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Grabbing the Brass Ring: What It Takes in Self-Storage to Be Promoted Beyond Facility Manager

So, what do you do when you’re ready to be promoted from self-storage facility manager to something more—say, a district or regional manager, or perhaps something even further up the ranks? Find out the skills and traits it takes to reach that higher rung on the ladder.

In the self-storage industry, getting promoted above the role of facility manager isn’t easy. This is especially true with small operations, simply because there aren’t many layers between manager and owner. If you’re interested in climbing the ladder, larger organizations with multiple locations, including third-party management companies, tend to offer more advancement opportunities.

Once you’re aligned with a business where growth is possible, how do you earn that coveted role of district or regional manager, or perhaps something even higher? To garner the attention and respect of supervisors and owners, you’ll need to possess many traits, and master numerous behaviors and skills. Find out what makes an attractive candidate for promotion and some areas on which you can focus to reach your goal.

Leaders Seeking Leaders

A self-storage promotion isn’t earned simply because your facility has high occupancy and solid revenue. Sure, those are good indicators that you’re a strong manager, but there’s much more to it than that. For higher positions, owners and supervisors want employees who demonstrate leadership traits and behaviors. They want candidates who:

  • Set and achieve goals to improve the operation, including its customer experience and profitability.
  • Continually strive to learn and develop sales, service and management skills.
  • Sing their own praises! Achievers tell and show what innovative, creative, effective things they’re doing, especially in the area of sales and marketing.
  • Volunteer to take charge of projects and tasks that need completing.
  • Have a positive attitude about the job and customers.
  • Show pride in the work.
  • Avoid office politics and petty gossip about coworkers or customers.
  • Are committed to greatness.
  • Demonstrate that they can resolve problems.
  • Maintain a positive attitude, even in stressful times and situations.

A self-storage employer really appreciates property managers who make his own job easier. For example, when I arrive at one of my facilities for a meeting, my best employees are prepared with reports and a list of questions or requests. These are the people who possess the characteristics I seek when promoting staff.

A Successful Mix

Now, let’s look at additional essential skills and traits companies look for when considering a self-storage employee for promotion. There are others I could add to the list, but these will be at the top for many owners and supervisors.

A talent for sales and service. First and foremost, you need to be a specialist in these two areas. To get a promotion, you must know how to sell effectively in person, on the phone and online, plus how to meet customer needs. For supervisory roles, it’s greatly beneficial if you’re also proficient at coaching other employees in these skills.

Integrity and independence. A promotion-worthy manager spends his time at work focused on work. I’ve witnessed a lot of bad behavior from self-storage employees such as watching TV, surfing the Web, gambling online, making TikTok videos, doing homework, sleeping, paying personal bills, etc. Owners and property-management companies want upper-level staff who are efficient in time management and focused on task completion. Those who are independent and can carry out their duties without tight supervision will be favored.

Organization. This is another critical skill. Overseeing multiple self-storage properties isn’t easy! There’s typically travel involved, project lists, rate-management reviews, monthly reports to examine, lien notices to review, auctions to prepare … the list goes on. It’s imperative that a manager seeking promotion demonstrates an exceptional ability to juggle the needs of people and property to achieve store goals and objectives.

Listening and problem-solving. To be considered for a supervisory position, you’ll need to excel at detangling tricky situations and finding solutions to challenges. You’ll also need to be good at active listening. Whether you’re dealing with an upset customer or playing referee in a dispute between coworkers, you’ll need to keep a calm head, defuse the situation and find a resolution. It can be delicate, difficult work. This part of the job also has the potential to create liability if issues aren’t handled properly. Knowing how to fix problems and avoid legal risk is a skillset you’ll need to advance in your career.

Willingness to improve. A mature and confident employee welcomes feedback and constructive criticism. For example, some managers detest being mystery-shopped; however, this type of exercise should be appreciated because it helps you learn. The owner is investing in staff training and ways to improve team behavior to ensure quality control. To be considered for promotion, you must embrace any opportunity to grow, whether it’s feedback from a customer or an evaluation from your boss.

Authority. Finally, to be a good supervisor yourself, you’ll need to be comfortable providing feedback—positive and negative—to the employees you oversee. You might even need to hire staff. In this case, knowing how to effectively interview and evaluate prospective managers will be a critical skill. In fact, hiring can be one of the most time-consuming and difficult tasks you’ll ever undertake.

Make the Ask

In the end, it isn’t enough to feel you deserve a promotion, or even to have the traits and skills that warrant a step up. You need to clearly express to your owner or supervisor that you’re interested in advancement opportunities. If your request falls on deaf ears or there really isn’t a place to grow within the organization, you may need to seek employment with a larger self-storage operator who can provide a path to the career you desire.

Carol Mixon-Krendl is the owner of SkilCheck Services Inc., which provides self-storage auditing, mystery shopping, development and operations consultation, and sales training. She’s owned and managed more than 35 storage locations in the West and is a frequent speaker at industry tradeshows. She’s also written more than 100 articles for various publications and has served on state and national self-storage association boards. For more information, call 800.374.7545; email [email protected].

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