Managing for Dollars

Management companies are frequently asked to review new self-storage projects, but not until the facilities are close to opening. While these companies can assist with a number of important issues even at that late date, its much more practical to schedule this kind of review or consultation earlier in the development process, usually while a project is still on paper and hasnt hit ground.

Frequently, important but subtle components of self-storage design are missed or misplaced in the overall blueprint. Developers learn the hard way that what looks good on paper may not be the best approach for a site. Of course, its easier to do it right the first time than retrofit later on. So before you start to build, consider the following points, all of which will make your facility more operationally efficient.

Water. Incorporate water lines in or near the climate-control buildings, office, etc. Look at the plans as if you were the one whod be responsible for mopping and keeping the place clean. The better access the manager has to water, the more likely the facility will be spic and span. A mop sink and hose bibs in the right places are essential.

Electricity. Unfortunately, managers often need grinders to cut disk locks. Ensure the electrical blueprints include strategically placed outlets for this task to be accomplished. In addition, make the outlets lockable for security purposes.

Light bulbs. Many builders will install 8-foot light-bulb fixtures, but these can be cumbersome for a single manager to change when they burn out. Frequently, managers will wait until several go out before scheduling maintenance, making a facility look unkempt. Consider using 4-foot bulbs, which can be changed by one person immediately after they burn out, keeping your facility well lit at all times.

Fire safety. Try to eliminate as many fire doors as possible in your facility. Statistics show 70 percent of storage tenants will be female, but women generally feel insecure walking through doors in large, unfamiliar buildings. Also, recess extinguishers into the wall to prevent them being knocked by carts. By reducing their visibility, you also reduce the possibility of theft.

Sound system. Knowing a bulk of your tenants will likely be women, consider adding soft background music to make their facility visits more pleasing. Also, an intercom system for tenants to reach the office from anywhere onsite is good customer service and can be a timesaver for tenants and management alike.

Restrooms. If your access hours are longer than office hours, a tenant-accessible restroom is a must; otherwise, youll be setting yourself up for undesirable maintenance issues. Use a keypad to control entry if you anticipate problems. Finally, make restroom cleanliness a top priority for management.

Staff break room. Provide an area where staff can keep extra supplies and personal items out of customer view. The front desk should be clean and neat at all times. Having a small break room encourages managers to have lunch in private and not spread out on the customer counter. 

Spending time to think about the daily functions of storage before building begins can really help your project be more successful in the long run. Its easier and less expensive to incorporate these and other items into your plan while it is still on paper rather than trying to retrofit. 

Linnea Appleby is president of PDQ Management Solutions Inc., a Sarasota, Fla.-based company that provides full-service facility management, consulting, start-up services, auditing, management training and more. For information, call 941.377.3151; visit

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