Why “Hiring Away” Your Self-Storage Manager Rarely Works

When looking for a self-storage facility manager, one thought many owners have is to simply steal one from the storage property down the street. While there’s no question that this candidate may know the storage business and be available for a certain price, this strategy does not always result in the intended consequences. Here are the reasons that “hiring away” a competing storage manager rarely works.

The manager was really not the reason that storage facility was doing well in the first place

Often times the self-storage facility down the road that you admire did not hit its current level of success as a result of the manager. There are plenty of other factors involved, including the owner, the location, the design, the occupancy at purchase – all kinds of things. While a great manager can definitely be an asset, you can’t always say “the sole reason that place is a success is that manager” because that’s seldom the case.

The manager was in-charge of a “completed” project but is not good at a “turn-around”

Many self-storage properties go through a metamorphosis from purchase to conclusion, and there’s a “turn-around” mode that starts after closing and then – once the property is essentially full and running properly – a “maintaining” mode that runs until the property is sold. When you see a successful property that started out rough with poor occupancy, etc. it’s not always true that the current manager was the one that should get the credit. Managing a “turn-around” property is 1,000% harder than one that is running smoothly. Make sure you are not giving credit where it’s not due.

The manager has no loyalty and will leave you, too, when they get a better offer

One big danger of “hiring away” a manager from down the street is that you’ve already established that the manager is only really interested in the money. Loyal managers – or managers that care about more than just money – are not so easily stolen. And what that means is that the next self-storage owner will be just as likely to steal them from you, too. If you look at the resume of some storage managers you will see an endless progression of places they’ve worked and always for about one to two years at a time. That’s because the second they got a better offer they were gone. And if you jump into that cycle, what’s it really going to accomplish for you?

Great performers are sometimes hard to handle and retain

But then again, maybe the manager down the street truly is a superstar and would be the greatest storage manager in the history of the world. One word of caution on that: beware. When everyone perceives a manager to be exceptional – and they know that – they often become extremely demanding and want a raise constantly. They can also be hard to handle as they think they know more than you do (which they might but that’s not going to allow you to be their boss very easily). We once had a superstar manager at a property. They hit us up for a raise probably every other month and then abandoned us on short notice when they got a better offer and we refused to match it. At some point you have to truly examine the value of a manager vs. their cost and high-maintenance. The average manager is no problem in this regard, but the superstar manager can sometimes be more trouble than they’re worth – particularly if your property is not in a “turn-around” mode and you simply need somebody to keep it running on all 8 cylinders.


Probably every self-storage owner in the U.S. has had the idea at some point to steal the manager down the street from their competitor. The problem is that this method seldom works as hoped for, and can actually cause you more trouble than it’s worth.

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.