Sponsored By

Setting and Achieving Your Professional Goals: Strategies for Self-Storage Managers

When it comes to setting professional goals, many self-storage managers focus too much on the end result and not the behaviors that’ll get them there. Follow these strategies to achieve success, no matter your objectives.

Douglas Stirling

May 20, 2022

5 Min Read
Setting and Achieving Your Professional Goals: Strategies for Self-Storage Managers

During my most trying times in the U.S. military, when I was pushing through multiple combat deployments and intense training, I had to put laser focus on my objectives. During these and other challenging moments, it was setting and achieving goals that lead me to survive, then propelled me to professional success.

Today, after a decorated career in the Marine Corps, I’m the director of operations for an 18-property self-storage portfolio. I’m also working toward a second graduate degree. My journey hasn’t been easy, but I believe the path of least resistance usually leads to the destination of least reward. Over the course of this article, I hope to relay some useful strategies for keeping your “eyes on the prize” as you set sights on achieving your own professional goals.

Have a Plan

A common mistake self-storage managers make is failing to have a personal-development plan to help them reach their professional goals. This refers to anything you do to improve yourself. I chose graduate education, as I enjoy learning and wanted to get information about business and commercial real estate. I also knew it was an important criterion for promotion within in my organization. Others might choose to pursue certificate programs, professional designations and mentorship opportunities that facilitate growth.

Approach your personal goals through a lens of practicality. What do you need to succeed, not only in your current position, but at the next level of your career? It isn’t just about reaching the next step; it’s about landing there with the intent of going still further beyond. You can’t have the “I’m next” mentality where you’re waiting for a promotion or reward because of your length of time in a certain role. That’s like being a monkey on the ground waiting for food to fall into your lap while all the other monkeys are climbing higher and higher to find the best fruit.

Set Mile Markers

While climbing toward your professional goal, don’t hyper-focus on the summit. There’s a proverb that says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” It means you have to pick a direction and start. To me, it also means you’ll need to set and achieve a thousand small goals along the way to keep progressing forward.

These mile markers can be small or large—whatever feels appropriate for you. People at every level of success start by simply changing small behaviors that have hindered their productivity. It might be something as simple as reading for 15 minutes each day or waking up half an hour earlier every morning. Never minimize progress, not matter how modest. These are exercises in self-discipline and accountability.

Change Your Behavior

If you truly want to achieve any goal, behavior needs to be your focus. For example, if you’re a self-storage manager, and you’ve set a difficult sales goal for yourself, the objective is just a number on a piece paper. You need to identify the specific things you need to do on a daily basis that’ll get you one step closer. For example, you might have a goal of reaching a 70% closing rate, but you’ve never been above 30%. Your first aim should be to prove you can make it above 30%.

Goal-setting is a bit like a science experiment. If you’ve never achieved the success you’re seeking, you’re going to have to hypothesize and research the behaviors it takes to get there. But if you attempt to change your behaviors too quickly, you can easily feel overwhelmed, particularly if those changes are too drastic. Just put your head down and focus on the path that’s immediately in front of you. Do that, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you complete the journey.

Envision Success at the Next Level

If you’re a self-storage manager, you might have a professional goal to oversee a larger property or even multiple sites. Maybe you’d like to be a district manager or supervisor. Whatever it is you want, first focus on excelling in your current position. Identify your employer’s expectations of you and the behaviors that’ll help you exceed them. How are you going to stand out from peers who are seeking the same opportunities as you?

Next, ask yourself, “What does it take to be successful in my desired role?” For example, let’s say you want to be a supervisor, but you’re currently managing a small facility with no other staff. Your next step should be to get hired into a larger operation with more employees. You want the opportunity to learn and prove you can translate your individual superstar energy into a superstar team.

It’s important to understand, however, that leaders are measured by the performance and development they illicit in those who follow. It isn’t enough to be a superstar in and of yourself; you must also inspire excellence in others.

Also, the ability to help others achieve professional development is a learned and practiced skill, not a natural trait like leadership can sometimes be. This is important because a multi-site self-storage manager is a leader of leaders, responsible for making their team members better at their jobs. Those in charge of your promotion opportunities are looking to see that you exhibit the ability to teach and advance others, not just yourself.

I hope this guidance helps you set and achieve your own professional goals. Create a plan, adjust your behavior and envision what you need to succeed at the next level. Just remember that the target sometimes moves as we approach. Always keep your eyes on the prize.

Douglas Stirling is director of operations for San Diego Self Storage, which operates 18 locations in Southern California. During his nine years in the self-storage industry, he’s held various roles, from manning the front desk to area manager. He now oversees nearly 1.5 million rentable square feet. A Marine Corps veteran with extensive global operations and leadership experience, he also has a master’s degree in real estate, with a focus on commercial development, and is an MBA candidate at Pepperdine University. To reach him, email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Douglas Stirling

Area Manager, San Diego Self Storage

Douglas Stirling is an area manager for San Diego Self Storage, which operates 18 facilities in California. He came to self-storage after four years and three combat deployments in the United States Marine Corps. He uses his military leadership skills and education to manage more than $100 million in self-storage assets. To contact him, call 800.615.5016; visit www.sandiegoselfstorage.com.

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter
ISS is the most comprehensive source for self-storage news, feature stories, videos and more.

You May Also Like