Top 10 Things Done by Great Self-Storage Managers: Learn, Listen, Analyze and More

Great self-storage managers make all the difference to a stores bottom line by making things happen. This article outlines the top 10 things these self-storage managers do, so new and existing facility staff can identify areas to improve and learn for ultimate success.

Anne Ballard

October 16, 2010

8 Min Read
Top 10 Things Done by Great Self-Storage Managers: Learn, Listen, Analyze and More

Weve all seen them, worked with them and can spot one immediately. Who are we talking about? Great self-storage managers. They make all the difference to a stores bottom line by making things happen.

Some of the common traits found among this overachieving group are listed below. Take a few minutes to go through the list; see which areas youve already achieved, and which ones you might need to work on. We all want to be our best possible selves in whatever we do. Some things are easier than others, but we can all improve if we practice daily to become efficient at any technique or process.

1. Learn

Great managers are eager to learn new techniques to help them sell, market and create lifestyle changes for their customers by developing a product thats easy and convenient to use. Learning something new every day, whether through training classes or sharing knowledge with peers, is a natural routine.

Always be open to new ideas and be willing to step out of the box to learn or try something new. None of us knows it all. Having a hunger for knowledge is the sure sign of someone who continues to grow in his profession no matter how long hes been behind the counter. Attending classes and online webinars, reading industry publications, and staying connected with activities on a state and local level are all hallmarks of professionals who want to continue increasing their personal knowledge base.

2. Listen and Analyze

Great managers are not afraid to listen to their customers complaints or suggestions for ways to improve their services, and they welcome the guidance of owners or supervisors. Theyre patient and listen before jumping to conclusions. They have the ability to hear between the lines when assisting stressed-out customers. They use the information to respond and show how they can solve a problem or crisis using the products and tools provided.

From this, theyve learned you dont have to give the store away to get rentals and should never be ashamed of having higher prices in their market. They know who their target customers are and why they will rent from them. They also do their own analysis from their operating reports to spot trends and fine-tune their operation.

3. Balance

Great managers understand that balancing the cash drawer and petty cash and tracking unit activity is part of a daily procedure that, when done daily and correctly, saves time and money. Daily close and balance is required for any retail operation and assists us all in avoiding carryover mistakes.

Great managers are keenly aware that the storage-unit status needs to always agree with the operating-system status and the documents in the file cabinets. Keeping these three in balance is whats necessary to keep the operation running strong. None of us should turn down rentals because we havent walked the property and discovered those newly vacant 10-by-30s.

These managers understand why all unit inventory must be kept locked: so theyre in charge of what they have to sell. They do daily walk-throughs and multiple lock-check audits weekly to maintain that balance. Understanding that we dont always have time to complete tasks later on, they complete all required paperwork on time.

They make sure all vacant locks are removed from new rentals at once, and remove overlocks from delinquent accounts when payments are made. Nothing angers a new tenant or one who has paid delinquent rent more than getting to the unit after office hours and finding a lock still in place.

Great managers treat coworkers with respect by not leaving everything for the next person to complete. This means finishing all the days transactions, making notes in customer files and balancing everything before they leave for the day.

4. Create

Great managers use available tools, such as their budget and reports, to create marketing programs that improve repeat and referral business, track their customer base, and find the most creative method to gain their share of the marketplace. When there are no company promotional items available, its not a problem. The great manager knows how to make clever marketing pieces using a color printer and items from a discount or warehouse store. They understand its not how much money they spend but how clever their message is in telling prospects about their unique services and programs.

Great managers also create enthusiasm wherever they go, as its contagious and radiates from them naturally. They create a sense of trust and comfort in all who deal with them. They create clever onsite events that help the community see and experience what makes their property unique.

5. Inspect and Organize

Great managers inspect their property daily for maintenance items, as they know correcting any issues early will save time and money. Neat, clean and well-organized, they use daily checklists and audits to control and improve their processes. They look from the outside in to see what customers and prospects are seeing, and take care to make sure its the most positive view possible.

Curb appeal, customer restrooms, office desk and counters, vacant units, showroom windows, hallways, driveways, and keypads are kept clean and neat so excuses are never needed when it comes to presentation of the facility. They also have a plan for performing preventive maintenance to keep things in good working order.

6. Improve

Great managers continually seek ways to improve their customer-service skills to ensure their patrons have the ultimate self-storage experience. They know that improving their entire process from customer service to maintenance will improve their bottom line year after year.

Incremental growth in income, leasing, closing ratios, expense management, capital projects and technology is expected. Great managers dont hide behind excuses when it comes to finding ways to add value to the stores bottom line. They know were all only as good as our last report, and dont become complacent about the operation because they had one good year. Instead, they work to make each year a good one with multiple improvements.

7. Communicate

Great managers understand communication is the key to success. They know when to call for help, and when and how to recommend a solution to a problem. When something is broken or repairs or replacement is needed, they get bids for their supervisor so immediate action can be taken.

Follow-up is a part of their daily routine, whether its calling a delinquent tenant to discuss payment or a new one to say welcome. They communicate what makes their brand unique to everyone with whom they interact, everywhere they go. They also communicate with their peers and competitors on a frequent basis, sharing referrals and knowing firsthand what the competitor has to offer. Whether answering the phone or greeting walk-in customers, they communicate why theyre the best and represent the customers best value in self-storage.

8. Adapt to New Technology

Excited about the newest gadget, great managers cant wait to try it out and determine the ways they can use it to cut expenses, save time and improve their process. They love using e-mail, social media and texting to contact new rentals and delinquent customers, as well as respond to leads, update websites and simply have the ability to be in touch instantaneously.

When faced with changes, they readily adapt. They try new things and understand theyll make a few mistakes, but are diligent when it comes to improving their skills.

9. Network

Understanding their budget, great managers know that if you pay for a product or service, you need to use it in a way that will create business and improve your bottom line. They dont just join, they participate. They work to make paid feessuch as those to join a local business grouppay off big in referrals and rentals from other members. Passionate about making their brand the one people remember drives them to attend chamber meetings and local events, join networking groups or start one of their own. They create a strategic alliance each and every time they represent their company.

When they host onsite events, they have a ready group of contacts in the local business community from which to draw, and a good knowledge of non-profit organizations who will benefit from the crowds at these events. They tie in their activities to local charities in need of services or donations. Getting everyone in the community to see and experience the store firsthand is the objective.

10. Have Great Attitude

Great managers realize the importance of saying thank you to their customers for the rental, a referral, or just for dropping in and inquiring about services. They know being gracious gains respect and a perception of trust. They understand theyre in control of their own attitude. They show up each day ready to see what the world will bring in the front door or what interesting people theyll meet. Theyre always ready for a new opportunity to talk about their store and how theyll solve problems for residents and local businesses alike.

Everyone wants to be known as a great manager. Remember these 10 actions. Some are easier than others, but with practice, you too will be a top self-storage professional in your market.

M. Anne Ballard is owner and founder of Atlanta-based Universal Management Co., which provides full-service fee-management to clients in the Southeast and consulting services to many others around the world. Shes a frequent speaker at national and international conferences, and author of The Hat Lady Speaks, which focuses on self-storage marketing and management. To reach her, call 770.801.1888; e-mail [email protected] ; visit .

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