Why Hiring Away Self-Storage Managers From Competitors Is Not Always Successful

When you are looking for a self-storage facility manager, you often surmise that the best course of action is simply to steal the manager from the competitor down the street. It seems like a smart plan – you already can see what you get based on that property’s performance, right? The truth is that hiring the manager from down the street is not always the best plan.

The manager is not always the reason the self-storage facility is successful

There is much that goes into a successful property such as location, condition, pricing, and many other factors. While the manager is an essential part of the team, the greatest manager in the world cannot save a storage property in the middle of the desert, nor can the worst manager in the world ruin the performance of a storage property in downtown San Francisco that has no debt. When you drive by that competitive property and think “wow this is a great place and it’s the manager that made it all happen” you’re mostly wrong. It was the owner who purchased it and finances the capital improvements, as well as the great location and the existing tenant base when the manager took over. For all you know, the manager is actually holding it back from its full potential. We have hired many a manager that seemed like a wizard at the former property and is a complete failure at ours – and the cause is that they were basically overrated to begin with.

The manager was successful with only a “finished” property and yours is a “turn-around”

And then, of course, you also have the simple fact that most properties have a progression of conditions and manager focuses as they are turned-around. At first the manager works on just getting the property in good working order with capital improvements and cleaning up the books and collections. Then they move into the marketing mode with a push to increase occupancy and rents. Finally they are in the calm mode of simply answering the phone, showing units, collecting rents, and basically just being a warm body on site. If you are buying a turn-around property, there is no guarantee that the manager in the “finished” mode of warm on-site body can actually tackle the much harder duties. And when you thrust them into that space they may fail miserably.

Systems are as important as the manager

Many successful storage managers attained that rank by simply following the management systems of their employer. These systems direct the manager as to what to do each day, and helps them to succeed. Sometimes you can be deceived into thinking it’s the manager that is great when really it’s just the systems of the owner that they follow. In this manner, if you don’t have great systems they will not be nearly as effective. On the other hand, if you’re going to steal something you are probably better off getting a hold of the systems rather than the manager that simply abides by them.

The ”stolen” manager does not have a lot of loyalty and the same will happen to you in the future

One of the worst problems with stealing managers is that the manager who will dump their former employer for a few dollars more will do the same to you in the future. We once had a great manager that we stole from another competitor. They didn’t last very long before they left us under the same circumstances. And, until you finally agree to let them go by virtue of refusing to match the latest offer, you will get worn out by them continually asking for more money and endless demands. I’d much rather have a manager with no prior experience that I trained and had loyalty than some mercenary who is only focused on their pocketbook. Every time you lose a manager it takes a toll on your business and lifestyle as you have to devote time to finding, training and getting them in motion. When you steal a manager it’s often a cancer that never goes away and they will ultimately turn on you as they did their former employer.


If you are trying to get a winning manager for your storage facility, it’s not always the best idea to simply steal the one down the street. While it seems like a smart plan, you are often misjudging their actual performance and there are many factors that can make them a poor fit for your property.

Frank Rolfe has been an active self-storage investor for around two decades, with self-storage units in many states throughout the U.S. His nuts and bolts knowledge of what makes for a successful self-storage facility has led to a three-decade career without a single failed property.