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Your Role as a Self-Storage Facility Manager: What It Takes to be Successful

As a self-storage manager, you’re one of the most important features and benefits of the business. Follow these guidelines to help you function at a higher level and feel better about your professional performance.

As a self-storage manager, you’re one of the most important assets of the business. The success of your facility has as much, if not more, to do with your performance as it does with anyone or anything else in your operation.

Despite the plethora of training available, many of us manage our stores in “sink or swim” mode. Management isn’t learned by memorizing a manual or mimicking another employee’s behavior. Managers often find themselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place—you’re expected to increase or maintain success, however, you’re not given the tools to achieve it. You often have to operate within difficult, demoralizing policies and guidelines that may or may not be effective.

Many managers say they feel professionally under supported and under developed. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, you’re working so hard to do your job that the cost of slowing down long enough to get some training feels too high for you. Second, managers (particularly new ones) have a difficult time asking for help or admitting to their own weaknesses.

There are two types of managers: those who are aware of their limitations and those who aren’t. Research shows you’re more likely to be successful by understanding and working around your deficiencies rather than simply fixing them. Time and again, managers will gain the support and recognition they deserve by being genuine and humble instead of fake or arrogant.

The best managers aren’t afraid to ask their supervisors questions. They have honest, independent thoughts. They’ve earned the trust of their customers, peers and supervisors. Is this how you view yourself? Would others see you this way?

In today’s workplace, a self-storage manager has to be effective and efficient. You’re expected to do more with less to remain competitive. So, what practices lead to being successful in your job? Follow these guidelines to function at a higher level and feel better about your professional performance.

Steps to Success

Being a self-storage manager can be fulfilling, but it can also be difficult. You need to find the right equilibrium of friendliness and authority with customers and co-workers. Follow this list to strike that balance.

  • Do your job. First and foremost, do your own work. Look at how you interact with staff and customers. Do you let everyone else carry the load while you watch? Don’t use your role as manager as an excuse to do less. Assume you’re always being watched. Be aware of the example you set for others. Learn the business inside and out.
  • Prove yourself. People often like holding a title more than the work required to keep it. Show you’ll wear every “hat” to run the facility.
  • Set objectives. Even if the company doesn’t have set goals and budgets, set your own to optimize the store’s performance. The most successful managers set goals, measure them and keep lists. Make sure your aims are achievable.
  • Be vulnerable. If you make a mistake, own it. Everyone likes someone who takes responsibility for his actions.
  • Be self-aware. This includes your moods and how you communicate. Think of how a customer’s mood can impact your day—it’s a two-way street. How is your poker face? Body language is a signal off which people feed.
  • Have fun. Having fun on the job can make the work easier for everyone, help forge positive relationships, and strengthen your team and service for customers. Having a great attitude sets the pace for the day.
  • You set the tone for your store. Reinforce every day why people rent from you.
  • Do you listen to your customers? Contrary to popular opinion, managing is less about telling or hearing yourself talk and more about listening. Be in the moment. Don’t be thinking about what you’ll say next.
  • Keep emotion out of it. As the manager, you always have to be the bigger person. That means you can’t take things personally, publicize your views to tenants or get too cozy with them. Don’t put yourself in a position to have your comments or relationships used against you.
  • Don’t gossip. We need to manage our frustrations, not gossip about them. Be the example of how to deal with difficulty. Undue gossip or criticism destroys accountability and creates distrust. Successful managers are always known for their integrity and credibility.

How far along the path are you to becoming a successful self-storage manager? What can you change or improve today to get started on this path or move further along? Again, don’t be afraid to seek training. Ask your owner, supervisor or co-workers for guidance. You can also find a number of resources online or through your state’s self-storage association.

Becoming a great manager is within everyone’s grasp. You simply have to reach for it.

Susan Haviland is the owner of Haviland Storage Services and a partner of industry consulting and training firm Self Storage 101. She has more than 26 years of industry experience, from serving as a site manager to acting as vice president of operations at Extra Space Storage Inc. and Price Self Storage. She's a frequent speaker at industry conferences and tradeshows. For more information, call 866.360.2621; visit www.selfstorage101.com.

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