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Oh, the Places You’ll Go! How Working as a Self-Storage Manager Can Lead to Professional and Personal Growth

As the self-storage industry has evolved, so has the role of the facility manager. Read how change can spur opportunity and how you can make the most of your management position to help spur your professional and even personal growth.

Anna Ross

February 24, 2022

7 Min Read
How Working as a Self-Storage Manager Can Lead to Professional and Personal Growth

As the self-storage industry has evolved and adopted technological advancements, the role of facility manager has changed. The newest software does a lot of legwork for us by filling out leases, emailing invoices, sending text messages, etc. Tenants can now rent units through our websites without ever talking to a company representative. In some cases, kiosks and other automation tools have taken the place of the manager altogether. As a result, some facility employees have found their roles or responsibilities restructured.

Change is inevitable, of course. But whether it’s good or bad, there’s a lesson to be learned from it. For today’s self-storage manager, it’s important to understand what new opportunities are now available and how to make the most of them.

Granted, it isn’t always fun to change the way we do things. Learning new software or adjusting to new regulations can be challenging. Nevertheless, it’s important to not fall into a rut. One of the keys to making work enjoyable is to keep your passion for your job alive. This reduces your chance of “burnout” and helps you achieve a sense of fulfillment.

It’s no secret that if you enjoy your work, it’ll be noticed by your self-storage prospects, tenants, supervisors and owners. It may even lead to a new position! So, my advice is to start a new project, challenge yourself, set new goals and come up with a plan to implement them. Here are a few steps to guide you.

Define Your Position

There’s a false notion out there that managing a self-storage facility involves little more than renting units and taking payments. In reality, managers serve as many departments and wear many hats! You’re the human-resources officer, the maintenance person and advertising director. You handle accounts receivable and payable. You’re also the customer-service representative, security officer and so much more. Once you see yourself as encompassing all of these roles, you can view the job with a larger range of possibilities.

The best approach is to play to your strengths. For example, do you have a talent for instruction? Teaching is an extremely fulfilling way to get the most out of your job. Share your knowledge about the industry. Who knows, you may learn something new yourself!

Here are some specific things you can take on in your role and wow your superiors:

  • Hold a Zoom class or make some company how-to videos. This works great for training on things like gate repair or lock-cutting. If you have a great procedure for sales or collection calls, share it!

  • Write a training manual or handbook. If you don’t like making videos, this is a great way to share your experience in the industry while exercising your organizational and writing skills.

  • Train another manager. This is particularly relevant if you there’s more than one site in your company’s portfolio. There’s an adage that says, “If you’re irreplaceable, you’re unpromotable.” If you’re being considered for a promotion, wouldn’t it be a benefit to already have someone trained to take your place?

Learn All You Can

Though we have new technology designed to make our jobs easier, it’s helpful to know at least a little about it. When faced with implementing a new tool, think of it as a great opportunity to learn, put other talents to use and possibly find a new interest!

For example, if you don’t quite understand a new access-control system, read and ask questions. Even if it’s working fine now, there’ll be a problem at some point—there always is. Pay close attention to what the technician or installer does and, again, ask questions. This is a smart way to sharpen or bring out those mechanical skills!

Similarly, if you’re using new management software, explore it beyond the normal, everyday tasks. Some programs even have a training/demo website, so get to know the new product and its capabilities. As the person who uses it daily, you may be able to help others in your operation or even lend some suggestions to the vendor. There are some very talented software designers, but how much do they really know about the real-life, day-to-day operation of self-storage?

Stay Current

Advertising and marketing is another area that’s very different now from what it was a few years ago, and things are constantly changing. You can do a lot of this work yourself while still performing your other self-storage duties. Investigate to see what strategies get the best return for your time and money. Here are some areas on which to focus:

  • Some businesses have entire departments that control their social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, etc. This is an opportunity to humanize your facility and give your outreach a personal touch. Put that outgoing personality to work!

  • Search platforms like Google and Yelp are currently the best way for people to find your self-storage business, so having some knowledge of these sites and their advertising tools is a plus. Learn to utilize these platforms so your business is among the first to be seen on search results. Sharpen your writing skills with an internet ad or Google post.

  • Most self-storage operations now have a website, but not every business has a web designer. Find creative ways to make your site different from the competition. The customer-service chat function was once someone’s great idea, so dig in and discover your own!

Expand Your Horizons

Look beyond the confines of your position as self-storage manager. What’s the owner’s perspective? Even if you aren’t looking to buy your own property, simply learning about the business from the investment and development side will give you a better perspective on the industry and your operation. For example, have you stopped to consider why your company bought or built the facility you’re currently managing?

Take the time to learn what the indicators are for a good self-storage location and keep your eyes open. Think like an investor or developer. What are all the considerations when pursuing a new build? What’s the average cost per square foot for a facility in your area? Consider the advantages and disadvantages to new construction, converting a non-storage building, or buying an existing facility. If your company wants to expand, perhaps you can lend some on-the-ground insight and expertise.

As a manager, you should also have some understanding of local consumer demand and market saturation. As a local resident, you should have a good feel for your market’s supply and demand.

Get Involved

A great way to get the most out of your self-storage manager position is to become more involved with the industry as a whole. Join some online communities and chat forums to gain a deeper understanding of what other managers are experiencing and read other perspectives on industry issues. Chatting with other people in the business is a great way to form new ideas and insight.

It’s also smart to become a member of your state and national trade associations. These organizations provide great information, particularly when it comes to staying up-to-date and in compliance with new legal issues and statutes.

Push Yourself

Whether you’re a one-person show or are part of a large self-storage operation, you have an opportunity to learn from every role you fulfill—even if it’s a lesson on what not to do. Every hat you wear as a facility manager brings something to the table and can add to your experience. The skills you acquire and use today can help you later with another facility, position or career.

When you push yourself, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, especially when you apply your knowledge efficiently or others recognize your growth. Your chances for advancement are higher when learning or exploring as much as you can. Showing a genuine interest in the self-storage business overall will show your owner or supervisor that it’s worthwhile to invest in you as an employee. This can result in rising through the ranks, longevity in the business or even finding a new calling.

Anna Ross is facility manager for Tower Self Storage in Monroe, Louisiana. She began her self-storage management career about 10 years ago in Jacksonville, Florida. She’s managed facilities as small as 258 units and large, multi-story locations with 1,260 units. She recently experienced her first property expansion and is always looking to learn new things. For more information, call 318.388.1111, email [email protected].

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