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Help With Hiring: Using an Agency or Manager-Placement Service to Staff Your Self-Storage Facility

Hiring suitable staff to manage their multi-million-dollar facility is a task no self-storage owner should take lightly. But for a small operator, the process can be a real drain on resources. A staffing agency or manager-placement service might be the solution you need. Learn all about it.

Pamela Alton

August 17, 2023

6 Min Read
Help With Hiring: Using an Agency to Staff Your Self-Storage Facility

At some point, every company faces the challenge of finding good, qualified candidates to fill positions. Self-storage operations are somewhat unique in that they can offer a wide range of related products and services, and facility managers must wear many hats. For example, they must obviously rent units, which means having strong sales and customer-service skills, but they also need to manage the marketing, collect debt, handle site maintenance and follow lien laws. Sometimes they need to play therapist to a distressed tenant.

Finding and hiring someone with all of these abilities isn’t easy, so where do you start? Decades ago, it was as simple as putting a “Help Wanted” ad in the local newspaper. However, owners often had to deal with no-shows or applicants who dressed in shorts and flip-flops and had no idea what the job entailed. Many candidates lacked the necessary skills to manage and operate a multi-million-dollar investment.

Today, the internet plays a pivotal role in obtaining quality self-storage employees. There are websites like Indeed, Monster and ZipRecruiter, that can help you find candidates. The issue for many operators, though, is that recruiting and hiring are time-consuming. So, what’s the best way to find good managers? Maybe it’s time to consider outsourcing to a staffing agency or placement service. Following are issues to consider.

Agency Scope

Most large self-storage companies don’t need to outsource their hiring since many have in-house staff to handle those tasks; plus, they receive lots of unsolicited resumes. Smaller businesses, on the other hand, have to put in more effort. Reviewing applications, interviewing candidates and determining salaries can take precious time away from other important obligations, which can hurt an operation that doesn’t have extra bandwidth.

This is why some employers elect to partner with a staffing or placement agency that has the expertise to bring talent to your doorstep. If you’re considering some outside help, be aware of their capabilities and what they bring to the table. In general, these providers recruit three types of positions:

  • Temporary: Has a foreseeable end date

  • Temp to hire: Starts as temporary but is used to determine if the employee is a good fit for the company in the long term

  • Direct hire: A permanent position

An outsourced provider may already have a list of suitable candidates in their database, or they may leverage websites like Indeed to reach job seekers. They may also reach out to prospects on sites like LinkedIn, which can be particularly effective when hiring in a niche industry that requires a certain skill set, such as self-storage. These companies then accept resumes, conduct interviews, and conduct reference and background checks just like any employer.

Partner Considerations

If outsourcing your self-storage hiring sounds attractive, it’s important to vet staffing agencies or placement services to ensure they understand the self-storage business. Not all potential partners understand what it takes to operate a successful facility, particularly the many job duties a manager will need to perform and the specific wage and bonus programs being offered in the industry today.

So, ask if they specialize in placing self-storage managers. If they don’t, continue your search until you find one that has a track record in helping industry operators. This is especially important if it’s been a while since you’ve had to hire facility staff. Compensation has changed considerably over the past decade.

A reputable agency will inspect candidate resumes, conduct reference and background checks, choose the most qualified applicants, and then send the resumes to you for review. In addition, some agencies will provide hiring-related paperwork such as a letter of employment and resident-manager apartment lease, if applicable.

With this work done, you can conduct your own phone interviews to determine which candidates you’d like to meet in person. For direct hires, you as the employer should decide who will best fit your organization. You’re also responsible for hiring, training and paying them. This is different for a temporary or temp-to-hire situation in which case the candidates brought forward are the agency’s employees.

Agency Fees

The costs associated with using a staffing agency depend on the level of service you choose. Generally, you don’t pay unless you hire someone through them, regardless of what type of position it is.

For most temporary or temp-to-hire positions, you’ll be charged a weekly or monthly fee, which can be anywhere from 25% to 50% of the hourly wage you’re offering, for as long as the employee belongs to the agency and works for you. This may sound high, but in these instances, the employee’s payroll and tax costs are the vendor’s responsibility. In some instances, you can “pay off” the employee fee in a lump sum, and then the temp becomes your permanent hire. At that point, you’re responsible for all wages and payroll taxes.

If you use an agency to assist with a direct hire, the fee is typically 100% of the employee’s base monthly salary or wage. These costs may be paid in full upon hiring, or the agency may arrange a payment plan, such as half the fee at the time of hire, with the remainder due once your new team member reaches 30 days of employment. The big difference is this person is entirely your responsibility from day one.

Sometimes, if a new hire leaves your self-storage company within a certain amount of time after the agency’s fee has been paid, the provider will try to replace the employee at no additional cost to you. Be sure to ask about this policy when vetting potential vendors.

Pros and Cons

One big advantage of using an employment agency or placement service to staff your self-storage operation is speed. Particularly if they specialize in self-storage, these companies usually have prescreened candidates who possess the qualifications you need.

Using an agency can also help you save on internal resources and expenses. While it does cost money to hire these types of services, having an in-house human resources department can increase your costs by 50% once you factor in that team’s annual wages and benefits. This is why it’s important to consider the productivity, time and resource investment involved with finding and vetting candidates. It’s up to you to determine which is the real disadvantage.

At the Starting Line

Of course, hiring is just the beginning. You must train your new self-storage employees so they mesh well with your operation. Pay them well and offer obtainable, motivating bonuses. Conduct regular performance reviews and provide raises when deserved. Provide them with the tools and guidance to be successful, and always give them a pat on the back for a job well done.

If you do all of these things, it will be a win-win situation for you, your staff and your self-storage business. Best of luck on a successful next hire!

Pamela Alton is owner of Mini-Management Services, which has been placing self-storage managers in positions all over the United States since 1991. She also offers staff training, operational consulting, and facility audits and inspections. For more information, call 321.890.2245; email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Pamela Alton

Owner, Mini-Management Services

Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management Services, a company that has been placing self-storage managers in positions all over the United States since 1991. She also offers staff training, operational consulting, and facility audits and inspections. For more information, call 321.890.2245; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.mini-management.com.

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