In a 2017 global study, LinkedIn found that 80 percent of business professionals consider networking essential to career success and advancement. In fact, it’s vital to the achievement of many goals, occupational and personal. The idea is to meet and interact with people, establish connections, and leverage those contacts with a purpose. For self-storage managers, that purpose might be to increase your customer base, find new marketing leads or advance in your job. Read on to learn why you should network, where to do it and how.
If you’re a manager looking to improve your professional trajectory, here are five reasons to network:
Gain fresh ideas and perspectives. If you’ve been at the same self-storage facility or in the same position for a long time, you might think you know or have seen it all. But as the saying goes, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” Networking can help you find a “new room” and meet people who have knowledge and experience to help you grow. You’ll gain new perspectives on all aspects of facility operation, from marketing to maintenance to customer service and more. You might learn something to improve efficiency or a new concept for engaging the community. Gleaning insights from other industry professionals is beneficial for new and seasoned facility managers alike.
Get noticed. Networking is about visibility. No one knows who you are until you introduce yourself. Go to local and industry events and show people who you are and what you know. As you get noticed in your community, your business referrals will increase. As you get noticed in the self-storage industry, you’ll be more marketable for new job positions, if that’s your goal.
Grow your self-confidence. Networking can also improve your self-assurance, professionally and personally. As you make connections, you have to introduce yourself over and over again and answer lots of questions about yourself and your business. In time, you’ll gain confidence in presenting an “elevator speech,” which comes in handy whether you’re trying to rent units, garner reviews and referrals, or land a new job.
Build long-lasting relationships. A lot of people think networking is about shaking hands and exchanging business cards. While that may be part of it, it’s only the beginning. The conversations you can have during and after a networking session can lead to many long-lasting relationships that could end up bolstering your career. Relationships are what drive business referrals and career-evolving connections.
Where to Network
Networking can occur just about anywhere, including a neighborhood cookout, wedding or sporting event. However, there are a few specific avenues where networking can be particularly beneficial to a self-storage manager’s career.
Local groups and associations. Within every community, there are typically specialized business groups, many of which are tied to the local chamber of commerce. These are a great way to meet other professionals, get noticed and work on that elevator speech. Cultivate relationships with relevant experts by attending meetings for or joining a local realtors, apartment-owners or homebuilders association. These connections can lead to referrals and references down the line.
Organized networking events. In many cities, you can find monthly or quarterly events designed specifically for business networking. The atmosphere is typically pretty casual, allowing you to connect with others more easily. These events also cast a wider net than those of the smaller groups mentioned above and can attract hundreds of people. When attending these events, it’s critical to follow-up with a phone call or e-mail if you’re serious about establishing a relationship, so you stand out in the person’s mind.
Industry conferences. An excellent way to become noticed within the self-storage industry is to attend state, regional and national seminars, conferences and tradeshows. These are terrific opportunities to shake hands, pass out business cards, and hobnob with managers, owners and vendors. Prepare in advance and be intentional about who you meet. For example, you might want to talk to few specific presenters or exhibitors. Again, follow up with any connections you make. This is critical if you’re looking to further your career.
Online. These days, it can be easy and efficient to network online. Our industry is very active on LinkedIn, and there are many veterans who are more than willing to connect with managers and offer career advice. In that 2017 LinkedIn survey I mentioned above, 35 percent of respondents said a conversation on LinkedIn led to a new career opportunity for them.
There are also several Facebook groups where you can interact and cultivate relationships, such as “Self-Storage Managers” and “The Virtual Self Storage Network.” One of the best online forums for managers is Self-Storage Talk (www.selfstoragetalk.com), a free platform where you can gain insight, ideas and support from other industry professionals.
Online networking is wonderful for establishing connections, but they may not develop into fruitful, career-changing relationships without some in-person contact. Once you connect with someone online, cultivate the affiliation by scheduling calls or meetings.
Networking for career success is about building relationships. Be professional, but be yourself. Be confident in what you know, and admit when don’t know something. Be prepared to ask questions and answer questions. For example, if you’re attending an event with realtors, come ready with questions about the local home-buying market, and be equipped to answer questions about yourself, your facility and the self-storage industry.
Remember to follow up and keep in consistent contact with those you meet. Relationships have to be cultivated and take time. Make a call or send an e-mail to establish a line of communication. Then, work on meeting face to face. When you you take the time to nurture your contacts, you’ll create a lasting impression that can eventually lead to a career-changing conversation.
Networking isn’t just for extroverted people. You can still network effectively even if you’re an introvert. Many people are scared to network. Remembering that can sometimes make it easier to initiate contact.
Be confident and patient. Successful networking can change your career path and your life! You just have to put yourself in position to open the door when opportunity knocks.
Steven Jeffers is a facilities asset manager for Bee Safe Storage and Wine Cellar, which operates 12 self-storage facilities in the Carolinas. His experience and knowledge includes local marketing, management optimization and leadership training. For more information, e-mail [email protected]; visit www.beesafe.com.