Self-storage managers have a full plate of obligations, both to customers and their employer. Though one could simply sit back, do the bare minimum and still earn a paycheck, it’s those who take the lead to ensure their facilities are best-in-class that have the most successful properties and careers. Which are you? More important, which do you want to be?
If you really want to make a difference in your self-storage operation and prove yourself to be a rising star, you need to show initiative. Following are several ways to do that. It can be intimidating, but it’s what you must do to excel.
Find the Why
In self-storage, it’s often up to the managers to come up with clever, cost-effective ways to compete in their markets. To do that, you need to find your facility’s “why factor”—why a customer would want to store at your location over a competitor’s. If it isn’t clear, learn all the ins and outs of the property. What are its greatest selling points? Maybe it’s longer gate hours, plentiful security cameras or great curb appeal. Perhaps it’s the amazing staff.
The fact is, as the manager, you’re in control of a lot of these elements. You can easily turn a dirty facility into a clean one or elevate a property with poor service into a great one. Take the lead in establishing your facility’s why factor, and you’ll help the business succeed.
As a self-storage manager, you are the eyes, ears and mouth representing your operation at all times, and your public-facing actions are extremely important. When there’s a conflict with a customer, some staff shy away from making decisions or divert tough judgments to place blame on the company. Instead, take ownership and teach tenants why certain measures are necessary. No one likes to get a rent increase or be locked out, but instead of avoiding a difficult conversation or telling the customer “it’s company policy,” educate him on why these rules are important and even a benefit to him.
For example, in the case of the rate increase, discuss how it helps cover facility upgrades or how it’s a regular occurrence in other real estate sectors. You can even bring up the fact that inflation is averaging 3 percent every year, which means the value of the dollar is going down. Explain why it’s important to have systems in place to ensure only paying tenants have access to units. By “owning” facility policies and coaching customers, you’ll prove yourself to be a company asset.
Focus on Reporting
It’s important to habitually create and send reports to superiors so they can see how many discounts you gave out, what issues came up at the property and which were resolved, collection attempts you made, and so on. While most management software allows those above you to run the numbers, it doesn’t necessarily tell the full story. Give your employers a sense of what’s been happening at your facility. Tell them what they need to know and how you’re addressing any challenges.
There are many reports in your software that contain critical data. Get to know the numbers and what they mean, and set goals to beat them from month to month. While some of it may be over your head initially, it’ll prepare you for the future. If there’s something you don’t understand, ask. Demonstrating your desire to learn and use information to improve performance is what’s important.
Know Your Facility’s Reputation
Spend time reading customer reviews to see where your business stands in the community. While rent increases may commonly result in negative feedback, what about other issues? Managers who lead will consider what’s said about their facility and respond to those comments that warrant it. You should also read reviews for your competitors, as this can provide great insight to the market and boost confidence in your own operation.
Promote Facility Features and Benefits
It’s easy to develop tunnel vision through the daily grind, but excellent self-storage managers understand that part of their role as marketers and salespeople is to raise awareness about facility features and accompanying benefits. These must be shared with prospects and tenants! For example, you might:
- Include verbiage on your customer receipts to promote current promotions, your referral program and upcoming auctions. This is free to do, and you can change the messaging as often as you like.
- Rearrange your retail merchandise, just like a department store, to grab shoppers’ attention. If your display always looks the same, you can expect it to grow stale, particularly to tenants who see it regularly.
- Send tenants a monthly newsletter to thank them for their business and remind them of upcoming events or special offers.
Stay on Top of Maintenance
Do you know the last time your self-storage units were fully checked? That means knowing, without a doubt, that all latches are working perfectly, door springs have been lubricated, floors and walls are clean, etc. This is another way for you to excel in the eyes of your owner.
An effective strategy is to create a five- or 10-point inspection checklist to ensure each unit is ready to rent. If it isn’t, mark it as unrentable, and fix it as soon as possible. Tasks can be as simple as ensuring the door latch moves freely, the light works, there are no cobwebs behind the door, the weatherstrip is intact, the pull-down cord is in good condition. and so on.
Take the lead on building partnerships with local businesses, even competitors, which can be a great marketing strategy. Simply stop by or call. Introduce yourself and talk about the amazing things you’ve heard about the company (even if it’s a little over the top). Share anything useful you know about the community, such as where there have been break-ins or vandalism, or road construction taking place. If you’re talking to another storage operator, maybe share your auction dates and times so you don’t clash.
Also, build relationships with your tenants! Get a feel for how they’re doing. Take the time to carry on a conversation, and always put them first when it comes to sharing information. Transparency can mean all the difference in the world.
How you want your self-storage facility to be perceived is in your hands. Whatever you do on behalf of the business, take the lead to excel. Pretend you’re the owner and that every aspect of the property is your responsibility. There are hundreds of simple ways to take initiative and improve your operation. Instead of waiting for someone to tell you what you should do, empower yourself to accomplish what you want done. That’s what will give you the professional edge!
Matthew Eoff has worked in several positions in the self-storage industry over the past eight years, including part-time manager, maintenance employee and area manager overseeing six California locations. With a background as a military police officer, he takes pride in analyzing situations and can translate trends and predictable outcomes. He enjoys sharing information to improve the industry community. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.enhancingselfstorage.com. You can also follow him on LinkedIn.