In today’s unprecedented job market where candidates hold all the cards, having a positive work culture is crucial for every self-storage business. No matter the size of your company or the number of facilities it operates, culture can be your greatest strength or biggest weakness.
The late management consultant and author Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” As a self-storage owner, you can create a top-notch revenue-management plan, implement the latest technology, invest in property upgrades and make a whole host of other improvements. It’s all null and void if you don’t back it up with a satisfying work culture. It must begin with you and filter down to every last employee.
When your self-storage team isn’t happy, customers will notice. If you really want to wow your staff, prospects and tenants, establish a work environment that can do nothing else.
So, what is work culture? Forbes defines it as the shared values, belief systems, attitudes and assumptions people in a workplace share. In essence, it’s the environment you create for your employees. The culture you fashion for your self-storage operation guides the way you do business. It’s reflected in how you treat your facility managers and how they treat your customers.
If you don’t clearly define, disseminate and model the tenets of your workplace culture, it’ll be defined for you by staff behavior—and not necessarily in a good way. If you aren’t sure what your culture is now or what you’d like it to be, consider these eight common types as outlined by O.C. Tanner, which helps companies improve workplace culture through personalized employee-recognition solutions:
1. Adhocracy: The main focus is innovation and growth. Employees constantly find ways to improve services or roll out new offerings. On the positive side, constant innovation makes the company stand out from competitors, but it can also make it hard to focus and can be too fast-paced for some employees.
2. Clan: Popular in small, family-owned businesses, this culture functions like a family, which can make the business feel more collaborative and welcoming. Employees are more likely to provide open, honest feedback to superiors, and there can be stronger relationships among coworkers; however, the relaxed environment can sometimes be too informal for customers.
3. Customer-focused: The primary focus is the customer experience, with a goal of putting the buyer first at all times. Employees often have the tools and autonomy to address customer concerns quickly and easily. On the other hand, they can feel neglected or less important.
4. Hierarchy: This traditional culture relies on structure. The focus is on avoiding risk, preventing mistakes, adhering to rules and managing failure. On one hand, everyone has a clear role and purpose, and things are organized; on the other, hierarchies have very little room for flexibility and can feel old-fashioned.
5. Market-driven: The main focus is getting products to market. This type of culture is goal-oriented, hard-working, demanding and competitive. It churns out new releases that keep the company competitive, but employees are prone to burnout.
6. Purpose-driven: The primary goal is always giving back to the community and supporting causes the company deems important. This culture attracts like-minded individuals and often has a high employee-retention rate, but it tends to generate less income than the company possibly could.
7. Innovative: The aim is to constantly come up with new ideas and improvements to meet customers’ current and future needs. This culture typically gives staff the freedom experiment and explore solutions, but the constant push for new ideas can also drive burnout.
8. Creative: This culture focuses on generating new ideas and stories and how to bring them to life. There’s an emphasis on coming together as a team to build something customers will love. Creativity and collaboration leads to positive co-worker relationships and reduced downtime, but the constant pressure to be imaginative can be too much.
Is Your Culture Weak?
There are a few warning signs that your self-storage work culture is subpar. The first is a lack of shared values. Every company should have a set of core business ideals. If yours doesn’t, employees can feel aimless and disconnected.
A high rate of turnover is another indicator. Employees value a healthy, productive workplace.
If yours is filled with gossip, lacks direction or feel insecure, it’ll drive away quality staff.
Lack of communication is a big red flag. Regardless of your culture style of the size of your operation, there should be clear lines of communication between ownership, supervisors and coworkers. When everyone can hear “the conversation” and be heard, work culture thrives.
A Tale of Two Offices
By way of example, let’s looks at two popular work environments from pop culture: the TV gut-buster “The Office” and the classic film “Office Space.”
In “The Office,” business manager Michael Scott focuses on creating a clan work culture. He wants every employee at the Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch to feel like part of a family, and he has frequent communication with his team, mostly through excessive conference-room meetings and chain emails. But Michael also fails to control the extravagant “sibling rivalry” between characters Jim Halpert and Dwight Schrute, which is disruptive and downright dangerous. He also violates nearly every company policy and engages in so much inappropriate behavior that he retains his position (and employees) by sheer miracle.
“Office Space,” on the other hand, is a perfect example of a hierarchical culture. The main character, Peter, is disgruntled with the cubicle environment and poor corporate morale at Initech. His boss continually confronts him with frivolous requests and rules by intimidation. The level of demotivation is such that it leads to employee theft and rebellion.
These two programs alone demonstrate a vast range of workplace dysfunction. While they’re entertaining to watch, there are very few lessons for business operators to emulate—unless you take them as cautionary tales. If your self-storage office culture is anything like those portrayed, you’ve got some serious work ahead.
Plan for a Positive Shift
The good news is it doesn’t take much or long to develop a strong, healthy work culture for your self-storage business. It starts with developing a plan. To implement a positive shift, you must be “introduced,” according to Michael Hyatt, who’s written books on goal-setting, leadership and productivity.
Begin by rethinking your company’s core values, then model them. Hyatt notes that “even if the people above you won’t change, you can change the culture of your department.” It doesn’t matter where in the organizational chart you are; you can create a positive environment for your company. Those under and around you will see it and hopefully follow suit. Here are some additional tips:
- Encourage humor. It can diffuse tense and stressful situations and increases the overall sense of camaraderie and fun.
- Invest in your people. Those who work with and under you have goals. Learn what they are and invest in their knowledge, acumen and experience.
- Accept and use employee feedback. Your self-storage managers know more about the day-to-day operation and what makes your customers tick. When they provide feedback on what they need to do their job well, listen and do what you can to implement it. An employee who sees one of their ideas being used develops a strong sense of loyalty and pride.
- Don’t encourage staff to work through breaks. Your team isn’t comprised of robots. They need respite during the day to recharge.
- Don’t keep disengaged employees. To propel your company forward, you need team members who are dedicated and enthusiastic. Those who aren’t will bring the rest down.
- Don’t force it. A positive work culture won’t emerge overnight. Give it time, and make gentle modifications until you get where you want to be.
A work culture that keeps employees happy will help ensure your self-storage company thrives. It takes time and effort to build, but it’s well worth it.
Steven Jeffers is the facilities and operations manager for Bee Safe Storage and Wine Cellar, which operates 21 self-storage facilities in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Texas. His experience and knowledge includes local marketing, management optimization and leadership training. To reach him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.