By David Wilhite
If your self-storage operation is successful beyond your wildest dreams and you're absolutely rolling in money, feel free to skip this article and head out to the golf course. If, however, you're still working on your first million and looking for new ways to help cut your costs, stimulate new rentals and increase your profits, here's a worthwhile suggestion: plan to attend one of the upcoming self-storage industry tradeshows.
To paraphrase an old Zen master, "To a tradeshow you must journey, if success is what you seek." Few self-storage owners I know would disagree. For those individuals looking to get that extra edge in this industry, tradeshows, expos and fairs provide a forum for information exchange that is guaranteed to help improve your bottom line. In fact, one extremely successful self-storage owner I know told me his attendance at an industry tradeshow resulted in one of the most profitable ideas he ever had, and his business plan provides for participation in a variety of regional and national tradeshows each year. For the rest of us, attending one major show each year should suffice.
An Educational Experience
For those of you who have never had the experience, attending your first industry tradeshow can be a revelation. There, under one roof, is everything you need to know about owning and operating a self-storage facility, including firsthand advice and information from successful facility owners and managers. Most tradeshows offer a wide variety of seminars and workshops hosted by industry experts and focus on topics of interest and concern.
These workshops typically cover such topics as buying and selling a self-storage facility, investing and financing, management and marketing, and construction and security, etc. In addition to the seminars and workshops, you'll have the opportunity to participate in roundtable discussions, chat with vendors in the exhibit hall and network with other self-storage professionals.
Strategies for the Successful Show-Goer
Since your time at a tradeshow will be at a premium, it's important to arrive with a game plan. Actually, you should begin your plan well in advance of the show date. Be sure your show registration, hotel reservation and flight arrangements, if any, are confirmed well beforehand. Once you arrive and receive your attendee packet, head for the lounge, grab a cup of coffee, and take some time to read through the program book. Your first task will be to choose the seminars and workshops that meet your needs. You might also want to make a list of alternatives, as one or more seminars may be filled to capacity by the time you arrive.
Your next task is to schedule two or more visits to the exhibit hall. This is one of the most interesting and valuable benefits you will receive as a show-goer, as it presents the opportunity to learn about the latest products and services in the industry. I recommend scheduling multiple visits to the exhibit hall for a couple of reasons: First, there is usually so much to see and learn, you may run out of time or become too tired to experience it all at once. Second, key exhibit personnel may be away from their booths or visiting with other attendees during your first visit, so you may want to return at a later time to meet them and get information about their various products and services.
To further maximize the value of your time in the exhibit hall, it's a good idea to make a quick run through the exhibit area with the exhibitor's guide and mark off each display you want to visit at length. Then you can return and spend as much time as necessary with exhibitors you most want to meet. You might also consider arranging appointments with the key exhibitors on your list. This will ensure you get the information--and attention--you need.
As a final exhibit-hall strategy, try to collect as many brochures and handouts of interest to read at home later. If for any reason you don't get a business card from a vendor, be sure to note his name and address on the appropriate handout materials and save it for your files. Such industry contacts can prove invaluable later.
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