By Alyssa Quill
As the owner of a self-storage business, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is who stands behind the desk in your facility-management office. Your property managers are the front line of your operation and the face of the business to potential tenants. This handful of people will run your multi-million-dollar investment.
Finding the right individual to fill your manager position is absolutely critical to facility success. Follow the advice below to recruit and hire the best person to lead your self-storage operation.
What You Want
What should owners look for in a self-storage manager? Industry experience is great, but it’s definitely not the most important thing. There are some personality traits I always look for, including the ability to work independently, switch from a sales role to customer service at the blink of an eye, and to make good, commonsense decisions. Beyond those, the skill set should be tailored to the property.
For instance, a new facility that’s just opening will need a manager with a lot of sales and marketing experience. You want someone who can create referral relationships with other local businesses and represent you at networking events, someone who’s driven by success from sales.
Conversely, a 700-unit property at 95 percent occupancy needs a manager who pays close attention to detail, is organized, is driven to improve the bottom-line net operating income and has really strong customer-service skills. It’s vital to determine the skill set you’re seeking before you begin the recruitment and hiring process.
The smartest self-storage owners are always recruiting, even when they’re out to dinner, at the grocery store, looking for vendors for a home-repair project, or at the doctor’s office. Always keep business cards with you, and don’t be afraid to hand them out when you recognize great salesmanship or terrific customer service. Ask those potential future employees for their business cards as well.
When a position opens at your facility, post it in several locations to get as many candidates as possible. Online sites such as Indeed.com (pay-per-click), Craigslist.com (free) and Monster.com are quick and easy ways to gather résumés. Your local newspaper likely posts classified ads online as well. Sending an e-mail blast or posting openings on Facebook may be a good idea, but be careful not to worry your tenants about changes that may be coming.
I’ve had some success posting fliers at our property and on community bulletin boards. You can also reach out to colleagues or friends to see if they have anyone they can recommend.
As you gather résumés, look for these elements to help you weed out unqualified applicants:
- Length of stay in previous positions: Longer stays with previous employers are a good sign that those companies were happy with their work. Also, people who stay in their jobs longer are usually more reliable and easier to keep happy.
- Experience working with customers: This experience could be in retail, sales or service. The goal is to find someone who knows how to listen to customers, empathize with them and make them feel good about their decision to do business with you.
- Decision-making experience: Our industry is unique. There aren’t many manager positions with so much autonomy. Make sure the candidate has experience in dealing with tough situations and making good decisions on the fly.
- Social media profiles: You can get a good feel for someone’s personality by perusing their social media postings. For example, someone who rants about his job is probably not the person you want to hire.
Once you have several solid résumés, schedule 30-minute phone interviews with your top 10 candidates. In those initial discussions, ask them to tell you a little about themselves and their past work experience, including why they’re currently seeking a job and what they’re looking for in their next position. Try to understand any gaps in employment on their résumé and why they made changes from one job to another. Give them information on your company and the position they would potentially fill. Make sure it’s what they’re seeking.
Next, schedule in-person interviews with the top five candidates. These interviews will probably last about an hour each. The following list offers guidance on what to determine during these discussions.
- Dig in on their sales experience. What did they sell? What did they do to persuade customers to buy, and how did they improve their sales quota? How was their success measured in previous positions? What motivated them to do well in the past?
- Ask what marketing they’d suggest for a self-storage business. You’ll find out how creative they are and if they enjoy marketing or would prefer someone else handles this task. Their responses will also help you gauge their marketing experience.
- Ask how they prioritize tasks. This will reveal how they handle being pulled in multiple directions. Give them this scenario: “Imagine you’re in the office, working with a prospective tenant on a lease. The phone is ringing, and you see an angry tenant, whose unit is scheduled for auction, walk up to the office. How would you handle the situation?”
- Are they willing to get dirty? If you’re going to people to keep the property clean, discuss that with them and make sure they’re willing to do the work.
- Can they handle confrontation? In previous positions, did they have to deal with customers who were upset? How did they handle those situations?
- Are they OK with working alone a majority of the time? Find out if they’ve had positions in which they worked without a supervisor or coworkers around most of the time. How did they know what to work on throughout their day and week? Are they self-motivated to stay busy?
- Are they comfortable with the technology you use? Will training them on your computer software be a challenge? How did they learn the systems they used in previous positions?
After you complete your round of in-person interviews, hopefully, you’ll have a few great candidates. If you’re still having trouble deciding who to choose, you may want to ask one or two candidates to take a personality test. Etest.net has a great one customized for self-storage managers.
Also consider completing a criminal background and credit check for everyone you hire to prevent theft and other liabilities. There’s paperwork you’ll need the candidates to complete during the application process to legally allow you to run those checks, so choose a professional company to help you through the process.
The goal is to find a top-notch candidate who’ll work with you for many years to come. The person you hire will be lucky to join a great group of people in our industry!
Alyssa Quill is an owner of Storage Asset Management Inc., a third-party management and consulting company that oversees more than 50 self-storage facilities across the East Coast. To reach her, call 717.779.0044; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.storageassetmanagement.com.