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Thoughts From the Road

Jim Chiswell Comments
Posted in Articles, Archive
Thoughts From the Road

By Jim Chiswell

To Plan Ahead, You Need to Look Back

Many of us are busy putting the final touches on our budgets and goals for the new year. However, are you looking back over the results of this year and really comparing what you actually accomplished to what your target was? This process is not only important in doing the financial budget, but should also be undertaken in planning all the goals you set for the new year.

You planned to repave part of your facility. Did you get it done? Was it on budget? Do you need to do more paving in 2000? Did you update your signage like you planned? Did you design that new Yellow Pages ad? Were your goals for occupancy achieved each month? Did the ratio of phone calls to appointments to rentals increase like you had planned? Did you send your managers to that training course that you promised them? Did you get the maximum benefit from your membership in your state or national industry organization?

Unless you write out specific goals for the new year, you will be just left with the budget as the measuring tool of your success. Take the time to discuss your objectives for the new year with your entire management team. Get them involved and keep them involved in creating the budget and the other benchmarks that you set for the year ahead. You will be surprised all that will be accomplished when everyone knows the targets to shoot for in 2000.

The Final Countdown to Y2K

OK, I know you are sick of hearing about the Y2K thing. It still remains a mystery to me how some individuals and businesses have just ignored this issue completely in their self-storage operations. I just wanted to wish you luck at the end of December. There is still time to think through what could happen and to develop some contingency plans, just in case. Drop me a note, fax or e-mail with your Y2K stories sometime in January.

Your Customers Are Changing? Do You Know It?

As I travel across the country, I have been struck by comments from owners and managers about some of the differences that they are seeing in their customer base. A USA Today story from Beloit College in Wisconsin brought home this very point to me. The story commented on the frame of reference that this year's class of college freshman have with which to view the world around them.

Members of the class of 2003 have never dialed a phone. They have only known one Pope. Space travel has always included women. A woman has always been on the Supreme Court. "Moonwalk" to them is something that Michael Jackson does, not Neil Armstrong. They have no idea who "Ma Bell" is. They don't understand why Solidarity is spelled with a capital "S," and they have never heard anyone say "Book 'em, Dano," "Good-night, John-Boy" or "Kiss my grits" on prime-time TV.

Are you paying attention to how your customers are changing? Are you adjusting your operations to meet their needs? If not, as you are doing your planning for next year, make it a priority to determine how these shifts can impact your business and how you can take advantage of them in 2000.

Still Time to Participate in Traffic Study

I want to thank all of the individuals and companies that have already responded to my request for average daily traffic counts from their facilities. I am tabulating the results and finalizing the report; however, there is still time if you want to participate in this industry-wide study. Within the next two weeks I would need from you, on an anonymous basis should you so desire, the following information:

  1. Total rentable square footage in your facility
  2. Number of total units
  3. Percentage of units rented
  4. How many customer vehicles come into your facility on a daily or weekly basis.

I am asking owners and/or managers to participate in this study with me and Inside Self-Storage. Please send your information via mail to: Chiswell & Associates Ltd, 1260 N. Forest Road #A2, Williamsville, NY 14221; fax (716) 634-2428; e-mail Everyone who participates will receive a complete report right after the first of the year.

Take the Time to Talk

Back in August, my mom, Nora, suffered a stroke. As I write this column, she is making good progress. However, in those first couple of critical days, I was forced to contemplate the possibility of her passing. In those quiet and private moments, I was so grateful that I had taken time, over the years, to express my love to her. My closing Thoughts From the Road for 1999 is to encourage all of us to grasp the fact that waiting until tomorrow to show others we care about them could be too late. Take the time, today, to reach out to your loved ones because, sometimes, we are not given a second chance.

Thanks to everyone who has written or called me about this column. I have enjoyed sharing these thoughts with you. Enjoy your New Year's celebration and I'll see you at the Las Vegas Expo in February.

Jim Chiswell is the president of Chiswell & Associates of Williamsville, N.Y. Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence, and customized manager training for the self-storage industry. In addition to contributing regularly to Inside Self-Storage, Mr. Chiswell is a frequent speaker at Inside Self-Storage Expos. He can be reached via e-mail at or by calling his office at (716) 634-2428.

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