By Jim Chiswell
Spring Clean-Up and Dress-Up Time
Spring is upon us, and with it comes the opportunity to catch some extra attention for your facility. If you are in the Northeast, it's time to remove all signs of the winter that is now behind us. The few pieces of trash you could not get to because of snow piles or because the ground was too soft should get top priority. Filling in the tire marks and reseeding the grass will give you a jump-start on the remainder of the year.
It is also the time to plant spring flowers. I have met many managers who would welcome the chance to dress up the front of their property if only they had the budget and authority to get the job done. In many cases, I would rather challenge my managers to coordinate the spring plantings than turn the job over to a contractor. The majority of facilities across America are being managed by people who live on site. Even if owners pay those managers what they would pay a landscaper, I believe they would get a better end result.
I would love to share photos of facilities where the owners or managers have done the landscaping. If you would like to share your results, please send me a photo to the address at the end of this column. Write "Spring Dress-Up" on the envelope, and be sure to include details about your facility along with your name and contact information. I will select two photos to publish in an upcoming column.
Self-Storage in the Media
All at once, I seem to be seeing self-storage facilities featured in various types of media. Recent motion pictures have featured scenes set at facilities. They usually don't present us in the best light but, then again, it's hard to imagine a self-storage location as the backdrop of a love story! An MSNBC news story included an entire interview with one subject as she stood at her self-storage unit. The setting was unmistakable as others helped to unload her rental truck into her 10-by-20 unit. Even radio and TV shrink Dr. Laura has discussed the use of self-storage.
During one of my last trips, I was searching the radio dial in my rental car for some "oldies" music. I caught the end of Dr. Laura's response to a woman who was at loose ends over having to store all of her 35-year-old daughter's stuff. Dr. Laura told her she had a very simple solution: Get out the Yellow Pages and turn to the section for storage. She recommended the woman pick out the self-storage location closest to her daughter's apartment and tell her daughter to move her stuff there. It was one of the best responses I have heard from Dr. Laura.
The increased visibility of our industry can be a double-edged sword. Publicity and news items about self-storage are generally negative. Usually, they either highlight a tragic occurrence or someone who has been caught doing or storing something illegally at a facility. As an industry, we should go on the offensive across the country. There are so many other positive stories about our grand openings, or how we help people in trouble, or how our facilities have helped new businesses get started, or how a facility has assisted a local charity.
I challenge every owner to come up with a positive story about his facility that can be sent as a press release to a local paper or business journal. As long as our industry is going to be seen regularly in the media, we should fight to get our share of positive press. There are literally hundreds of local weekly and business-oriented journals that could be inundated with press releases if even just a few of the people who read this column would accept my challenge. When your story runs, please send me a copy of the article.
Who Put the Butts Out? (Follow-Up)
I could not resist writing a follow-up to the item about cigarette butts in my last column. If Maine State Legislator Joseph Brooks gets his way, butts could become a new profit center for facility owners in that state. It seems Brooks has introduced the first national cigarette-butt-deposit legislation. Designed to mirror the state's bottle-deposit legislation, the Brooks proposal would place a 5-cent deposit on every cigarette butt. Simply returning your used butts to a retailer would allow you to claim the deposit.
If this proposed legislation is enacted into law, every chain smoker in New England will be visiting Maine on a regular basis. It is too bad they are still not producing the Seinfeld television show. I could write that episode myself. But until the "Butt Bill" has been signed into law in each of our states, I guess we'll just have to keep picking up the butts ourselves to keep our facilities and grounds clean.
Return to Biloxi
I am very excited the ISS Trade Fair is returning to the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, Biloxi, Miss., in June. And, no, not just to visit the money I left there last time! Our last trip to Biloxi was an outstanding opportunity to meet in a relaxing environment with people considering getting into the business, as well as with current owners to talk about their issues. If you have not already made plans to attend, visit the ISS website at www.insideselfstorage.com to get all the details. I look forward to seeing you there.
Jim Chiswell is the president of Chiswell & Associates. Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence, expert testimony 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 and various association meetings. He can be reached via mail at Chiswell & Associates, 1260 N. Forest Road #2A, Williamsville, NY 14221; e-mail Jchiswell@adelphia.net; call 716.634.2428; www.selfstorageconsulting.com.