By Diane Di Cioccio
One-hundred percent occupancy is the primary objective of every self-storage business owner. Getting there is the challenge. Doing it consistently seems impossible. Everything from location, staffing, marketing and rental tracking can make a difference. Many of today's automation systems address some of the needs, but rarely do they address all of them.
Recognizing what impacts the self-storage industry and ways to make it better are what led Gregg Genualdi to launch Real Management Systems in late 1998. "When I started in the business 15 years ago, there were no software solutions available," says Genualdi. "The early systems--and still many today--are basically databases that satisfy the day-to-day task requirements but don't handle the operational needs or offer methods to help businesses grow." Joined by several associates who shared his vision, he launched the company and selected a name that emphasized the company's "real-life" business philosophy.
"Our mission was to create a package that was flexible and versatile enough to coordinate all of the activities and tasks within a self-storage facility. We didn't want a system that would just handle the business; we wanted something that would improve the business," says Genualdi. To do this, Real Management Systems needed to look at the self-storage industry in an entirely new way.
Breaking from traditional, unit-based tracking solutions, Genualdi began development on Task Master and decided that the product would be a client-based program. "Self-storage owners and managers are frustrated with systems that track units and can't efficiently handle delinquent accounts or leverage marketing information," explains Genualdi. "As a client-based program, Task Master can keep all of the historical data on clients and keep accounts active even after units are vacated or re-rented. Now management has easy access to accurate client information for marketing, management of collections, delinquent accounts, assigning multiple rental units to a single client, consolidated billing and more."
Another problem the company chose to tackle was cumbersome data input and extraction routines. A prime example is billing cycles. For many self-storage managers, the beginning of the month means culling through loads of checks and switching from screen to screen to record payments to individual accounts. Genualdi's team set out to simplify and streamline the entire billing process. "We designed the system so that there is no need to switch from screen to screen or reorient yourself," says Nick Block, Real Management Systems' vice president of sales. "You can go through a stack of checks, stay on the same screen and switch quickly from client to client." Payments can even be split among various units with a few simple keystrokes.
Real Management Systems further simplified the input process by recognizing the need for efficiency during peak business hours. "No one wants to go through a long list of questions while potential renters line up and the parking lot is full. We designed the system so that a new account can be created by just entering a name. The rest of the information can be input later, when business has slowed down," explains Block.
The company also hosts other features and services, all based on the premise of improving self-storage business operations. Extensive management and reporting features allow owners to keep a close eye on their operations and select what reports they want to see, when they want to see them. The system is even flexible enough to accommodate multiple and various types of facilities and services, such as marinas, apartments and office-space rentals.
Since its commercial release early this year, Task Master has been installed throughout the Southwest with plans for implementation in several nationwide management companies totaling more than 150 sites. In addition, Real Management Systems continues to move forward with enhancements and additional products such as gate-access control, a site graphics package and a hard-wired alarm system. "We consider our clients to be our product managers. They let us know how their business operates and what they need. It's up to us to create solutions to help them along the way," says Genualdi.
To learn more about Real Management Systems, visit the company's booth at the Inside Self-Storage Expo, August 23-25, in San Diego, Calif., or visit its Web site at www.realmgmt.com.
Diane Di Cioccio is a marketing consultant based in Scottsdale, Ariz., where she writes frequently on the high-technology industry and software solutions. She can be reached at (602) 502-8600 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org