Do you envy the agility and risk-taking freedom of startups sprouting up in cities like Boston, MA, and Austin, TX? Well, you don’t have to live in a trendy city to bring a bit of that startup energy to your own business.
Read on for nine tips about how to add a dash of startup culture to your recipe for self-storage success.
1. Challenge yourself.
MakeSpace, a storage-by-the-bin startup in New York City, NY, launched in 2013. Its founder and CEO, Sam Rosen, wanted to create a way for time-crunched urban dwellers to store their stuff.
Rosen said he and his colleagues at MakeSpace “constantly push ourselves to further challenge the industry. Dedication to our customers, focus on our vision and freedom to learn from mistakes is what makes MakeSpace so agile, flexible and nimble.”
2. Keep things fresh.
Remember the day your storage business opened with manicured landscaping and flapping flags? Don’t let that newness slip away, said Marc Goodin, president of Storage Authority, a self-storage franchising system that launched in February.
“Don’t let your facility get old. It needs to look crisp,” said Goodin, who owns two self-storage facilities.
That keep-it-crisp approach can extend to everything about your storage business.
“You’ve got to have the mindset that whatever you want to do, you’re going to go the extra step. Otherwise, it just won’t happen,” Goodin said.
3. Don’t shy away from problems.
You can’t fix mistakes unless you talk about them. The longer it takes to recognize a problem, the more difficult it’ll be to correct it, said John Ousterhout, a computer science professor at Stanford University who founded two tech startups. Here are three of his tips for tackling trouble at work:
- Once you know about the problem, stop complaining and move toward the solution.
- Be constructive when hashing out issues, but don’t be personal.
- Don’t place blame. That leads to a negative atmosphere where people fear taking risks.
4. Make hard decisions quickly.
Don’t get discouraged by mistakes. Rather, just keep “trekking through and adapt as needed along the way,” Rosen said.
Focus on never making the same mistake twice, and quickly identify when something isn’t working so that you can carry out necessary changes.
5. Make communication a priority.
At MakeSpace, Rosen keeps the entire company informed of accomplishments on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. He does that with frequent stand-ups to discuss new developments and by using Slack, a team-communication software, to keep every department updated.
“It’s important to track and share progress with the team, so we are all aware of where we’ve been and where we are going. This degree of transparency is rarely achieved outside of startups,” Rosen said.
6. Make work fun.
MakeSpace maintains a culture where employees enjoy a sense of camaraderie and are excited to come to work.
“We ring a bell in the office every time an employee or department has a win and when the company hits important milestones,” Rosen said. “At a startup, we are all a team. We all come to work together and work our absolute hardest to build something great.”
7. Hire the right team.
Rosen looks for “highly ethical, driven employees with an intrinsically competitive drive to succeed.”
Self-storage employees might not come from a business background, so train them to come out from behind the counter and shake the customer’s hand, Goodin said. Business etiquette won’t help if that employee doesn’t have the right attitude, though.
“You can have all the policies in the world, but if the employees don’t have that mindset, it doesn’t matter,” Goodin said.
To pick up some tips on reducing employee turnover at your facility, visit blog.selfstorage.com/self-storage-operations/tips-for-reducing-employee-turnover-5071.
8. Try new things.
Goodin spent $300 to buy as many pumpkins as he could, and then stacked them around his facility with a sign: “Free pumpkins whether you rent or not.” His pumpkin patch caught the attention of drive-by traffic and reeled in customers.
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9. Encourage creativity.
Goodin assigned one of his employees the task of coming up with a Valentine’s Day promotion. She came back from the local drugstore with dozens of long-stemmed candy roses that she bought for a dollar apiece to hand out to customers.
That story underscores the importance of listening to your employees, Goodin said. “They have ideas that the owner might not have,” he said.