By Shannon Charbonneau, Director of Client Relations, XPS Solutions
How much time do you spend considering your own personal work-life balance? If you’re like most self-storage facility owners, the answer is, “Not much!”, unless maybe it is a regular topic of conversation with those closest to you.
How many of these words do you believe describe you? Which words would your friends and family use to describe you?
- Friends? Family? I don’t know because I haven’t seen them since I bought my first facility.
OK, that last one may be a bit of a stretch. But in truth, no one but you knows exactly how much time it takes to run your business. The good news is that there are some things you can do to free up time and provide you with some additional margin in your life! More margin in your time means being able to say yes to more of the things you want to do rather than being doomed to what Charles Hummel calls the “Tyranny of the Urgent”. More margin means more time for the important things in your life, rather than only enough time for what is immediate and urgent.
Outsourcing where it makes sense can help! While it can be difficult to trust others with your “baby”, (a.k.a. the business that you started from scratch and quite likely keeps you up at night!), successful business owners – especially those who have achieved the balance you’re seeking – know that this is the key toward running a business and having a life!
Also, consider this thought. A survey by The Alternative Board, a business coaching organization, found that nearly 80% of small business owners polled said that they feel they work too much! One possible cause for this is that if you are determined to do everything yourself, you’ll get less done. The old adages of “two heads are better than one” and “many hands make light work” are often repeated for a reason! A football coach would never consider sending a single player out onto the field, not even if it was his very best player. He sends a team!
It only takes a brief moment looking at articles written for such reputable sources as these to see a common thread:
- American Express OPEN Forum
- Forbes Community Voice
- The Intuit QuickBooks Resource Center
- The Balance-Small Business
They all say it. Outsource what you can!
Some things simply make more sense to have other people do for you.
In our world of self-storage, regardless of whether you choose to have onsite staff or not, remember that all of the hard work that you have already put in with:
- Marketing efforts
- Online search engine optimization (SEO)
- Competitive pricing analysis and updates
- New promotions
- Physical work of making sure the facility is clean, secure and inviting
All of the work you have already done points to one thing – you want new rentals! If all of your efforts above pay off, then what happens? Your phone rings!
Now, you just spent all of your time on that marketing/SEO, pricing/promotion review and creation and the physical labor of keeping the place looking nice.
Do you really want to be the one to answer the phone, too?
This is where outsourcing can make a huge difference in your day to day productivity and your ability to balance work and life effectively!
Think about the types of calls you receive at your facility as well. Sure, there are definitely renters in there! But if you are running an established facility, you’re finding that most of your calls are not sales related inquiries, right? Not only that, but even if you are carrying the phone with you, or have staff and you all try your best to catch the phone every time it rings, you still miss some. And wouldn’t it be nice to go home at the end of the workday knowing that you’re only going to receive a call if someone really needs you personally? To have the comfort of knowing that the standard inquiries about your facility, or balance inquiries and payments from your existing tenants are simply handled without you having to touch them?
And what about those renters who are calling? What if, instead of reaching you on your cell phone while you’re at the grocery store or while you’re sitting at home with your family (and simply not in a position to quickly and easily provide all of the information that they need), they reached a friendly and knowledgeable person who could provide information about your facility, guide the caller through their storage needs in order to provide a quote for the unit needed and even reserve the unit from your inventory or rent it right there on the spot?
How would your receivables look if your tenants had multiple 24 hour methods available to make their payment that didn’t need any assistance from you? Rather than receiving a call at your home at 8pm, or worse, multiple voice mail messages about how they “want to make their payment but can never reach anyone”, you could simply see their account drop off of your open receivables list until the following month! According to LivePlan, one of the 5 ways to create a better work-life balance is also to automate as much as possible.
Just for round numbers, think of it this way:
- You have 400 tenants
- 50% of whom pay online or set up auto-pay
- That leaves you with potentially 200 people who want to come into the office and see you or call to make their payment.
If those 200 payment calls take an average of 3.5 minutes (and they do!), then you are looking at approximately 12 hours of your time just talking to people on the phone to take payments!
If you’re like most people, your mind immediately just went to all of the different things that you wish you could have done with those 12 hours instead of taking payments! And that’s every single month!
Centralizing calls is something that the big players in the self-storage industry figured out a long time ago! Not even they, with their seemingly limitless funding, think it’s a good idea to add more staff at their facilities. They “outsource internally” to their own call centers to handle those rental calls as well. They do this partly so that they can capture those calls for more hours in the day than they have staff onsite!
Outsourcing your calls to someone with expanded hours means you can compete more effectively in markets with large players by virtually expanding your hours of operation as well. The worst thing that can happen is that someone chooses to call you because of all that marketing effort you put in, only to have the phone go unanswered so that they feel they have no choice but to hang up and call one of the other facilities in your area. If your competitors have expanded hours thanks to their call center, then they win the sale that you worked so hard for!
Sometimes achieving a good work-life balance is about working smarter, not harder. Contrary to what you may have heard, it is not an impossible dream. You can set yourself up for success! Make the decision to hire someone to help with that phone call and payment part of your day so that you can focus on the big picture.
Or maybe even take a vacation.