Taking Your Self-Storage Career to the Next Level: Exploring Positions Beyond Facility Manager

Are you ready to take the next step in your career as a self-storage professional? Read about advancement opportunities and responsibilities, and the skills you’ll need to excel in a new position.

Cassie Dodgen, Owner and Operator

July 22, 2023

6 Min Read

As an industry, self-storage isn’t glamourous. Few people wake up one day and decide they want to be a self-storage professional. Rather, most come to us from businesses like multi-family, hospitality or retail. The skills and knowledge gained in these environments transfer well to ours, which allows people to give it a try. Once they start their journey, they usually either love it and decide to stay, or it just doesn’t click and they move on to the next thing.

If you’re one of those people who found their way into self-storage management and now love what they do, the sky is the limit for career development. However, you may be unclear about what the higher roles comprise or how to get into them. Below, I’ll explain the various job levels in the industry and the kinds of responsibilities to expect in each. I’ll also share some of skills and experience you’ll need to advance.

Ground Level

Before you can move into a new position within your own self-storage company or beyond it, you must master the one you currently hold. Being a facility manager is one of most important jobs in this industry, and the skills you learn at this level will help you along your journey.

At the center is your ability to provide exceptional customer service. If your tenants are happy, then the operation is making money, and your boss is happy. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest areas to improve. If your skills are lacking, find the resources to enhance them. There’s a wealth of information available, from articles to blogs to videos. Your company might also provide training or other resources.

At the store level, the diversity of the day keeps the job from becoming monotonous. Take advantage of the simplicity of working with customers. Learn how to speak to different people and sell your products and services. Take ownership of the commercial asset you manage and be proud to represent it.

You should also be adept at communicating with your immediate superior so you can grow and learn. Discuss pricing, specials or processes, and be open-minded to change. Don’t wait to bring up concerns or ideas about your facility. Most important, remember to have fun.

Next Level

If you work for a company with multiple self-storage locations, there could be an opportunity to oversee more than one property by becoming a district or regional manager. To be considered for this position, your facility must be performing at its peak. Once that standard is met consistently, higher-level tasks and opportunities will become available. Sometimes, this isn’t an immediate promotion. You might continue to work at your current facility while assisting with larger projects and duties.

Drive and flexibility and drive are two key factors for this role. First, the more you sign up for, the more experience you’ll gain. It’ll also give you an idea of whether the job functions of this next level interest you. Take your time and gain as much knowledge as possible. Also, be flexible. Travel to other locations for the short or long term to get to know the people and markets.

This type of position allows you to network with more managers and supervisors inside and outside of your organization. Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know as many of them as possible. As a multi-store leader, you’ll soon realize that staff is the No. 1 key to success; so, making good connections will be beneficial.

It’s important to note that the pay range between the store level and multi-facility management is traditionally substantial. This is due to higher responsibility and workload.

Leadership Level

When entering a supervisory position in self-storage, you must consider your management style and beliefs. As a leader, what impact are you going to have on your staff and the properties they manage? It’s impossible to thrive without good relationships with your store teams, vendors and customers as well as your own supervisors.

When you move up, you’ll be doing fewer task-oriented functions than you were at the store level. Rather, you’ll make decisions that help each facility and its staff achieve specific results.

This position also demands travel and flexibility. You may plan out your week on Sunday, but by Tuesday, your schedule is completely different. Life happens, and you’ll need to roll with the punches. For example, you might have an employee who leaves without giving a two-week notice, and you’ll have to fill in; or there might be an emergency of some kind. On a moment’s notice, you may be required to reassess your priorities.

At the end of the day, working at this level is about being dedicated to your team’s accomplishments as well as the success of each self-storage asset (they’re all unique). Being able to unify a group of people who believe in the values you hold and the goals you’ve set for them makes this position rewarding and motivating.

Corporate Level

The next level up from division or area manager is in the corporate office. This includes positions such as regional vice president, chief operations officer, etc. You’ll be ready for a seat at that table when you know how to build a great team and can grow an asset’s value.

In this role, you won’t be leading store teams but rather leading leaders. This is more about analyzing and teaching than doing tasks. You’ll also be responsible for learning about new products and services to keep up with industry trends and shifts. The focus is company culture and keeping consistency across the portfolio. The larger the company, the higher the responsibility and required focus of the position.

Patience and Perseverance

Moving up though a self-storage company doesn’t happen overnight. The way the business worked when you were hired may not be the same today. How can you become an expert in an industry that’s constantly changing? Work hard at your current position and continually enhance your skills. Network with company leadership and meeting people with different backgrounds. Keep an open mind to what others are doing and what needs to be changed inside your own operation.

Self-storage is a fantastic industry to be in, with great people. You’re allowed to be yourself and have professional ambitions. No matter what level you’re currently in, you can learn by exposure and practice the skills of the next position before moving into it full time. You can be anywhere in the world and learn more about this industry! Your journey is truly what you make of it, and the sky is the limit.

Cassie Dodgen is president of operations for Pinnacle Storage Managers, the third-party management division of Pinnacle Storage Properties. Her 10 years of industry experience includes acquisitions, development, operations, multi-store leadership and excellent company culture. During her career, she’s gone from overseeng a single site to running several multi-million-dollar businesses. For more information, email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Cassie Dodgen

Owner and Operator, Monarch Republic LLC

Cassie Dodgen is owner and operator of Monarch Republic LLC, where her responsibilities include strategic leadership, facility operation, accounting, human resources and marketing. She also implements new projects and ideas to stay competitive with self-storage industry standards. For more information, email [email protected].

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