Hiring an employee can either be the best move your company has ever made, or it can be the biggest mistake. Per the Society of Human Resources Management, on average, it costs an employer $4,000-plus to hire a new employee. If you have a high turnover rate, it will not only cost you time but a lot of money. That’s why it’s important, say industry experts, to make sure you hire right the first time.
Hiring Begins With The Search
Many self-storage companies will begin their search for new managers internally. “We first consider promoting from within or transferring someone from another store,” says Donald Jones, owner of Donald Jones Consulting & Service in Fort Worth, Texas. Jones has 15 years of experience in the self-storage industry and manages 28 properties.
If Jones promotes from within, he is looking for someone who is competent at their current position, has good customer service skills, and can perform all the duties expected of a manager—from operating the software to cleaning the storage units. “Mostly, we are looking for staff who has a record of getting along well with the customers and who are looking for long-term opportunities within our company,” says Jones.
If there isn’t anyone to promote from within, it’s time to possibly get referrals from current employees of friends or relatives who might be looking for a job. “When we have a store opening, we send an email blast and have a referral program,” says Ruby Blue, director of human resources for William Warren Properties in Santa Monica, Calif. William Warren has 150 facilities spread throughout Hawaii and the continental United States. “We pride ourselves in having good talent within our facilities, and good talent knows other good talent; we want to promote that,” says Blue.
Linnea Appleby, president of Lime Tree Management in Sarasota, Fla., says that referrals haven’t worked well for her company, which has three properties. “Lately, that hasn’t been as fruitful,” says Appleby. “Maybe because it’s a small company, but for me, it hasn’t been as effective.”
What is most effective, Appleby says, is shopping for managers at other establishments that rely on good customer service. “I might approach an employee at a hotel or a convenience store who has given excellent customer service and I tell them, ‘you may not be looking for a job, but you may know someone who is,’ and I will give them my business card.”
Using that technique, even when you’re not looking for a manager, may help you avoid getting into a rush situation when you do need a manager, says Carol Mixon-Krendl, president of SkilCheck Services in Tucson, Ariz. Mixon-Krendl has managed 36 properties in her long career in the industry.
“The problem is that you get under the gun and have to hire someone fast,” says Mixon-Krendl. If you’ve developed contacts, she says, you can practice what she calls, “fire fast and hire slow”.
If you still don’t have a pool from which to find a good manager, the next step is placing ads. Mixon-Krendl has used a mix of sites including Indeed, Jobbings, LinkedIn, Simply Hired, Snagajob, Career Builders, and craigslist.
Different companies use different methods in what they say in the initial listing. A sample of an ad Mixon-Krendl uses is headlined “Full-time Retail Sales/Management Position,” and says of the job, “Looking for a friendly, self-motivated, responsible person to manage a business. Sales and computer skills a must! The job may entail some weekend work. Salary, plus monthly bonus and healthcare.” If the facility includes an apartment, the ad will indicate that an apartment and utilities are part of the compensation.
Mixon-Krendl’s ads never include that it is for a self-storage facility, as this may give qualified applicants pre-conceived ideas. Jones also doesn’t list the fact that the job is for self-storage.
However, Appleby’s Lime Tree lists as much about the job in the ad as possible, including the detail that it is for self-storage.
Many hiring managers, including Jones, will list only an email for a response. This allows hiring managers and teams to sort through resumes and cover letters, evaluating the applicant’s written communication skills first.
Most companies evaluate from the responses and then do an initial phone interview. “Our talent acquisitions specialists review applicants and conduct pre-screen interviews,” says Guy Middlebrooks, vice president of third-party management for CubeSmart Management in Malvern, Pa. “The local district manager then meets in person with the top candidates.”
All industry experts agree: The top trait they are all seeking in hiring and retaining managers is excellent customer service skills. “People cannot learn to be friendly,” says Mixon-Krendl. “We can’t develop an applicant into being a happy, friendly person.”
Another item typically covered in the initial interview is salary ranges. “I ask them what they are looking for,” says Mixon-Krendl. “One woman told me she was seeking $50,000 per year.” Either listing a range in the initial ad or talking about it on the first call may save a lot of time and effort.
Mixon-Krendl also says it’s important to determine if the person will be a good fit for the neighborhood or area in which the store is located. She cites one instance in which a very successful manager couple asked to be relocated. “They didn’t make it; they hated the new area and only stayed about another year,” says Mixon-Krendl.
If an applicant makes it through a five- to seven-minute initial telephone interview, Jones says they like to set up in-person interviews with at least five applicants and, from there, it is cut down to two. “We then extend offers to one or both,” he says.
Some companies give personality tests to help determine if a manager will be a good fit. Ann Parham, CEO of Joshua Management, a Parham Group Company, in San Antonio, Texas, uses a personality test from 16personalities.com. “Most managers fall in a certain category,” says Parham.
Once they are extended an offer in writing at Donald Jones, the company conducts background checks and drug screening. “Some people never want to go in for the drug screen, which is a red flag,” says Mixon-Krendl. She cautions not to make that an open-ended time frame, but to give the applicant a deadline to get the screen done.
Training And Retaining
Mixon-Krendl says it’s very important to have an operational manual, and make sure it is up to date. Her training method involves working the store while the manager is in training. “They listen to me on the phone and I give them homework to do at home at night, but you have to pay them to do homework at home,” says Mixon-Krendl.
Jones says they do on-site training with their new hires, spending two days on sales and customer service. “They don’t seem to retain as well if we spend a long time with them day after day,” says Jones. “They have full access to us after the initial two-day on-the-job training, and we will come back after a week and see how they’re doing.”
Many companies have full benefits and bonus programs. “We want to pay as well as possible and provide healthcare,” says Appleby. “We want to inspire them to own their own homes and have a retirement plan.”
Jones says his company pays very competitive rates and doesn’t add to salaries through bonuses. “That’s why we pay well; we have a high expectation to perform paid in wages rather than in bonuses,” he says.
Most companies also have a formal review plan, based on state law requirements to terminate the employee if they aren’t performing to standard. However, all experts agree that it’s best to also inform the employee on a routine basis and not wait for their 90 day or annual review.
A Good Fit
The most important points to remember in hiring and retaining good managers is to hire managers who have excellent interpersonal skills, as well as people who fit into the store and your company’s culture. “We look for managers who will fit our culture, which is one focused on delivering superior service and genuine care to each other and to our customers,” says Middlebrooks. “It’s about being a part of a great team, making a difference to the customers we serve, and having the opportunity to develop and grow.”
Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is a freelance journalist based in the Ozark Mountains. She is a regular contributor to MiniCo’s publications. Her business articles have also appeared in Entrepreneur, Aol.com, MSN.com, and The Kansas City Star.