Do You Make This Mistake When You Hire?

by Kenny Pratt

(I’m writing this with self storage owners and hiring managers in mind.)

Many markets are too competitive for a strategy that relies on low cost labor that only follows directions and procedures in a manual.

True Innovation

True innovations are usually the result of first hand experience delivering the product and service, not ivory tower navel gazing. In big corporations it is the front-line sales people who know where the product or service is missing the mark, it is the front line customer service representative who hears where the people feel like you over promised and under-delivered, it is the guy on the factory floor who knows what is causing the defects.

Your On-site Manager is the Frontline

For all but the largest self storage operators, the on-site manager is both the sales force and the customer service rep. It is the on-site manager who is most able to react to changing market conditions, to competitor specials or pricing changes, or to take advantage of opportunities to promote the business.

So who should you hire?

I propose that in today’s competitive environment, here is one of the most basic criteria: Hire people you believe. You have to hire people who are capable enough and credible enough (in your eyes) that when they make recommendations based on their front-line observations, you will trust their judgment without a lot of second guessing, independent verification, or “I’ll get back to you after I’ve studied it out and made a decision”. Face it, you are probably going to bottleneck the whole process and by then it will be too late (not to mention more work for you and a source of frustration for your on-site manager who begins to feel like there’s no use in bringing ideas to your attention because nothing ever comes of them anyway).

The Benefits of Credibility

When you have confidence in their ability to to understand the business and to make good judgments about how to move the business forward you will listen to them when they translate front-line observations into actionable recommendations. Stuff will get done. Your product and service will improve. Your standing in the community will improve. You will beat your competition and you will make more money.

When you don’t trust their recommendations, you are constantly second-guessing. You lose the front line perspective. You lose the ability to innovate based on real-time feedback. You move slowly. You are left blind. You are relegated to creating a vision and action plan based on limited data and what amounts to crystal-ball gazing.

Take Responsibility and Don’t Blame the On-site Team Member

If your on-site people are not credible, 99% of the time its the hiring manager’s fault. It’s because the hiring manager was looking for the wrong type of person. They were looking for a warm body that can smile and take direction, not initiative.

If you find yourself feeling like you should re-consider your staffing strategy I have three recommendations.

  1. Ask yourself what type of experience would ensure that the person you hire has credibility (in your eyes).
  2. Create a list of knowledge, skills, and abilities that you would need to see in an on-site manager in order to give credence to their observations and recommendations.
  3. Increase your payroll budget to a level that will allow you to recruit the type of people you will believe.

A Secondary Benefit

My guess is that if you are at all persuaded by this line of thinking you believe you may have under-hired, not over-hired for your position.  A secondary benefit to hiring a more experienced and capable manager is that they will be more adaptable.  If you decide to adopt a social media marketing strategy, they will be better equipped to execute without excessive hand-holding. If you decide you would like them to enroll in self storage sales training, they will pick up the new behaviors more quickly and with less frustration.

P.S. If you find yourself with the wrong type of manager, realize it is your fault for hiring them. Since it is your fault, if you ever let them go, give them a soft landing. That’s the ethical thing to do.

P.P.S. I’d love to hear your point of view, especially if you disagree. Feel free to comment below.

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