Help with the People Stuff: Outsourcing for Self-Storage Payroll and other HR functions
By Matt Vaadi
CEO of ERG Payroll & HR, originally published in ISS, July 21, 2021
The following is reprinted with permission from Inside Self-Storage, which has provided quality information and education to self-storage industry professionals for more than 30 years.
Hiring a third party to manage payroll and human resources (HR) for your self-storage business can be invaluable. There are so many regulations in these areas that it’s hard to keep up. Staffing policies and laws are frequently changing, and it’s critical for your operation to remain compliant. Let’s look at the primary advantages of outsourcing these essential tasks and some of the options available to you.
For most facility owner/operators, self-storage is what you know, not payroll and HR. The ever-changing landscape can be challenging even for a full-time HR specialist, so if you have trouble keeping pace, you aren’t alone. Plus, if this work is just another item on your already long to-do list, it may not be getting the attention it needs. That’s one of the main reasons to leverage third-party expertise and partner with an expert. Here are a few others:
- Outsourcing will save you valuable time, so you can focus on other areas of your self-storage business.
- The cost to outsource these tasks has an immediate return on investment.
- If something goes wrong, you’ll have a guide to help you navigate the situation.
- A support partner can help you achieve your overall business goals.
What Should You Outsource?
The answer to this question depends on the size of your self-storage facility and the makeup of your team. Here are a few things to consider handing to a partner:
- Payroll processing
- Employee hiring and onboarding
- HR compliance tasks
- HR policies and procedures
- Employee-benefits administration
Each of these is a required part of running a business, and unfortunately, there are penalties if they aren’t done properly. HR is one of those rare areas in which anything you do wrong can cost you 10 times more than if you do it right.
When choosing a payroll provider, search for one with experience in self-storage. This industry is unique, and it’s important to have dedicated staff who understand your specific challenges. You have three main partner options:
- National big-name providers: These are the well-known companies that serve thousands of clients. They have the perceived security that comes with that, but getting the support you need can sometimes be problematic.
- Local companies: There are more than 16,000 U.S. companies that provide payroll services. That likely means there are at least a few near your self-storage facility. These can have varying degrees of process and system maturity.
- National boutique providers: This is a combination of the two above. They’re companies that have national reach but maintain a “local” feel.
It’s a good idea to start by prioritizing your payroll requirements. This can help you narrow your search to find the companies that match the needs of your business.
Other HR Support
For your self-storage company’s other HR needs, you have a plethora of outsourcing opportunities. At the least, make sure you get some access to expertise, perhaps on a consulting basis. There are cost-effective options that are worth their weight in gold. It could just be someone to call when that “uh-oh” moment happens, or when you open a new facility and need to hire staff.
HR outsourcing can be as simple as a help desk to call with questions or as robust as a fully outsourced department. Which you choose will depend on how many employees you have and the amount of time you’re currently spending on administration work. If you only have one to three self-storage locations with a low headcount, you probably just need a help desk. Once your company starts to grow, the number of states in which you operate combined with the number of employees will eventually make it time to evaluate a fully outsourced option.
There are many things to consider when choosing a provider, such as:
- Support model
- Ease of use
- Industry expertise
- Client reviews/feedback
- Service offerings
Again, prioritizing what’s important to you and the business can help narrow the search. It’s smart to ask other business owners, self-storage operators, mentors and friends for recommendations.
How to Access Help
Companies that provide third-party payroll and HR services operate under different support models. Some take a call-center approach, where you call in and speak to whoever answers. Others will assign you a dedicated representative or an entire team.
Call-center model. If you’re super tech-savvy and have processed payroll online for years, this approach can work for you. Just make sure you understand what the service includes (and doesn’t). Typically, companies that operate this way are less expensive because they’re hoping you won’t call often, and they have on- and off-shore teams handling hundreds of accounts. Cost is really the only reason this model makes sense. If my inquiries are going through a call center, I want a discount!
Also keep in mind that call centers can experience a lot of turnover and might change their format every couple of years. That means the people you were talking to in Atlanta last month may not be who you reach next month.
Dedicated representative. This approach works well if you’re patient and value relationships. When you have one assigned representative, you’re reliant on that person to be available when you need them. This model is great until it isn’t. Sometimes the rep gets overwhelmed, quits or is promoted. Often, they’re expected to serve hundreds of clients. Ask how long the rep has been with the company and how many accounts they serve. If your company is one of hundreds for a single person, it might not be a good fit.
Dedicated team. This model gives you access to a few people rather than just one and works for self-storage companies that want consistency and the balance of a team approach. You can still get to know your reps, and you have backup if someone specific isn’t available. It’s also good for the inevitable turnover that occurs. You’ll just need to know who to contact and when, and the best communication methods to use. Knowing these basics will keep you out of panic mode when you need to reach your team.
Any of the above models can work for your self-storage operation, depending on your needs. If you just want access to experts to ask general questions, a call center works fine. However, you might prefer someone who really gets to know your business and staff.
When you outsource your payroll and HR tasks, you can concentrate on business development instead of spending time working out policies, moving paperwork and keeping up with changing regulations. You’ll also benefit from your partner’s knowledge and experience. Outsourcing allows you to focus on your self-storage operation. This investment will free up your time and give you peace of mind.
Matt Vaadi has been working in human resources since 2003. He’s passionate about creating better workplaces and helping small businesses grow. Matt is a best-selling author of the book “Ping-Pong Is Not a Strategy: How to Create an Awesome Organizational Culture.” He’s CEO of ERG Payroll & HR, an outsourcing firm based in Columbia, S.C. Connect with him on LinkedIn or email email@example.com.
The following is reprinted with permission from Inside Self-Storage, which has provided quality information and education to self-storage industry professionals for nearly 30 years.