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The Path to a Fulfilling Career (Not Just a Job) in Self-Storage Management

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A fulfilling career doesn’t happen by accident. If you’re a self-storage manager, here’s some advice on how to forge a rewarding path into your industry future.

Whether you work in self-storage or some other industry, personal development is the is the key to a successful, fulfilling career. A facility manager who continuously strives to improve his job skills and industry knowledge is one of the best assets an owner can have. Not only will the right attitude and motivation create job security and help with career advancement, it’ll keep your supervisors and customers happy. Employees who evolve are the ones who truly shine.

But what if you aren’t currently on the right path to success, or you aren’t sure if you are? Maybe you’re already a good manager, but you want to take things to the next level. How do you elevate your job in self-storage management to a rewarding career?

First, Identify Your Weaknesses

To understand where you need to improve and which of your job skills need work, start by examining your self-storage facility’s performance data. If physical occupancy is low, but the rates on rented units are high, perhaps you need help with sales and marketing. If your physical occupancy is high but your rental rates are lower than they should be, perhaps you’re leaning too much on discounts, or failing to raise rates as necessary. In that case, sales and revenue-management training can help.

Also, look around the property. If the office is disorganized or untidy, you may need to work on time-management skills. If the site lacks curb appeal or looks rundown, check your maintenance logs to see where you’re missing the mark. It can be helpful to bring someone in with fresh eyes to look at the facility and share what they see. You might be amazed at the comments and suggestions you receive and wonder why you didn’t see these things yourself!

Actively Work to Improve

Once you identify areas for improvement, there are lots of ways to raise your aptitude. Here are some of the most common:

Seek more training. Continued training is extremely valuable in self-storage. Discuss with your owner, supervisor and/or district manager the areas in which you’d like to improve and why, so they can point you in the right direction. In most cases, they’ll appreciate your initiative. If they seem reluctant, remind them why it’s good for the company to have a knowledgeable, professional manager:

  • Time: “Hey, if I can do this for you, imagine how much time it’ll save you!”
  • Money: “Hey, if I can do this for the site, imagine how much money it’ll save or add to the bottom line!”

Get industry-specific education. Industry associations and media organizations frequently offer webinars and seminars on a multitude of topics, and this expert insight can help you improve facility operation. Many offer advice on best practices and provide practical experience. If you haven’t joined your state association, do it now. It’s really worth it.

Some organizations even provide formal manager-education or certification programs. Most of these come with a fee, so speak to your owner or supervisor to see if you’re eligible for an education benefit. Look for programs that could help you further your career or just give you a needed boost of confidence.

Learn from your peers. Look for a seasoned manager in your organization who could serve as a mentor. Listening to stories about how things are handled today vs. the past can help you identify emerging trends. Workplace veterans hold a wealth of knowledge.

Read the trades. Self-storage publications are a huge source of valuable information. They contain articles written by industry professionals and cover a wide variety of topics important for site management. They can be found online and in print. Ask your owner or supervisor if you can subscribe for educational purposes. There are also several useful self-storage blogs.

Talk to vendors. Many self-storage suppliers also offer training. For example, management-software companies usually have online training to help you use their programs. Learning the why and how behind the many products you use creates a better understanding of the tasks for which you’re responsible.

Surf the Web. The Internet is a convenient source of help. There are videos on just about any topic you can imagine including facility maintenance, customer service, sales, you name it. It’s as easy as typing a topic into Google and choosing from multiple sources and platforms. It’s good to view as many as possible to gather different ideas and opinions, and then formulate your own methods.

Study your competition. Shop competitors in person and over the phone. Take note of how they sell the site and engage you on a personal level. Critique how they convey site features and benefits as well as unit pricing. Did they ask about your needs? Look for parts of their presentation that may seem more powerful or professional than your own, and then incorporate those approaches into your presentation. Remember, service is key in self-storage!

Survey your tenants. You can also learn to improve your skills by talking with current and past customers. Ask them to complete an exit survey about their storing experience to uncover areas for improvement and identify your strong points. Use the constructive criticism wisely, and don’t be offended by their honesty. In addition, ask tenants how you or the site can be better. Again, listen to their points of view.

Create and stick to good habits. It’s been said that the first step to reaching any goal is to establish a daily habit. Habits can make us much more efficient and improve time management. If you don’t already have checklists for renting a unit, maintaining the property and other daily duties, create and use them. In no time, all of these items will become natural, positive behaviors.

Find inspiration. Read motivational books. Some will help you professionally and personally. Cultivating life and career skills is never a bad thing!

Keep Pushing Ahead

Above all else, don’t let yourself fall into complacency or believing you know everything there is to know about your job. Self-storage best practices and tools are changing every day! Stay focused, and always make time to learn and grow. As the popular saying goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Push yourself to explore new skills and knowledge, and you’ll be on the path toward a rewarding career.

Diane Gibson is the owner and president of Cox’s Armored Mini Storage Management Inc., which manages self-storage facilities in Arizona. Currently president of the Arizona Self Storage Association, she’s participated in roundtables and panels at the association’s conferences. For more information, email [email protected]; visit www.armored-mini-storage.com.

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