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Initial and Ongoing Training for Your Self-Storage Managers

Now that you’ve interviewed and hired your new self-storage manager, it’s time start him off on the right foot with a solid training program. Here’s how to create an effective platform for new staff, plus guidance on keeping your existing managers sharp.

August 1, 2015

7 Min Read
Initial and Ongoing Training for Your Self-Storage Managers

By Pamela Alton

Now that you’ve interviewed and hired your new self-storage manager, it’s time to start him off on the right foot. Whether you own one or multiple facilities, you should have a training program for new staff as well as continued coaching for existing employees. This program should include an operations manual and other materials so everyone’s on the same page in regard to the daily operation of your site. Staff should know your procedures, company forms and exactly what’s expected from them and you, the supervisor or owner.

It doesn’t matter if a manager has been in this business for 25 years or it’s his first day on the job—all employees should be trained! In some cases, they need to be re-trained. Just because a manager has years of experience doesn’t mean he’s doing everything the way it should be done or the way you want it done. Training is an essential part of your business success. Here’s how to create an effective program for new staff, plus guidance on keeping current managers sharp.

Initial Training

Before a new manager’s official first day on the job, set up a week’s worth of paid training at your corporate office. (If you own a single facility, training will likely be conducted at the site.) While on-the-job training can be beneficial, it’s better to carry out the initial coaching away from the front desk. The trainer and trainee need to focus in these first sessions, so choose a quiet place. This might be the breakroom, or you can even set up a table and chairs in a vacant unit—anywhere you can avoid interruptions from the phone or customers.

An experienced manager should already have a good understanding of facility operation, but he still needs to be trained about your specific business procedures. If you’ve hired someone with general property-management experience, he may have skills that are applicable to the job, but he still needs guidance on tasks that are specific to our industry. For example, he likely won’t know about the lien-sale process. You may need to adjust your training program based on each employee’s knowledge and skill set.


Regardless of experience, staff training should begin with your facility’s specific forms. Each company has its own documents, and the manager needs to be trained in the use of forms such as:

  • Rental agreement

  • Change-of-address form

  • Incident report

  • Move-out form

  • Daily or weekly reporting forms

  • Employee time cards

  • Sick- or vacation-day requests

Your company should also have a policies and procedures manual as well as a sales and marketing manual. Review these with your new hire page by page. This could take some time, but it’s critical to cover the material in detail. Don’t assume the employee will read it later because he likely won’t. By taking time to read through the manuals together, you can answer any questions regarding the way you want things done. You want to cover all important policies such as employee benefits, bonus incentives, dress code, emergency procedures, etc.

Sales and Marketing

Once you’ve gone over the company forms and manuals, it’s time to train your new manager in sales and marketing. The first and most important topic in your sales training is how to answer the phone. Training your manager on how to answer a call, qualify the caller’s needs, quote unit sizes and pricing, and close the sale is extremely important. Second, cover the steps he should take for walk-ins, such as standing to greet the customer, using the person’s name and other customer-service strategies.

Next in your sales training is how to give a facility tour. There’s more to showing a unit than just opening the door and asking if it’s the right size for the customer’s needs. The tour is a chance for the manager to answer customer questions and highlight facility amenities. He should be able to address outstanding features, such as the large drive aisles and video cameras, or explain how individual door alarms work. Make sure he knows how to sell your site’s best assets.

Your new staff member should also know about your current marketing programs and what his role will be in executing them. This might include information on your referral program. Will your manager be expected to participate in the company’s social media outreach? If so, you may need to spend some time discussing your campaigns and posting policies.

Maintenance and Operational Duties

After you address sales and marketing, give your new manager an overview of facility maintenance. This should cover:

  • Conducting lock checks

  • Cleaning and prepping a unit after a move-out

  • Keeping unit doors clean

  • Tidying the maintenance-storage unit

  • Maintaining the golf cart

  • Ordering office and maintenance supplies

  • Handling repairs

Next, give your employee an overview of standard office procedures such as opening and closing the property, maintaining tenant files, and handling bank deposits and petty cash. He’ll also need thorough training on your management-software program and security systems. The amount of time needed to train on these systems will depend on your hire’s experience. Managers familiar with storage-specific programs won’t need as much training. Those new to the industry will need in-depth instruction. Share what the employee should do if he experiences problems with software or equipment.

From here, move on to handling delinquent tenants and your company’s lien-sale procedure. If your manager has worked at self-storage facilities in your state, he may be familiar with your local lien laws. Even so, it’s a good idea to review them. If he’s never worked in the storage industry, you’ll spend more time on this training. Also teach him how to make a collections call and document the efforts, and when to overlock a unit.

Once all this training is complete, ask your new manager if he has any questions or feels like he needs additional guidance in any of the areas you’ve covered. He may have questions about a specific procedure or task. Once he has a good grasp of your operation, ask him to sign a form that states his understanding of the training and put it in his employee file.

Ongoing Training

Do employees who’ve been with you for years need training, too? Absolutely! As your company grows, you may add new forms, change existing forms or enact new policies. It might be that your state’s lien law has changed. For this reason, periodically review your training program and update it to address any new forms, procedures or tasks.

Ongoing sales training is always warranted, no matter how experienced your staff is. One way you can help keep sales skills fresh is to hire a mystery-shop company. There are several in the industry that will conduct shops by phone or in person. Their representatives will pose as a potential customer and evaluate your staff on a variety of metrics including customer service and sales skills.

Once you have the results of your staff’s mystery shop, discuss what they did correctly and areas in which they can improve. Remember, giving a pat on the back to a manager who’s doing a good job doesn’t cost you a dime. It only takes a couple minutes to let him know you appreciate the job he’s doing. If your employee is lacking in certain areas, you have the opportunity for additional training.

There are also companies that provide industry-specific training. This can be done on site and usually consists of two or three days of intensive education covering a gamut of operational skills. Some owners periodically hire consultants to conduct a training in customer service, marketing or sales.

Always train your new staff, and never assume an experienced manager is trained properly. Also have continuous training in place so employees have the tools they need to do their jobs well. Make your staff accountable for their actions, pay them well and give them positive reinforcement.

Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management Services, a nationwide self-storage manager placement service. She also conducts audits and inspections, manager training, and feasibility studies. For more information, call 321.890.2245; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.mini-management.com.

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