One on One With Clark Hotard

One on One With Clark Hotard

i021lk0.jpg (16710 bytes)With an extensive background in the self-storage industry, Clark Hotard brings a unique perspective and depth to his role as sales manager for Overhead Door Corp.'s self-storage system products. The company, based in Dallas, pioneered the upward-acting door industry, inventing the first overhead door in 1921 and the first electric-door opener in 1926. Today, the company and its divisions--including W.B. McGuire for loading dock equipment and impact traffic doors, and Horton Automatics for automated pedestrian entrances--is recognized as one of the nation's single-source manufacturers of integrated door and operator systems for residential, commercial and industrial applications.

Beginning his career in the early 1960s with B&M Corp., Mr. Hotard served clients in the pre-fab building market and was instrumental in developing time-saving solutions for client Kentucky Fried Chicken's rollout of approximately 1,000 store units. In 1974, he moved on to Tenneco, where he served as project manager, designing and remodeling service stations.

In 1982, as a private consultant, Mr. Hotard began developing self-storage facilities for private investors. As the industry was new, he was challenged to address and solve problems related to a variety of facility issues, such as security and climate control. In 1986, he joined a competing company to standardize construction procedures in the field, and soon thereafter moved into sales. At Overhead Door, Mr. Hotard acts as the team leader for direct sales efforts targeted to the self-storage industry. His product and industry knowledge are instrumental in expanding the company's presence in that arena.

ISS is now pleased to present an interview with Clark Hotard...

Why don't you begin by giving us a little bit of background on your involvement with self-storage and Overhead Door Corp.?

I got involved in this industry in 1982 building a facility in Jackson, Miss., while I was working as a consultant. I was also involved in one of the first climate-control facilities in New Orleans in 1983-84. That's when climate-control was just coming into its own. Since then, in the course of my career, I've built several self-storage facilities from the ground up. Ironically, I worked for a competing company for 12 years.

Overhead Door was founded in 1921 and invented the sectional garage door. In 1926 they invented the first electric garage-door opener. The company has grown since then to include virtually every type of commercial door produced in the United States.

Last December I was brought on board to head the self-storage division, which involves designing new, state-of-the-art door products, including hallway systems, dividing partitions, etc. These are the only products we offer related to this particular industry--the door that we have on the market now. And we're prototyping the self-storage hallway-system products as we speak. Those should come online in the next few months.

What we're trying to do is develop a self-storage hallway system using a flush and a semi-flush system, but also using advanced design technology and engineering to make it user- and installer-friendly. We also have a state-of-the-art self- storage door--the commercial door and the wind-loaded door--with several snap-on parts that eliminate a lot of fasteners and allow for a faster install and smoother operation. All three models have sealed ball bearings in the head plates as a standard feature.

What have you noticed in the evolution of this product since you've been in the business?

Well, I've seen things come along such as tensioning devices, the use of ball bearings, the use of snap-on components to eliminate fasteners, as well as efforts to make the door easier to install and operate. I've seen changes in packaging from individual doors in a box trailer to putting doors on pallets and being moved by a forklift. I've seen the advent of 20-year paint. The product has evolved in that regard, but the door itself really hasn't changed that much.

What do you see happening in self-storage as it pertains to your business, or in general?

I see the construction of more and more climate-control facilities, and the reason for that is two-fold: There are buildings available that can be retrofitted with relative ease and speed because the building is already there and existing. At the same time, I see land costs increasing. So consequently, less land is available for self-storage, and more climate-control will be built.

In years gone by, a self-storage facility could have several buildings on several acres. Now with land costs on the rise because of the boom we're experiencing in this country, people are buying less land and doing more with it, incorporating one large building with 300 to 500 units in it, and having it entirely climate controlled. Another thing we'll see coming about is this change: Before, climate-control units were contained virtually all on the inside of a facility. Now, I see the advent of a new prototype to be built that will have exterior, climate-control units, complete with a device that will keep the air-conditioning from being wasted. I also see much more multistory building coming on. Some of the major companies, such as Public Storage, have been building multistory facilities for a few years now--large, multistory facilities.

How much of a slowdown--if any--do you predict in development as a result of market saturation?

As long as there's reasonable money available, you'll see continued growth. This industry had peaked at one time during a recessionary period when no funds were available to build with, unless you had a company that was on the stock exchange, or a REIT; but as long as we don't see any drastic increases in the percentage of the prime rate, things should continue at an equal or only slightly slower pace. I don't see any more than a 4 percent or 5 percent decrease. I've been hearing about saturation for years, but I don't really see that much of it. Certainly there are areas that are overbuilt, but everybody's still renting. And they're still building. Take Dallas, for instance. I've been expecting Dallas to quit building for years and years, but that city has building going on everywhere.

I don't really don't see--unless the money supply is squeezed off--a halt in building. We've got an engine going here. It's climbing up the mountain full speed, so to speak; so unless somebody puts the breaks on--and they can certainly do that--I see continued growth.

Is there more demand for storage now?

I think there's more demand in that, nationwide, people are more apt to rent a unit that's climate-controlled. In years gone by, there wasn't climate control available, and people didn't want to put their valuables in an area that could get dusty or where moisture could cause damage. Now, with the increase of climate-control facilities and people getting more accustomed to the concept, they're more apt to trust a facility with their goods.

What have you noticed in terms of an increase of amenities at self-storage facilities, such as the sale of ancillary products?

I've noticed boxes personalized with logos available at various facilities, along with truck rentals and packing materials among other things. This is business like anything else. There are ancillary products owners can get involved with, and if they don't take advantage of it, they're losing good income. This trend will continue and you'll see more and more related products.

What do you see Overhead Door contributing to the industry as we enter the new millennium?

Overhead Door is a well-established company. We have a reputation for service and quality that far exceeds market expectations. We have a full staff of engineers who are constantly redesigning and improving each and every product we offer. We also have a well-established network of distributors throughout the United States who represent our company, some of them third and fourth generation. They're here to help us with these new products, in the warranty work as well as post-warranty work, which is a tremendous advantage to us.

We provide a 24-hour, toll-free number for our customers to call and receive the proper assistance with warranty and non-warranty issues. We are not owned by a steel company--our primary focus is doors. The best selling point we have is that we can call on our distributors for help in solving problems, such as broken springs or other things of that nature that come up, without the customer needing to locate help and possibly not getting the service he needs to continue his business. We feel this is a great advantage to us, and we intend to utilize it to its greatest potential.

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