From “Mom & Pop” operations to Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) the self storage industry has changed dramatically. So have the characteristics of the individuals that staff our facilities. When self storage was a rarity many stores literally were managed by their mom and pop owners, with the kids helping out on weekends. Not so anymore!

Huge REIT’s own the largest groups of facilities as investments for their constituents. Management and investment companies as well as individual owners are now responsible for their success.

Site managers, in the current nature of business, must operate with a great deal of autonomy. That autonomy necessitates the use of competent professionals. They need a well rounded grasp of business principals and sales techniques. Yet, comparatively speaking, self storage is a simple business, and wages can be modest in comparison to many other business ventures.

Where do you find people with the skills you need who will be interested in this business? Actually, they come from everywhere, from an amazing variety of backgrounds. And usually it is not what they have accomplished in the past, or the fields they have worked in, that determines their interests and abilities in self storage, but who they are, and what they are looking for in their employment at this present moment in their lives.

Many are looking at self storage as a second career, or a transition career, between the high stress world of business and eventual retirement, many are seeking freedom to be near loved ones, and many seek the pride of accomplishment of standing as individuals, rather than being a cog in the wheels of enterprise. It is their work ethic, willingness to learn and enthusiasm that determines success. Their own words reveal it best.

Rick and Eva manage a three story 70,000+ sq ft facility in a down town metropolitan area.

“As retired individuals both Eva and I have solid background in mgmt. I am a retired Army officer and Eva is a retired executive Administrative Assistant. Both of us have computer backgrounds. We had contemplated working as resident managers in a self storage facility but had never pursued the idea until after Eva retired.

Eva and I work well together, we thought this would be an ideal situation for us. Something we could do that would generate an income, reduce the normal stress of the work a day world, and put our experiences to good use. Not only our business backgrounds but our moving and storage experience over the last 30 years or so. We have moved over 20 times, often 3 times in one year.

Once you get past the learning curve of this industry the day to day activity is enjoyable. We like dealing with the people and helping solve problems and situations. We provide a service and like the challenges we face each day. We enjoy working together and the autonomy we have. There is a lot of flexibility to arrange your day, and your week. We take pride in our facility and we find getting up and going to work is something we look forward to. As a retired military officer attention to detail is everything. Basically in this business it’s all about taking care of the little things, one at a time.

This is an ideal position for any couple that likes people and have a positive attitude: about themselves, their lives, and the people they meet. With a good dash of common sense, strong work ethics, and a solid support group you can find a great niche in the self storage business. You’re not going to get rich but the value of this work for Eva and I is not measured by our checkbook but the smile on our faces, and those of our customers.”

In addition to being attractive to those seeking a second career self storage is also becoming an employment choice for people who have special family concerns such as wanting to be accessible for their older children after school, or wanting to spend more time with their spouse. Self storage often offers families an opportunity to interact in a more personal way than other types of employment allow.

Rebecca McMahan of The MOST Co, related the story of a manager of whom she is particularly proud. This single mom was a successful sales person at an upscale furniture store. The local economy took a downturn and she found herself without a job. Although atypical for self storage management Rebecca hired her based on her ability to demonstrate to customers the features and value of her facility as compared to the facilities of others. An approach she learned in the furniture business that transitioned perfectly to self storage. The job was a great fit for her and her family and she has been a tremendous success.

Another successful family transition to self storage story, is that of Angel & Mary. Angel had worked with HVAC and in maintenance supervision and Mary was a nurse for eighteen years.

“Angel & I wanted to work together and this job gave us the opportunity to work together and stay close to our family. Now that we are in this business of course we love it! The benefits of keeping our family close are very important to us. I believe you have to be a people person to work in this type of field. I would certainly recommend it to other people persons.”

Angel and Mary have an on site residence and their youngest child lives with them. It was a struggling facility when they took over but they have turned the tide toward success through excellent customer service.

Second generation self storage managers Kevin & Lisa, now the proud parents of daughter Kelly, began in self storage when Kevin took over the truck rental division at the Storage USA facility managed by his parents. Kevin became a Field Manager, married his sweetheart Lisa, and they were the given a Noah’s Ark facility that opened in April of 2003. They waited over eight months for the store to open so they could have the opportunity to manage a business on their own. Here are Lisa’s thoughts about her position as site manager.

I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to work together and later to raise our daughter. It is a position in which we can both utilize our management skills, education and ideas toward the success of our own business property. I like the trust factor by the owners/partners and corporate management in our abilities and the value placed on us. We are treated like we do have something to contribute that directly reflects in everything at our property, from the display on the sign, to our inventory wall, to the upkeep of the facility, to the customer service given to everyone who walks through our door.

In the U.S. middle management has suffered greatly from economic fluctuations, often causing downsizing and lay offs Experienced career managers, often with limited retirement benefits, find themselves unemployed, in the position of needing additional income, and wanting to do something valuable with their time, but reluctant to return to the fray of big business. Also, many government and corporate retirement plans qualify people to retire in their late fifties or early sixties. They have a great deal to offer and want a new kind of challenge. They are much too young to just go fishing. This offers the self storage industry a second career wealth of talent from which to draw.

The autonomy and unique on site residence aspect of many self storage facilities offers families an opportunity to be closer together, and sometimes avoid the expense of after school care for older children. Often husbands and wives can work together for the same company and enjoy a closeness that is lacking in most other types of employment.

People from all walks of life that perhaps can’t afford to be in business for themselves, but still have that entrepreneurial spirit, and pride in accomplishment, are drawn to the independence, and responsibility of self storage management. As the industry matures and income increases, more and more of these individuals find their way to our door steps.

These are some of the former careers of successful self storage managers that responded to my inquiry.

Accountant – Drug And Alcohol Counselor – Pest Control Owner
Air Line Pilot – Hair Salons Owner – Police Officers
Apartment Managers – Jewelry Store Owner – Real Estate Agent
Career Business Managers – Maintenance Managers – Restaurant Manager
Car Salesman – Motel Manager – Retired Military
Computer Programmer – Nursing Personnel – Software Co. Owner
Courier Company Owner – Oil & Gas Industry Personnel – Teachers

This diverse group of individuals and the many thousands of people like and unlike them are the people who comprise self storage management.

The ins and outs of the business of self storage can be taught. Self storage owners who seek the personality traits of successful individuals, rather than “self storage” experience open themselves up to a wealth of skills from outside our community. The financial component is a factor in any employment decision, but when individuals choose self storage they often do so more for life style and personal satisfaction rather than for the financial opportunities. Our line of business has unique characteristics that should not be overlooked in recruiting the most qualified people for the job.