"Who let the dogs out?"
I don't actually speak more than eight words in French, but having just returned from Brussels, Belgium, where a large portion of the population is French-speaking, I am now inspired to learn more. Brussels was the site chosen by the Self Storage Association of UK and Europe for its annual conference and tradeshow, March 8-10. It's a fantastical city with gorgeous architecture--and the best chocolate-covered waffles I've ever tasted.
With large companies such as Shurgard and Devon Self Storage concentrating their efforts on European development, the attention of other developers is being drawn over the Atlantic as well. Facilities are sprouting throughout the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Belgium and France. And industry suppliers are quickly seizing the opportunity to distribute product throughout these unpermeated areas. Shifting our focus to include overseas expansion seems to be the next natural phase in self-storage evolution.
But on the homefront, there are plenty of companies--independents and chains alike--working to fine-tune their operations and optimize profits. This effort is greatly simplified by advances in automation, and with more than 20 companies offering software packages specifically tailored to self-storage management and accounting, an owner or manager should have no difficulty finding a program to suit his needs. On page 24, you'll read about the latest software features, tips on purchasing and the future trend toward web-based systems. You'll also find profiles of 16 different vendors, complete with contact information and summaries of their products and services.
This month you'll also read Douglas Olson's summary of the Phase I environmental site assessment, which may be required of you by your lender during the initial phases of financing (see page 46). Starting on page 52, Jim Oakley explains how to simply and clearly demonstrate profitability to your lender at the outset of your self-storage project. And Claude and Gregory Hawkins emphasize the importance of training on page 78, saying employees must become comfortable with the mechanics of your operation before they produce the results you expect.
Inside Self-Storage is in the process of compiling articles and information for a supplement publication it will be distributing to overseas owners and developers in June: ISS Europe. Keep watch in upcoming issues for features on self-storage projects in Italy, the Paris market, the European association and more. Let's see where this all leads us.
And for those of you who have never travelled to Europe, I'll impart just a few little pieces of advice based on my recent experience: Don't exchange currency at the airport or train station (you'll get a horrible rate). Don't wear high-heeled shoes (the cobblestone streets are treacherous!). Take advantage of the train system to see as much as you can (Major cities such as Brussels, Paris, London and Amsterdam are all within mere hours of each other). And watch out for swiftly closing doors on the subway car (you'll never see them coming!).
Teri L. Lanza