Inside Self-Storage 4/99: National Development Services Inc.

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National Development Services Inc.Designing and building a future in self-storage

A developer of self-storage facilities, National Development Services Inc. (NDS) has completed more than 125 projects throughout the United States since the company's inception in 1987--that's almost 4.8 million square feet and as much as $140 million worth of development, says Mike Parham, owner and president. "I started the company based on seeing a need for someone who could provide development services within the self-storage industry, and those services include everything from consulting to developing to construction to management," Parham says. With as much as 80 percent of the company's business being design/build projects--and a majority with institutional developers such as Shurgard, Storage Trust, Security Storage and Sovran--NDS provides its clients the organization of its complete building program, from market selection to land acquisition, design, construction and management of the improvements.

"We're doing all of the architecture and engineering in house, and we've been very successful in that we've been able to go in and cut the period from the time the client picks out a site to the time they have the whole design planned. And, we guarantee a price from the very beginning," says Parham. One of the reasons the company has dedicated itself to design/build projects, he points out, is the experience he had during the company's first three years of business. "We spent about 50 percent of our time redesigning every project we received from an architect or engineer who had never done a self-storage project before. Their designs were too costly, and didn't incorporate all of the features that are necessary to be both cost-effective and user-friendly."

If 20 years in the self-storage industry hasn't schooled Parham in the needs of self-storage owners and what features a facility's design should include, his ongoing interaction with customers has. The company's corporate headquarters, a 6,000-square-foot building located in San Antonio, Texas, is adjacent to a self-storage project that NDS owns and operates. Each month, the company's 28 employees rotate the responsibility of managing that facility--whether it be a secretary, a project manager or the president himself.

"We do this so we can keep our eyes on what's important to the self-storage customer, because what we provide is all in relation to the end user. We need to be able to go to our customers and make recommendations based on what's happening in their market," Parham says. "That's another reason we've chosen design/build--we're able to take a cursory look at the market and recommend a different project design based on the most cost-effective method of building and the availability of material. Our objective is to make sure that what we develop is the best, most cost-effective, most marketable product."

According to Parham, NDS has never lost a bid to a local contractor when it comes to building self-storage facilities, and the company hasn't had to bid a project in eight years. The reason for that, he says, is because of the company's expertise, experience and buying power. "When somebody hires me to do something," says Parham, "they have immediate access to my expertise and my base of subcontractors and vendors. That's important, because there is a lack of skilled labor in the country today. Our clients see us as people they can depend on to get the job done, that understand their business."

In addition to running his business, Parham has contributed to the industry by speaking at numerous self-storage seminars and expos. "I want people to be educated so they don't go out and make mistakes that cause problems for us all as an industry," he explains. This also gives him the opportunity to learn more about his clients and their customers. "The thing that makes NDS unique is the amount of time we spend identifying our clients' needs and trying to fulfill those needs. From being a developer, ourselves, we understand that pretty well. Our clients can grow with us, and us with them. We're able to take a project and develop it with them over time."

With approximately 72 percent of the company's clients being repeat business, and completing anywhere from $15 to $25 million worth of work each year, the success of NDS is self-evident. Will the company seek to expand? "We're not going to be the largest company in the self-storage industry. If we do $25 million a year, that's probably our limit. We don't really want to do much more, because then we would lose the capability of the way we do business with our clients."

NDS does it all: regional market analysis, site selection, development due diligence, business plans, brokerage, site planning, subcontracting, value engineering, inspection services, operations management, marketing and more. Whether it be for an institutional developer or a smaller chain, NDS assists clients in more than the construction of a facility, but in the designing and building of a future for their business.

For more information about National Development Services Inc., contact Mike Parham at (830) 980-8250; Web: www.ndsinc.com.

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