-plus self-storage facilities. To reach her, call 702.270.2147; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.suttonwatkins.com.

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