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Staff Support: Using a Third-Party Trainer for Self-Storage Management

If you’re a self-storage owner who’s never trained staff, you likely don’t know what to teach them, when and how. Outsourcing to a third-party trainer will guarantee employees understand daily tasks, policies, procedures and more, ensuring they and your business succeed.

So, you’ve just hired the perfect employee to run your self-storage property. You know this person will quickly stabilize occupancy and increase revenue while protecting your investment. The only problem is he’s never operated a storage facility on a day-to-day basis, and you have little to no experience in staff training. You understand that every person has a different learning style, but what do you teach him? When and how?

No worries. These days you can outsource training to a company that specializes in bringing self-storage initiates up to speed on the latest policies, sales tactics, delinquency procedures and so much more.

Benefits

Outsourced training is usually geared toward smaller storage operations, as the larger operators typically have their own in-house resources. If you’re just entering the storage business or have never participated in a facility’s day-to-day operation, you likely don’t have the expertise to share with staff that a seasoned industry professional can impart.

Also, hiring and training new staff can quickly eat up an owner’s most valuable resource: time. “The first reason for outsourcing training is so you don’t have to remake the wheel. Let someone who has already created a successful system save you from having to go through the headache of creating your own system through trial and error,” says Matthew Van Horn, co-founder of 3 Mile Domination Self -Storage Services, which specializes in self-storage management, marketing, feasibility studies and consulting.

Program

If you outsource, you want to review and approve the training program before lessons begin to ensure the trainer’s practices align with your own and won’t conflict with your policies and procedures. In short, you should know exactly what staff will be learning.

The best training usually encompasses every aspect of day-to-day management and attempts to address the “oddball” events that can occur on a storage property. Here are some essential topics that should be covered:

  • Facility opening and closing procedures
  • Daily cleaning
  • Routine/ongoing maintenance
  • Unit inventories
  • Occupancy types (physical, economic)
  • Payments
  • Management-software reports (obtaining, reviewing)
  • Market/competition surveys
  • Revenue management
  • Gate operation
  • Basic marketing
  • Sales techniques
  • Rental agreements
  • Delinquency and lien law
  • Unit conversions

As you can see, it can be comprehensive. Managers who oversee properties with specialty storage, such as wine or vehicle, will have additional tasks. The best program is one that’s tailored to your site and responsibilities.

Method

The best training is performed in person by a seasoned self-storage professional who has first-hand experience in day-to-day property management. However, technology now allows for phone-based and online training. For example, webinars are common. Applications like TeamViewer allow for remote control, desktop sharing, online meetings, web conferencing and file transfer. There are many options available.

These types of tools are also great for follow-ups. A good trainer should be available to answer questions even after the initial training is complete. Though there’s really no substitute for face-to-face, one-on-one training, phone and Internet-based options can be a solution if that isn’t affordable or practical.

Choosing a Trainer

Hiring a third-party trainer can be tricky and expensive. You can expect to pay upward of $3,000, so you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. There are several good self-storage consulting and management companies around the country. I recommend choosing one as close to you as possible to minimize the cost of the trainer’s travel expenses.

Keep in mind there’s no substitute for an excellent manager. The best ones can take an investment to its peak and enjoy doing it. Outsourced training can give staff the confidence they need to tackle day-to-day operation in the most profitable manner.

“Managers who are trained well will rent up a facility faster and, in most cases, more profitably than a manager who’s still learning through trial and error,” Van Horn says. “If the facility is meeting its financial obligations, it’s positive not only for the manager but also the owners, investors, and financial institutions that have interest in the facility.”

Good managers are mostly self-sufficient. In an industry where most cover their work shifts single-handedly, there’ll always be an element of “throwing them to the wolves.” Offering the right training will minimize this feeling and bolster the investment. As our industry continues to grow and become more competitive, the real question is not whether you can afford to outsource your training, but rather, how can you afford not to?

Sean Landry is owner and president of Expert Storage Management LLC, which offers third-party management services for self-storage, including staff hiring and training, revenue management, pricing, unit-mix optimization, marketing strategies, and more. He founded the company in 2016 after a successful career as a facility manager and consultant. For more information, call 504.251.1260; e-mail sean@expertstoragemanagement.com; visit www.expertstoragemanagement.com.

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