As the self-storage industry has evolved and embraced technological advancements, the role of the facilities manager has changed. The newest software does a lot of the legwork for us filling out leases, emailing invoices, texting, etc. Renters can now rent units through our websites without ever speaking to a company representative. In some cases, kiosks and other automation tools have completely replaced the manager. As a result, some facility employees have had their roles or responsibilities restructured.
VShange is inevitable, of course. But whether it’s good or bad, there’s a lesson to be learned. For today’s self-storage manager, it’s important to understand what new opportunities are now available and how to make the most of them.
Granted, it’s not always fun to change the way we do things. Learning new software or adapting to new regulations can be difficult. Nevertheless, it is important not to fall into a rut. One of the keys to making work enjoyable is to keep your passion for your work alive. This reduces your risk of burnout and helps you achieve a sense of fulfillment.
It’s no secret that if you love your work, your prospects, tenants, supervisors, and owners will notice. It can even lead to a new position! So my advice is to start a new project, challenge yourself, set new goals, and come up with a plan to implement them. Here are some steps to guide you.
Set your location
There is a misconception that running a self-storage facility involves little more than renting units and taking payments. In reality, managers serve as many departments and wear several hats! You are the human resources manager, maintenance worker and advertising manager. You manage customer accounts and payable. You are also the customer service representative, the security guard and much more. Once you see yourself as encompassing all of these roles, you can see working with a wider range of possibilities.
The best approach is to play to your strengths. For example, do you have a talent for instruction? Teaching is a hugely rewarding way to get the most out of your job. Share your industry knowledge. Who knows, you might learn something new yourself!
Here are some specific things you can pull off in your role and wow your superiors:
- Organize a Zoom course or make company how-to videos. It works great for training on things like gate repair or lock cutting. If you have a great procedure for sales or collection calls, share it!
- Write a manual or training manual. If you don’t like making videos, this is a great way to share your experience in the industry while practicing your organizational and writing skills.
- Train another manager. This is especially relevant if you have more than one site in your business portfolio. There’s a saying that goes, “If you’re irreplaceable, you don’t get promoted.” If you are being considered for promotion, wouldn’t it be beneficial to have someone already trained to take your place?
Learn all you can
Although we have new technology designed to make our work easier, it is useful to know at least a little about it. When you’re faced with implementing a new tool, consider it a great opportunity to learn, put other talents to use, and possibly find a new interest!
For example, if you don’t fully understand a new access control system, read and ask questions. Even if it works fine now, there will be a problem at some point – there always is. Pay close attention to what the technician or installer is doing and, again, ask questions. It’s a smart way to hone or bring out those mechanical skills!
Likewise, if you’re using new management software, explore it beyond normal day-to-day tasks. Some programs even have a training/demo website, so get to know the new product and its capabilities. As someone who uses it daily, you may be able to help others in your operation or even make suggestions to the seller. There are some very talented software designers out there, but what do they really know about the real, day-to-day operation of self-storage?
Stay in the know
Advertising and marketing is another area that is very different today than it was a few years ago, and things are constantly changing. You can do much of this work yourself while continuing to perform your other self-storage tasks. Investigate to see which strategies get the best return for your time and money. Here are some areas to focus on:
- Some companies have entire departments controlling their social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, etc. This is an opportunity to humanize your establishment and give a personal touch to your influence. Put that outgoing personality to work!
- Search platforms like Google and Yelp are currently the best way for people to find your self-storage business, so having some knowledge of these sites and their advertising tools is a plus. Learn how to use these platforms to get your business among the first to appear in search results. Sharpen your writing skills with an Internet ad or Google post.
- Most self-storage operations now have a website, but not every business has a website designate. Find creative ways to make your site stand out from the competition. The customer service chat feature was once someone’s great idea, so dig in and find yours!
Broaden your horizons
Look beyond the limits of your self-storage manager position. What is the owner’s point of view? Even if you’re not looking to buy your own property, simply learning more about the business from the investment and development side will give you a better perspective on the industry and your operation. For example, have you wondered why your company purchased or built the facility you currently manage?
Take the time to learn what the indicators of a good self-storage location are and keep your eyes peeled. Think like an investor or developer. What are all the considerations when pursuing new construction? What is the average cost per square foot of a facility in your area? Consider the pros and cons of new construction, converting a building without storage, or buying an existing facility. If your business wants to grow, perhaps you can bring information and expertise to the field.
As a manager, you also need to have some understanding of local consumer demand and market saturation. As a local resident, you should have a good idea of the supply and demand in your market.
To be involved
A great way to get the most out of your job as a self-storage manager is to get more involved in the industry as a whole. Join online communities and discussion forums to better understand what other managers are going through and read other perspectives on industry issues. Chatting with other people in the business is a great way to form new ideas and ideas.
It is also a good idea to become a member of your state and national professional associations. These organizations provide great information, especially when it comes to staying current and compliant with new legal issues and statutes.
Whether you’re a single person or part of a large self-storage operation, you have the opportunity to learn from every role you fill, even if it’s a lesson in that do not to do. Every hat you wear as a facilities manager brings something to the table and can add to your experience. The skills you learn and use today can help you later with another installation, another position or another career.
When you push yourself, you feel a sense of accomplishment, especially when you effectively apply your knowledge or have others recognize your growth. Your chances of advancement are higher when you learn or explore as much as you can. Showing genuine interest in the self-storage business as a whole will show your owner or supervisor that you are worth investing in as an employee. This can mean rising through the ranks, longevity in the company, or even finding a new calling.
Anna Ross is Facilities Manager for Tower Self Storage in Monroe, Louisiana. She started her career as a self-storage manager about 10 years ago in Jacksonville, Florida. She has managed facilities as small as 258 units and large multi-story locations with 1,260 units. She recently experienced her first property expansion and is always looking to learn new things. For more information, call 318.388.1111, email [email protected].