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Hiring Professional Trainers for Your Self-Storage Management Team: Weighing all the Options

As the self-storage industry becomes more sophisticated, the roles of onsite staff become more complex. Staying current on best practices requires thorough and ongoing training, but not every owners is equipped to offer it in-house. Here’s why outsourcing may make sense, and pros and cons of the various programs available.

Stacie Maxwell

September 17, 2022

7 Min Read
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Successfully operating a self-storage facility has always required a manager to wear many hats, and today’s evolving business has only expanded the headwear collection. There are so many aspects to this industry—from the basics of renting units and taking payments to more complicated tasks like rate management and lien sales—that it can take months for new staff to absorb everything they need to run the site efficiently and profitably.

In short, today’s self-storage managers must be incredibly well-rounded, which means their training must be thorough and supplemented with continual education to keep up with trends and consumer demands. Fortunately, the industry is loaded with providers that offer professional training services.

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The trick to optimizing your team training is to find the right partner and programs that align with your unique goals. Before we dive into the options, let’s establish why outsourcing can be a smart approach.

Why Outsource Training?

The self-storage industry is packed with experts who have years of experience to share. One of the greatest thought leaders in human history, Socrates, is often credited with the observation: “I know that I know nothing.” In self-storage, the wisest among us also know that continual innovation and market change mean none of us truly know everything.

Professional trainers can be difference-makers because in addition to their expertise, they actively seek to stay on the cutting edge. In fact, investing in a great training program can positively impact facility profitability and success. Here are some other good reasons to seek outside support:

  • It lowers your costs, as you don’t need to keep trainers on staff.

  • Many programs allow you to pay the expense quarterly or annually to accommodate your budget.

  • Some programs allow you to hire training on a topic-by-topic basis.

  • Outsourcing gives you access to experts with diverse and specialized skillsets, such as marketing, revenue management and legal issues.

  • There’s a fast and easy implementation since providers have programs at the ready. Even if a program requires customization, there’s minimal startup time or disruption.

Outsourced training can come in many forms. It can be in-person at your location or the vendor’s. You can also choose from live, online training or packaged programs that include pre-recorded videos or self-led workbooks. Let’s look at the potential costs, pros and cons of each.

In Person: Your Location

Typically, the average cost for in-person training at your location is about $2,000 or more per session per day, plus vendor travel.

Pros:

  • Highly customizable to your exact needs

  • The familiarity of using your own space and equipment

  • Lower overall travel cost, since the trainer(s) come to you

  • No hassle of dealing with staff flights, cars, hotel rooms, etc.

  • Less impact to daily operation than sending the team elsewhere

Cons:

  • Staff may not be 100% focused on training due to in-store needs

  • May require temporary office closures to avoid customer interruptions

  • May require the use of alternate staff if the office can’t be closed, which increases payroll costs

In Person: Vendor Location

The average cost for attending training at a vendor’s location is about $2,000 or more per session per day, plus travel expenses for staff.

Pros:

  • Often a more formal classroom setting, which is ideal for increased focus

  • Allowing travel emphasizes the importance of training to the organization and creates a sense of employee appreciation and value

  • Programs, training space and materials, food and beverage, etc., are prepared for you, so there’s no need to worry about logistics

Cons:

  • May involve equipment that is unfamiliar to your team

  • Travel expense can be considerable depending on team size

  • Office closure may be necessary to accommodate travel

Live Online

For live, online training, costs vary from $200 per hour for short sessions and individual topics to $1,500 and more for a full-day or complete program.

Pros:

  • Can be fully customizable to your needs in terms of topics covered

  • Can greatly reduce expenses, as no travel is involved for either party

  • Short, topical sessions may be available to help avoid screen-time overload

  • Opportunity to ask live questions and receive immediate assistance from the experts

  • May be recorded and available for later replay and review

Cons:

  • Doesn’t always allow for the best demonstration of certain processes, especially physical tasks such as site maintenance

  • Reliant on technology and computer equipment, so you must have the proper software and hardware

  • Internet connection must have enough bandwidth to handle the sessions without interruption

  • Each staff member must be accountable for logging in and actively participating, instead walking away or doing other things in the background

Ready-Made Programs

The costs for canned programs can vary from $20 per workbook to $500 and up for video packages.

Pros:

  • An abundance of programs available from industry media outlets, national and state self-storage associations, and companies that specialize in manager training

  • A wide selection of topics, which allows you to focus on specific priorities or needs

  • Easy to acquire and generally available for download or online use, making it easier to distribute and deploy to your team

  • Generally less expensive than live training, due to the format and minimal to no personnel involvement

Cons:

  • May not be as current as live training

  • Programs will have a “cookie-cutter” approach, with minimal to no customization

  • No opportunity to actively ask questions

  • Staff is personally accountable for completing each lesson, which can lead to disengagement and procrastination

Weighing the Options

When choosing which training option works for your self-storage business, carefully examine each vendor, beginning with the programs available. Once you know which topics you want to cover and which format will be best, the list will shrink.

The next layer of consideration should be the vendor’s portfolio and client testimonials. Look to see how the provider has performed for other facility operators. Try to get a sense for their overall reputation within the self-storage industry and gauge whether you’ll get along with their personnel.

Once you’ve narrowed your choices to a few vendors that check all of your boxes, the final consideration is overall cost, including the training value for the price and the vendor’s billing terms.

Optimizing the Experience

Once you’ve chosen a professional to train your self-storage team, it becomes your responsibility to be a good client. There are things you can do to facilitate the process, make the most of the partnership and maximize the value.

First, communicate your needs and goals. If you’re purchasing a customized program, your vendor shouldn’t have to blindly guess at your wants and needs. Clearly define the scope of work. How many people will be trained? What knowledge and resources do they require? Also, make sure your team knows what to expect, so they can be prepared once training begins.

It’s important to fulfill any client responsibilities in a timely manner. Your vendor may have questions or suggestions for your training program. It’s important to respond quickly and completely. If your team will need things like space, computers, overhead projectors and screens, etc., procure it in advance.

Lastly, it’s always good to be ready for bumps in the road. Life isn’t perfect, and things can disrupt training like travel delays, computer issues or illnesses. Having a contingency plan for unexpected is important, so that all parties can respond in a constructive and efficient manner. This’ll allow you to receive the best possible experience and value regardless of any circumstance.

Outsourcing your self-storage training is an intelligent decision because it can lead to positive changes throughout your organization. Greater efficiencies and profits, staying current on processes and procedures, and even sparking employee engagement and retention are just some of the benefits that can come from the experience. With a plethora of choices available, the most important decision is to invest in your success!

Stacie Maxwell is vice president of marketing and training for Universal Storage Group (USG), a self-storage consulting and management firm, where she oversees branding, design, marketing, public relations and more for the company’s 70-plus property portfolio. With more than 21 years of industry experience, she also works closely on USG’s facility-development and transition projects, and is responsible for driving the manager-training program and new-store startup teams. Stacie is a regular speaker at industry events and contributes to publications. To reach her, call 770.801.1888 or visit her profile on LinkedIn.

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