Thoughts From the Road

Jim Chiswell Comments
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I am pleased to be continuing this column for another year. My thanks to Editor Teri Lanza and Publisher Troy Bix for their continued support. I also want to thank you, the readers, for the positive feedback I receive throughout the year--especially at the ISS Expos. It seems impossible that we are already into the second month of 2002, but there is no denying the calendar.

The events of 2001 changed our world forever, but with every adversity is an equal opportunity. For many people, this opportunity has been manifested in a change in attitude and focus. I have talked with many owners and managers who now sense a feeling of compassion in discussions with their customers. I hope we can hang on to this desire to help one another as a lasting tribute to the sacrifices that were and continue to be made by so many around the world.

Relationships With Movers

We moved our family and our business to Lake Monticello, Va., near Charlottesville, last year. It had been more than five years since our last move and, I must admit, I had forgotten just how much work moving is. The process reminded me of several key things.

The self-storage facility where I had rented a unit has a great working relationship with several movers in the community. A referral from my facility managers, Tina and David Fleming, writers of the ISS column "From Behind The Counter," got me a 20 percent discount off my mover's quote. This was significant and worth many months' rent as a value-added service to me.

Have you established that type of relationship with movers from your community, ones to which you can refer customers with confidence in the quality of service they will receive? If you have not gotten around to this yet, I recommend you add it to your year-long "to do" list. The other benefits you will realize are the rentals you will receive from their referrals.

While the majority of self-storage stores do sell boxes, I urge all owners of those that do not to reconsider. I lost count of how many boxes I bought from the Premiere Self Storage store. There are several quality suppliers that can set you up with a full range of box products and other moving supplies. Don't continue to miss out on this profit center just because you "have never done it before."

Straight From the Gut

A good friend and industry visionary, Peter Ferraro of Bedford Self Storage, surprised me with a gift of Jack Welch's book, Jack: Straight From the Gut (Warner Business Books, 2001). I have really enjoyed reading the insights from this man, who is considered by many to be one of the greatest corporate executives of all times. There are a few quotes from his book I find thought-provoking:

  • "Confidence gives you courage and extends your reach. It lets you take greater risks and achieve far more than you ever thought possible. Building self-confidence in others is a huge part of leadership. It comes from providing opportunities and challenges for people to do things they never imagined they could do--rewarding them after each success in every way possible."
  • "Everybody's got to feel they have a stake in the game. But that doesn't mean everyone on the team has to be treated the same way."
  • "Accounting doesn't generate cash, managing business does."
  • "Any organization that thinks it can guarantee job security is going down a dead end. Only satisfied customers can give people job security."
  • "Change doesn't come from a slogan or a speech. It happens because you put the right people in place to make it happen. People first. Strategy and everything else next."

I learned a great deal from reading this book that I plan to use in my company in the year ahead. If you are looking for a book to get you thinking about your own organization in a new way, I encourage you to pick this one up.

Reviewing Your Rental Agreement

As we begin the new year, it is wise to consider as comprehensive review of your current rental agreement. In some states, changing your agreement has been mandated by legislative changes in state law. In other situations, case law from various court decisions should be considered in the language of the rental document.

Many owners are reluctant to reprint their agreements because they have a stack or two of the old ones left, or they are not willing to invest the few hours of legal time necessary to update the original document. All of these costs will seem insignificant when you are sued over some issue in the operation of your self-storage store. Then, of course, it is too late to turn back the hands of time.

It is also important to remember you must be careful in how you make these changes effective for your existing customers. The September/October 2001 issue of the Self Storage Legal Review (SSLR) did an excellent job outlining the steps and customer notification to consider when making any changes to your rental agreement. I urge you to refer back to this issue before you proceed in making changes.

If you are not receiving the SSLR as a membership benefit from the national Self Storage Association, it is a must-have publication. It is written and edited by D. Carlos Kaslow and published by the SSA. SSLR is published six times a year and is one of the best investments you can make as an owner to stay on top of legal and legislative issues that could directly impact your success.

I hope to see you all at the ISS Las Vegas Expo.

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 at his new corporate offices at 6 Slice Road, Lake Monticello, VA 22963; phone 434.589.4446; fax 434.589.1573; e-mail chiswell@cstone.net; www.selfstorageconsulting.com.

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