This article originally appeared on the Inside Self-Storage Blog.

Self storage is a niche industry like none other. And property managers are key to making each storage facility successful. Stepping into a new role as a property or facility manager and learning all the tricks of the trade can feel daunting. But educating yourself can make it easier by helping you find your strengths and learning what you're passionate about.

If you’re struggling in a new role as a self storage manager, or if you just want to be a better leader, fear not: Great managers are made, not born. Here are four things you can start doing today to become a better self storage manager.

Always keep your cool when talking on the phone to difficult customers.

1. Master your customer service skills.

As a self storage manager, your community will see you as the face of your company’s brand. Their opinion of your company (and maybe even self storage in general) rests on your customer service skills. Even when you’re not at work, you should be mindful of the way you’re treating others in the community. You never know who could walk into your office the next day looking for a unit - your new favorite tenant just might be your waitress at the diner. Carry business cards with you, smile, and make a personal connection with people you meet so that they know you’re genuine. Throw in a firm handshake, and you've got a winning first impression.

First impressions aside, you’re still going to have difficult customers and tenants who seem like they want to push all your buttons. The old rules still apply to these new situations: be friendly, confident and patient. Your communication skills are vital to de-escalating an upset customer and fixing their problem. Being self-assured will also help you maintain your poise and display your expertise. Keep working on your customer service skills and seek out opportunities to learn more throughout your career.

Self storage is not a 9 to 5 job - sometimes there will be late nights and early mornings. Image by Patrick via Flickr.

2. Be flexible and dependable.

The worst excuses usually start with those four dirty words: "that's not my job." As a self storage manager, you're also the salesman, housekeeper, and maintenance person. You have to take responsibility for your facility and be flexible about the scope of your job duties. Your managerial tasks can easily range from cleaning units to creating marketing materials within the span of an hour. You should be prepared to sweat and get your hands dirty when necessary. Remember the importance of first impressions on new customers. When potential customers drive by the facility, it's your job to make sure everything looks well-kept, tidy and clean.

Self storage is not always a 9-to-5 job. Whether it’s coming in early to assist a new tenant, or getting a late night phone call about a broken gate, you're going to work odd hours every now and then. You should take full responsibility for making sure the facility is running smoothly. Being a dependable storage manager is part of the job.

The more you know about the industry, the better you'll be able to handle any situation that comes your way. Image by KOMUNews via Flickr.

3. Get involved in the industry.

As a self storage manager, people in your community will naturally look to you as the local expert in self storage. You can be prepared for these conversations and show your expertise by getting involved in industry events. It's always a good idea to do your research and stay on top of what is going on in self storage news. Here are some more great ways to get involved and grow your knowledge base:

  • Join a state or regional organization. Almost all states and many international regions have self storage associations that you can join to meet other experts in your field. Check out this list to see if your state or region is included.

  • Attend trade shows. Going to trade shows is a great way to network and learn more about self storage’s niche operations and marketing information. If you can only go to one, check out the ISS World Expo in Las Vegas. There are many events every month. Check out this event calendar or this one to find more events near you.

  • Research tech tools of the trade. Being knowledgeable about the products and services that are available will make you a bigger asset to your boss and company owner. Knowing more about what types of software and hardware your facility uses can make or break your everyday work. For example, some software providers, like storEDGE, allow full integration of gate software, insurance providers and payment information. Check out trade shows or software company websites to learn more about products and their features.

  • Study your competition. Knowing all your closest competitors and their pricing trends is a must. You don’t necessarily have to match their specials or deals - especially if you have high occupancy rates and extra amenities. But you should visit nearby facilities and pay attention to customer service, unit amenities, and tenant perks. Your biggest competitors may change over time. But you can stay ahead of the curve by doing competitor research and adjusting as necessary.

  • Learn more about your market. A good way to do this is to set up a Google Alert for “self storage” and get weekly summaries of self storage news. It’s also a good idea to follow trends in the stock prices of self storage REITs to see how the industry is performing.

  • Follow industry blogs. Self storage blogs offer a wealth of great information for managers. From how to store sensitive items to mastering website SEO, industry blogs can offer expertise on a variety of topics. Plus, reading blog articles over your morning coffee can be an educational and relaxing way to start your day. Here are some industry blogs that you should be following:

Take feedback as an investment into yourself.

4. Use feedback to be better.

As a self storage manager, you're going to get plenty of feedback from customers about how you're doing your job. Sometimes it feels like unwarranted criticism and your immediate reaction might be to become defensive. Most people find negative feedback hard to swallow, but you can teach yourself to be better at receiving feedback and use it to improve your performance.

If you've been in self storage for a while, it is especially important to listen to outside feedback. Customers know exactly what they're looking for, and they're excellent at seeing the big picture. You can use this feedback to see where you currently excel and to make adjustments to bring in new customers. Implementing changes based on customer feedback also helps bring in word-of-mouth leads.

You can start using these tips today to set goals, educate yourself on the industry, and become a more effective self storage manager. Remember to keep a positive, hardworking attitude and focus on providing high-quality customer service. Achieving your long-term professional goals starts with challenging yourself to be better. And with these pointers, you can keep learning and improve throughout your career.