By Kim Alton
With the year 2000 fast approaching, all self-storage owners and management companies need to take a hard look at all areas of the self-storage market. In the following sections are the questions you need to ask yourself to decide if you can stay successful in a highly competitive industry. No longer can you remain complacent and be happy with 100 percent occupancy. With stiff competition and modern technology, self-storage will continue to change.
At your facilities, are you using the proper equipment to manage the accounting of the site? The days of manual accounting and file boxes are obsolete. Take a look at the accounting capability of any major software package. Most programs are running in the DOS mode and are quickly becoming outdated. Consider a Windows-based product for all of your management needs. This includes a gate system and credit-card program that will interface with your facility-management program. Credit-card terminals and printers are becoming a thing of the past. The accountability each one of these programs provide--together and separately--will also force the manager to conduct business in such a way to help reduce some of the theft that followed the old computer programs.
There are more areas that can be audited and many more ways to spot-check employees. Also involved with the new programs are the management reports available to owners that analyze and compare multiple sites. If you are using a computer program, make sure you have investigated the Y2K compliance of the program. Do you need to send for a disk or download a patch? What about the gate system--will it shut down as you are celebrating the arrival of the new year?
Is your staff properly trained? Do you have a strong policy manual? Are your managers up to speed on all of the marketing ideas available to them? Gone are the days when managers played the role of mere overseer. Business degrees and experience are becoming necessities for this position. You will want your staff to be knowledgeable enough to be on the same page as the company.
Make your facilities a site of one-stop shopping. Most potential tenants are hurried, hot, moving--they are not listening and do not have a lot of money to pay upon a move-in. You will want to assure that renting a storage unit from your manager is the easiest thing they do all day.
Is your facility ready? To offer packing supplies, boxes and locks is not only convenient for the customer, but it also generates revenue. Offering mailbox rentals will keep tenants for a longer period of time, and offering records storage will attract a strong business-tenant base. When you accompany service with door alarms, climate control, moving aides, electronic gates, individualized security codes, cameras, professionally dressed and trained managers, and a clean, sparkling facility, you will only create a win-win situation for everyone. Customers are your bread and butter. Ask what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
Kim Alton is the assistant operations manager and trainer for C.N. Lyons Development Company based in Newport Beach, Calif.