One of our most popular blogs from the last few months is about five of the most unique cultures in self storage. It’s gained far more views than most of our new content this fall, which made me wonder if this topic is one that isn’t covered enough in the storage industry.

As the year comes to an end, many people take this time to examine their trials and triumphs of 2015 and start making goals for 2016. Now is the perfect time to do the same for your professional plans, including the plans of your storage facility. The steps below are designed to help a facility owner recap this year, prepare for next year, and get their team excited for what’s to come.

Curious to know what storage managers can do to refresh their company culture? Download our free PDF with tips designed specifically for managers!

1. Give your managers a chance to provide feedback

As the main point of contact for your customers, managers probably have tons of helpful insight that might surprise you. But unless you provide them clear opportunities to voice their opinion, their unique perspectives may go unheard.

Try opening a dialogue between you and your managers to get the conversation going. It can be as simple as sending around an email, creating an anonymous survey through a website like SurveyMonkey, or gathering your entire team for a meeting (more about that below).

You can get the ball rolling by providing some starter questions and giving your team time to prepare. I’ll bet your managers have a lot to say, but if you simply ask them “What would you change?” they may not know how to approach the question. After all, providing feedback to your boss can be intimidating! But it’s that very feedback that can drive the success of your business.

Give managers time to prepare their feedback

Think about the topics you’re curious to know more about, whether it’s day-to-day interaction with customers or the self storage website design your facilities use to get noticed online. Here are some examples you could include:

  • Why do customers choose to rent at our facility? How can we build upon those strengths?

  • What makes customers hesitate to rent at our facility? How can we help them overcome their hesitation?

  • What do you enjoy most about working here? How can I improve your job satisfaction?

  • What’s something our company should be doing that we aren’t?

Tip: Try avoiding yes/no questions like “Do you think we’re doing a good job marketing our business?” Instead, use questions that start with why, what, and how, prompting managers to expand upon their answers. For the above example, you could rephrase the question as “How can we improve our storage marketing efforts?” to get a better response.

2. Gather your entire team for a celebratory gathering

This fact is especially true if you run multiple facilities: It can be hard for your team to feel like a team if they don’t ever see each other. The end of the year is the perfect excuse to arrange a get-together, be it in the form of a meeting or a holiday party (your managers might prefer the latter).

While it’s important to discuss areas that need improvement and to set some ambitious goals for next year, it’s equally important to take some time to highlight how your managers excelled. After all, they worked hard all year long and you want them to look forward to another year of hard work. Letting them know just how much you appreciate them is key.

"A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected."

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It doesn’t have to be fancy. You could take your team out to dinner or throw a holiday bash at a central facility. If you really wanted to go above and beyond to make sure your team knows just how much you appreciate them, you could hand out fun awards or holiday gifts and spend a few minutes publicly congratulating each manager for their specific strengths this year.

A laid back gathering is the perfect way for managers to unwind

3. Recap the past year, sharing both the good and the bad

These next two steps would ideally be tackled in a company meeting. So, if you wanted to combine steps 2 through 4, you could arrange to hold your annual company meeting, say, on a Friday morning and plan for your company party to take place that evening.

One of the most important things to do before you can move forward is to look back and examine the past year. By spending some time sharing your perspective on how the team met expectations in certain areas and didn’t meet them in others, you begin to make your expectations clear for the future.

If you’ve never held a recap meeting like this, it’s likely your managers will be surprised at some of what you have to say. It can be hard for managers to magically meet your goals if they never knew it was set, so communicating your thoughts is vital.

It’s important to frame this information in an objective way. Try making a simple presentation with bullet points that summarize the goals you had for your business this year. Go through each bullet point and, with concrete numbers and examples, show how the goal was or was not met.

Prepare analytics to demonstrate how goals were or were not met

Try keeping the attitude positive and light. If a goal was met, congratulate everyone involved in making it happen. If a goal wasn’t met, briefly outline how you and your team can work together to make it a reality next year. Focus on finding solutions, not on reprimanding your team. Then they’ll be much happier to work with you to accomplish your goals for next year.

Looking for tips on measuring your facility performance? Check out 5 Self Storage Marketing Blunders to Avoid and Using Analytics to Measure the Success of Your Self Storage Marketing Campaign.

4. Be clear and direct about your company goals for next year

The perfect follow-up to your 2015 recap is to outline your 2016 goals. After you’ve presented your company’s strengths and weaknesses from the last year, it’s time to simply and directly explain what you want to see happen next year.

How can your employee know what they’re working toward if you don’t tell them? Now’s the perfect time to get everyone on the same page. Try looking at the goals from a few different angles. Break them down by facility or quarter, outlining steps to make them happen. Don’t forget to be open about the goals you have in place for yourself as owner, leading by example and encouraging managers to set professional goals for themselves.

Meetings are just as important as fun gatherings

Again, the attitude here is important. You want to set goals that are attainable but difficult — challenging goals that excite your managers at the thought of reaching them. Cover your plan for accomplishing these goals and regularly encourage managers to chime in with their thoughts. This is your time to rally the troops and you may be surprised at just how much your encouraging presentation can motivate your team.

5. Conduct end-of-year performance reviews for your whole team

For some of your managers, this celebratory meeting and recap presentation will be enough to refresh their outlook and get them excited about the upcoming year. But some employees desperately need one-on-one time with you to get the recognition they deserve and the feedback they need to perform better.

Schedule a time with each of your managers for a performance review. If you already conduct performance (and salary) reviews at a different point in the year, that’s okay. This can simply be an end-of-year review, where you frame each manager’s performance in the scheme of the goals you presented in your recap meeting.

Want your managers to learn how to improve? Make sure you talk to them directly!

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Let your managers know what to expect going into the meeting. Try asking them to prepare feedback for you, too (remember step #1?). This meeting is the perfect time to give team members a pat on the back while providing the constructive feedback you need them to hear. Spend at least as much time highlighting their strengths as you do highlighting their weaknesses, and open yourself up to hearing their feedback without getting defensive.

The benefit of combining all of these approaches is that you’ll likely reach each manager in the way that speaks most to them. Some employees are motivated by celebrations and rewards, others want a clear breakdown of what to do moving forward, and others would love to hear words of affirmation straight from you. By following all of these approaches you’ll repeat your message multiple times and in multiple formats, helping it stick.

6. Get some inspiration from companies with unique cultures

One reason our post about unique cultures may be so popular is that it can be used to spark some inspiration for unconventional, yet totally doable, culture revamp ideas. Anything from bring-your-dog-to-work days and a flexible vacation policy to quarterly company outings and education reimbursement could be just the incentive your employees need.

Would you ever let your employees bring their dogs to work?

People love to swoon over Google’s company culture. They’re known for providing free gourmet food, 24/7 tech support, one-hour massage credits, free daycare, 18-week maternity leave, and free access to fitness classes in gyms. It’s no wonder Google is one of the most sought-after companies by talented individuals.

Of course, most if not all of these benefits would cost you a fortune to provide, and they’re really the top tier of company benefits. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find free and affordable ways to provide similarly awe-inspiring benefits to your employees. Try doing some research about unconventional company perks and ask your employees if they’d like to see any of them implemented. You could create a poll of reasonable perks and let your managers collaboratively choose one benefit they’d like to enjoy in 2016. They’ll appreciate it all year long, and they’ll appreciate you more for involving them in the process.

7. Share our free PDF with your managers

While it’d be nice to have unlimited time to dedicate toward revamping your company culture, the idea of taking on all of these ideas can be daunting. The good news is that company culture doesn’t start and end with the company owner.

Our PDF gives practical steps to prevent managers from feeling overworked, feel like their voice is heard, and refresh their own attitude toward work before heading back to their facility in January.

Our PDF is the perfect reading material for a self storage manager

As you look through these tips to find the ones that seem ideal for your company, give your managers the tools they need to implement changes they want to see. Together, your efforts and their efforts can make a big difference in a small amount of time.

Ring in 2016 with happy, motivated employees

While you, of course, don’t need to follow every single step above, they’re all practical ways to get your team on the same page. Give a few of these tips (or all of these tips) a try, and be sure to let me know what you find when you do!

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Click here to download our manager's guide to refreshing company culture