Hiring/keeping good people

Online reviews are filled with customer complaints about rude, incompetent and incomplete service. Reviews, good and bad, are an excellent litmus test of how well or poorly your people are performing.

On the plus side: Six reviews of a self-storage facility in the San Francisco Bay Area yielded 100% "excellent" ratings, with consistent positive comments about great people and management.

On the minus side: Four reviews of another self-storage facility in the same area yielded 100% "poor/fair" ratings, with consistent negative comments about the demeanor and attitude of the people.

While it's possible to "salt" Google Reviews and other online rating centers with phony info to build up/tear down a particular firm, it's easy enough to verify. If I were looking for self-storage space in this area, I'd check out both facilities in-person to see how well the treatment of the people matches up to reviews. If it does, where do you think I will end up? And how many others are making decisions the same way?

Simply put, the investment in hiring and retaining good people is one of the best marketing practices any self-storage owner can employ. And, this doesn't even address the peace of mind and bank account, knowing that you've placed your assets in the hands of trustworthy, competent people.

So, where do you start? Following are some general guidelines for finding, hiring and keeping good people:

1. Go for conviction. Know exactly what you want before starting the search. Are you looking for a manager/maintenance specialist whose primary job is to handle administrative and operations needs? Or, are you essentially hiring a salesperson who can market the facility to prospects as well as maintain good relations with present tenants? Or both? What other tasks are important?

2. Decide dollars. Armed with a reasonably complete description of job responsibilities, match up the position with a reasonable compensation figure. Even if you believe you know the salary range, it might be a good idea to "get a second opinion." Go to a site like salary.com to match up the job title with applicable compensation for your geographic area. Or sign up for a new application called rcreports.com, that offers subscribers a complex report taking into account all the duties to be performed by the owner/manager/employee. For example, two individuals hired as self-storage managers may have completely different responsibilities. Getting a handle on the totality of tasks to be performed can provide a more accurate picture of what to pay.

3. Choose based on attitude as well as aptitude. Regardless of what interview/vetting protocol you use, make sure to balance objective information with a gut check. No matter how good someone does or does not look on paper, it's critical to hire people with whom you're compatible and comfortable. Unless one of your primary criteria is hiring a seasoned employee, you may be better off with a candidate possessing the right attitude and needing training.

4. Match what you're willing to give with what you want to get. Once you've identified a prospective hire, have a candid discussion with yourself and that applicant about rules of engagement. If you want loyalty and longevity, offer incentives that demonstrate your valuing of loyalty and longevity. If you want the person to understand and use leading-edge technology, provide leading-edge tools to help make it happen. If you want a go-getter, self-starter type, offer perks and rewards commensurate with accomplishment.

No matter what the position or responsibilities, employees are to some extent the face of your self-storage facility. Determine what you want that face to look like before you hire, not after you discover negative Google reviews.

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