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Hiring and Training Self-Storage Managers: Making Smart, Effective Decisions

Hiring question
Too many independent self-storage operators spend far too little time on what should be one of their most important considerations—hiring and training the person responsible for renting space and collecting rent. Here are some considerations for both.

While many self-storage owners have recognized the need to hire quality managers to oversee their valuable assets, there are still a number of properties led by unprofessional or incompetent staff. Moreover, many skip over another important factor: quality training. In general, too many independent operators spend far too little time on what should be one of their most important considerations—hiring and training the person responsible for renting space and collecting rent.

Hiring

So how does a facility end up with a manager who’s not quite up to the task of operating a successful site? It’s usually related to one of these hiring practices:

  • Hiring out of desperation. The owner hires the first person to walk in the door after the last manager quit.
  • Hiring friends and relatives. The people you know aren’t necessarily qualified for the job or more trustworthy. I’ve seen and heard too many stories of heartbreak to believe this is a good idea.
  • Hiring managers with years of self-storage experience. This usually means they have years of bad habits.
  • Hiring with no training program in place. Untrained managers have a higher rate of turnover and are less satisfied with their job.

When seeking to fill an open position, owners should look for someone with a sales background and worry less about hiring folks with management experience. They’re not really “managing” anything or anyone anyway.

Also look for is someone who has an outgoing and friendly personality. Avoid anyone who seems grouchy or moody. These types have no business being around other people. You can teach anyone how to rent units and take a payment, but you can’t train someone to be welcoming. You need a person who already possesses the trait.

Training

To maximize the effectiveness of the friendly person you hire to rent units and collect money, you must create and implement an effective training program. Training is never a “one and done” occurrence. You need a continuous program in place. Even the highest-paid athletes in the world participate in ongoing training. Your program must cover the following:

Sales. If you’re spending any money on marketing in an effort to get the phone to ring and prospects to walk in the door, then your manager should be able to turn those efforts into paying tenants. He must know how to effectively answer the phone and use a proven sales presentation, gathering names and phone numbers of prospects for professional follow-up. He must also learn how to sell customers the correct size and type of unit to meet their needs. (Please, quit letting your managers start off a sales pitch with the question, “What size do you need?”)

Your manager should also learn how to sell moving and packing supplies, offer your company’s tenant insurance or protection program, and rent trucks. Anytime he doesn’t do these things, you risk the prospect going somewhere else to secure all of the items he needs to make his storage experience a success.

Collections. While we’ve all probably met someone who was a “born salesperson,” no one was “born to collect.” Yet, few storage owners provide collections training for their managers. Collections is one of the most frustrating parts of the manager’s job, and accounts receivable is one of the most neglected aspects of facility operation. To maximize employee satisfaction and potential revenue, provide your staff with effective collections training.

In addition to the abilities above, your manager must clearly understand how to increase rental rates, follow up on leads, conduct proper lien sales and more. While there are clearly other skills he needs to be successful and for which you should provide training—basic facility maintenance, customer service, software use, etc.—his ability to effectively sell and collect are the most important. Knowing how to do these two things will lead to less turnover, higher job satisfaction, higher revenue and greater profit.

Do yourself and your storage operation a favor. Hire great people, give them the tools to succeed, and then get out of their way and let them do a fantastic job!

Bob Copper is the owner of Self Storage 101, a consulting firm specializing in self-storage. Bob and his team have worked with hundreds of owners, operators and managers to maximize asset value, conducting countless due-diligence audits and helping owners position their facilities to sell. To reach him, call 866.269.1311; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.selfstorage101.com.

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