Self Storage University Podcast: Episode 30

Why Managers Go Bad And How To Mitigate The Risks

Every self-storage facility needs a manager. But you need one that actually makes your property perform as planned – not hold you back from success. In this Self-Storage University podcast we’re tackling the subject of what makes a manager go bad and how you can best manage this risk. While all self-storage facility managers are not perfect, some are really bad and can cost you big money. This podcast helps to reduce those losses.

Episode 30: Why Managers Go Bad And How To Mitigate The Risks Transcript

Disappointment is defined as when things don't work out as we expected. And that can often happen with a manager in a self storage facility. This is Frank Rolfe, the Self Storage University podcast. We're going to talk about why managers do go bad, and how to mitigate the risk of them going bad.

To me, managers go bad for three basic reasons. First, poor adherence to company requirements, things like office hours, dress codes, things that are simple. And you would think they would not have a problem with, but yet sometimes they do. Now to mitigate those simple mistakes people make, there are three categories, in my opinion. Number one, training, explain to them what they're supposed to do, and why. You have to have regular business hours, because customers rely on those certain times to come by to talk about renting a unit or to make payment or whatever the case may be. If you say you'll be open at nine and you open up at 10, what happens? It sends a message to the customer the property is not well managed, you miss out on customers who came by at nine to rent a unit and yet could not. So office hours are simply a non negotiable item, you have to be there during those hours.

And why do we have a certain dress code? Well, once again, we're trying to impart upon the customer that we're a professional organization. It's very important since people make all of their initial impressions often based on appearance that we look professional. Why, because that gives them confidence, it's a safe place to store their goods. So training is very, very important. If you talk to people who don't meet those initial simple things they're supposed to do on their job, normally it's because no one ever told them they had to, or they were supposed to, or explain to them why they should bother to do it.

Next, trust but verify. There's many ways you can see, for example, what time someone comes in in the morning and leaves in the afternoon. Maybe you have video surveillance, you can see right there are they in the office, are they not? Maybe they have some kind of timecard system to clock in each day when they arrive. Maybe you could call them up in the morning just to see if they answer if they're truly there. But don't just blindly trust people, certainly not in the year 2021. Now maybe you could 1940 I don't know. I know the greatest generation people were much different had a much different work ethic than modern people do. But I think as Ronald Reagan once said trust but verify, you know, it's a very important thing. So find systems to check on exactly what they're doing. I'm willing to bet that using technology, you can check on anything you want just from very basic.

Also make sure you always do probationary hiring. Because when people don't have the most basic skills, things like showing up on time, normally it's apparent really, really early on in your relationship. So if you can, if the laws in your state allow you to enter into probationary period hiring agreements, where you test things out to see if both parties are happy before they become a permanent hire, probably a smart idea. We've had managers that have not even lasted a week. We had one manager didn't even last an entire day. They simply could not perform in a modern civilized world. You don't know such things when you interview people. You know if they showed up on time to the interview, but you don't know if they have the basic skills to wake up in the morning to get to get to work on time, to dress appropriately. So some people just did not have these. So probationary hiring will give you the ability to test them out before you continue on.

The next problem I see with people are bad people skills. We all know that a manager of a self storage facility it's all about interacting with customers. That's what they're really there for. You can hire a robot to sit in the office and just see if anyone walks by. You need someone who can engage in face to face encounters to sell people on the idea of storing their stuff, to provide customer service, to help with collections. People who have bad people skills never work out in a self storage manager role. The most important thing of any self storage manager is the ability to work well with people. So how do you solve that? How do you mitigate to make sure that your management candidate has people skills?

Well, normally, the first thing I notice when people fail in this capacity is, it really goes back to hiring. You can spot bad people skills from 1,000 miles away. No one can tell me that they had an interview with a person who was so shy they can hardly talk, who can't look you in the eye, and they didn't know it. So why do people didn't hire people with bad people skills? Well, they get desperate, they get lazy. They had four interviews, and all four were lousy. So they picked the best of the four rather than saying, wait a minute, none of these are going to work, I've got to get somebody in here who's different who's actually got people skills. So good, hiring is essential. Do not get lazy when you're hiring. Remember that your entire business is dependent on that manager. If you make a bad hire, you will feel financial consequences. So as a result, treat hiring very seriously. Do not accept a second rate person. You've got to get people who are truly are of high quality. If you look at businesses that succeed over all of their peers, things like Chick-fil-A and McDonald's, what do you notice about that McDonald's manager or that Chick-fil-A manager? Yeah, you notice they're really, really good. They're really, really on top of it. How do they get that? Well, because they interview a lot of people, and they don't just accept anyone. They only accept people who have good people skills. You've got to not be lazy in your hiring.

Number two, once again, trust but verify. It will behoove your business enormously if you take advantage of one of these services you can get, such as Who's Calling. Who's Calling the customer calls into the self storage facility phone number and they get forwarded through a process which tells the person calling that their call is being recorded, and then it records the call. It allows you to spot check how they interact with people on the phone. Often you listen to these recordings and you're horrified. You can't believe what a bad job the manager is doing. It seems the manager in the interview seemed to be so good at people skills, but in reality, they're just terrible. So trust but verify. Spot check, mystery shop your facility to see how it's going.

And then finally, again, probationary hiring is key. If your state allows for this, do not hire someone forever on the very first moment. Put them on some probationary period to see how they perform in real life. That way, you don't get hit up with lots and lots of cases of hiring and firing people and then that's going to make you look really bad with the Workforce Commission.

The final way that self storage managers go bad is their attitude. Now, the bad attitude can come from various reasons. They may not have the bad attitude on day one or day 31 or, or year one. But attitude comes often when they don't feel appreciated. So often, the first issue you have that creates the bad attitude is they don't feel that they are getting fair treatment. So make sure you always treat your manager fairly. We all see on TV now sometimes these new stories of people who are typically extremely hard to work with. I saw that Ellen DeGeneres I think is in horrible hot water because people say she was a nasty boss. When your nasty boss, what happens? Well, then people who work with you, they don't like you. And when they don't like you, they don't like your business either. At some point they jumped from being on your team, to their team, and their team hopes your business does terrible. So often you create your own bad attitude with that manager by not treating them properly.

Also, we can fester from poor communications with your manager. Everyone likes to be heard. Everyone has their own input. If you don't talk or communicate with your manager, hear their side of the story, their concepts, at some point they're going to think you don't care. And once again, they're going to get a bad attitude. So make sure that you have regular communications with the manager. Make sure that you're a listener, perhaps more than a talker. See what they're thinking about the business, they may have some really great ideas. So communications is also completely key.

And then we're back to the normal ones. Once again, hiring. You sometimes knew, didn't you, that person you were hiring had kind of a bad attitude. You saw that in the interview, but you hired him nevertheless, because you kind of hoped you could get away with it, that it might work out okay, because you had nobody else to interview or you got tired of interviewing people. Once again, don't do that. People with bad attitudes rarely get any better. If they can't muster a positive attitude in your interview, they certainly are not going to be able to show a positive attitude to the customers who come in. Trust, but verify. Again, listen to those recordings of people who call in, mystery shop your facility, see what really goes on when you're not there, when they don't know that you're watching. If they have a bad attitude, it'll be readily apparent to anyone who mystery shops your facility.

Finally, again, probationary hiring is key. If it's allowed in your state, make sure that you understand and they understand that it may not work out, you're going to give it the best shot. Either one of you may say, No, this isn't a very good fit. And that's perfectly okay. It's a lot better to take people on a probationary status than a permanent status, if in fact, you have to let them go. And on the topic of letting them go, don't forget the old adage it's easier to change people than to change people. It's very hard to change things like attitude and people skills. So if someone's not working, you're going to have to replace them. Typically, in a self storage facility, you only have one manager. You cannot possibly afford to have someone who is weak managing that while thinking, well, I'll train them on the job. I'll try and make them better. That might work in a big corporation like IBM, that's not going to work for you and your self storage facility.

Finally, understand the labor laws in your state. Understand what you have to do to fire people. Don't break those rules. Or even worse, you have the bad manager and then you end up in litigation. If you're going to hire an employee you owed it to yourself to learn all the laws about employees in your state.

Again, managers are essential to any self storage facility. But at the same time, there's certain attributes that they must have. And it's up to you as the owner of that storage facility to make sure that everyone has the ability to move your property forward. This is Frank Rolfe, the Self Storage University podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.