By Pamela Alton
In the course of operating my self-storage manager-placement company, one of the questions I’m most frequently asked by facility owners is, “How much should I pay my managers?” In my position, I get to see what owners are offering as far as wages, bonuses and benefits. I’ve also received thousands of manager résumés, and when I conduct my interviews with these candidates, I find out what their current salaries or wages are along with the types of bonuses or benefits they receive.
First let me say that wages, bonuses and benefits aren’t set in stone. They depend on whether a manager lives onsite or off, the facility size, and the manager’s level of experience. They’re different from business to business, owner to owner.
In this article, I’ll try to give you some averages based on what I’ve seen; but keep in mind some owners pay more or less than the average. I’ve always been and will continue to be a proponent of offering a good manager a decent wage for a job well done, regardless of what the statistics say. A good employee is worth his weight in gold, and it’s the person behind that desk that can make the difference between a clean, high-occupancy and financially successful facility and one that operates at below-average levels.
I’ve seen wages go up slightly in the past couple of years along with the quality of management staff. Managers are now more professional than when I started in this industry some 25 years ago. Back then, almost all facilities had resident managers. They were usually retired, older people. Some didn't even receive a wage, or they received only a very small one, since they were provided with an apartment. Things have changed dramatically since these "dark ages" of self-storage. Let’s take a look at manager compensation today.
Resident vs. Non-Resident
Some properties being built today still include a resident-manager apartment; others don’t. If you have a resident manager, he may be getting an hourly wage, but he’s most likely receiving a salary. Single resident managers earn somewhere between $24,000 and $34,000 annually. If they’re making an hourly wage, it ranges from $12 to $16 per hour.
A resident team includes two people (husband and wife, two brothers, mother and son, etc.) who live at the property together. Both work full time, five days per week. The salaries I see being offered range from approximately $39,000 to $46,000 annually per couple. This doesn’t include any benefits.
When your staff lives offsite, you’ll usually have a manager and an assistant manager as well as relief staff and perhaps a maintenance person. These employees will typically receive an hourly wage. On average, I see offsite managers earning $14 to $20 per hour. Relief or assistant managers are receiving an average of $11 to $14 per hour, and maintenance people are earning $12 to $16 per hour.
Exempt vs. Non-Exempt
Hourly wages is where the issue of exempt vs. non-exempt comes into play. Per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a non-exempt employee is entitled to overtime pay, while an exempt employee isn’t.
Most employees fall under the non-exempt category. It’ll depend on how much they’re paid, how they’re paid and what kind of work they perform. According the FLSA website, employees who are paid less than $23,600 per year are non-exempt. Employees who earn more than $100,000 are exempt. Some self-storage owners think that because a manager is paid a salary and may oversee other staff, he falls into the exempt category and, therefore, doesn’t receive overtime pay.
To be exempt, your manager must regularly supervise two or more full-time employees or four part-time employees. "Supervise" means just that—the manager must interview, select, hire and train these employees, setting rates of pay and hours worked. He must also maintain production or sales records, plan and monitor staff work, handle employee complaints and discipline, etc. So most of your employees, even if they’re salaried, should be paid overtime if they work more hours than the normal schedule.
My advice is, if you’re paying a salary, make sure your manager is at least making the minimum wage required in your state, regardless of what any other storage companies are paying their staff. He should also fill out a weekly time card.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to offering a bonus program. A reward that motivates me may not motivate you. When designing your program, discuss it with your managers. Money isn’t always what incentivizes them; however, it’s usually the right color and seems to be a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.
Bonuses can paid on a number of variables: per lease, per unit rented at full price, etc. These types of bonuses are easy to calculate. If the manager rented 50 units this month, at $10 per lease, his bonus is $500. Most facilities charge a one-time administrative or move-in fee that will cover the bonus without it coming out of the owner’s pocket. Bonuses paid on the sale of add-on products or services such as retail merchandise, tenant insurance or truck rentals is also quite common. How well a manager does on his telephone mystery-shop score is another benchmark I’ve seen used.
Achieving a monthly or annual income goal is another good measure for a bonus program, providing you include your manager in the design of the annual budget so he understands things such as where he can raise rents as well as why he should collect late fees, rent units at full price and sell retail merchandise. He should then receive a percentage of that income. Remember, a bonus should be obtainable. One that isn’t only serves to de-motivate instead motivate.
Other self-storage manager perks might include common items such as medical and dental insurance, a 401k program, and paid time off (vacation, sick and holiday pay). You might also consider more creative options such as trips to industry conferences, vacation packages, a big-screen TV, new carpeting in the resident apartment, etc. Think, too, about small things like movie tickets or dinner gift certificates just to say, “Hey, I appreciate the job you’re doing.”
Don’t forget that a simple phone call to say, “You did a great job this month” goes a long way. A pat on the back doesn’t cost you a single dime, but it’s one of the best motivators I know.
The moral of the story is, if you have a good manager, pay him well in wages and benefits. Also give him the authority to manage your facility on a daily basis, train him and give him the tools to do his job. Review the manager's job performance at least annually and give a raise or additional bonus if it’s warranted.
By doing these things, you’ll know if it is time to replace a so-so or bad manager. Don't put up with poor performance because you don't have the time or desire to go through the replacement process. Your manager can make or break your facility. Now, go tell your managers what a great job they’re doing for you!
Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management Services, a company that has been placing self-storage managers in positions all over the United States since 1991. She also offers staff training, operational consulting, and facility audits and inspections. For more information, call 321.890.2245; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.mini-management.com.