Winning Women, Part 2

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Inside Self-Storage featured part I of “Winning Women” in its December issue. We recognize there are many amazing women working in the self-storage industry. Some are company owners and presidents; others work in less prominent but equally important roles. ISS works with many of them in the course of producing its magazines and expo events.

We regret there is not space to honor them all.

That being said, we encourage you to acknowledge and appreciate the women who hold key roles in your organizations, especially those pioneers who flouted the trend of self-storage as a predominantly male-run industry. We applaud them. Following is another group of wonderful women who have broken down barriers to become well-respected industry experts.


Bonnie T. Reddick
President and Owner
Sentinel Systems Corp.

Age: 61

Bonnie T. Reddick began her career more than 43 years ago in retail in Salt Lake City. When her family moved to Colorado in 1970, Reddick began a career as a bank mortgager. In 1984, she and her husband, Dave, purchased Sentinel Systems Corp. and began their self-storage endeavor. Based in Lakewood, Colo., Sentinel introduced its signature software, WinSen, in 1993. The company employs 25 people.

SENTINEL HAS SEVERAL WOMEN IN KEY POSITIONS. IS IT TOUGH FOR WOMEN TO RISE TO EXECUTIVE LEVELS IN THIS INDUSTRY? WHAT CHALLENGES DO THEY FACE?

The challenges I see are not gender specific. They come in running a business. Developing new products and services while creating a positive work environment are continuing tasks that require constant vigilance. Balancing the daily dynamic of managing people with leadership and vision for the company is critical.

ARE YOU SEEING MORE WOMEN CHOOSING SELF-STORAGE AS A CAREER?

I have noticed many more women choosing self-storage as a career because of several reasons. I do not see the industry as being one that limits what women can do. Gender barriers that exist in other industries are not the norm in self-storage. I do believe women are taken very seriously by their peers in our marketplace.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEYS TO MAKING SENTINEL ONE OF THE LEADING PROPERTY MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE COMPANIES?

At Sentinel, we operate with the same focus every day, regardless if business is great or a little slow. We take pride in the stability and longevity of our company, which is a result of the way we do business.

WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED TO BE A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS OWNER?

One of the biggest challenges is blending the personalities of our employees. I’ve surrounded myself with bright, hard-working people. I have a staff of committed professionals I consider part of the family. I also have a financial responsibility to our customers to manage the process of company growth. Too many times, we have seen companies act irresponsibly during boom years, only to be forced to scale back when times are lean. We want to make sure we have the people and the plan in place to provide for our customers now and in the years to come.

WHAT’S THE FUTURE FOR SELF-STORAGE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE?

Technology keeps moving at a breakneck pace, but the future of self-storage management software will continue to provide a focus on flexibility, personalization and ease of use. Advancements in technology have provided us some wonderful ways of easily accessing and sharing information. I envision a marketplace that will continue the shift away from conventional rental and payment methods and move toward a less labor-intensive way of running a facility. Storage customers’ growing trust in technology will act as a catalyst in this movement.

Another important point is the development vision of an organization should be guided by their customer base. Every day, we hear of a new idea or a better way for our customers to run their businesses. There are some really incredible ideas out there, and we have always tried to listen when our customers give us suggestions. It would be a really wonderful position to be in to grant every wish that is out there, but there is a fine line between the fundamental and the frivolous. The future of self-storage is maintaining the balance between the two and continuing to move forward.


Carol Krendl, Owner
SkilCheck Services
Age: 43

Carol Krendl is the owner of SkilCheck Services, a Stockton, Calif.-based company that provides thirdparty management, mystery shopping, consulting and other services. Krendl was the corporate trainer for National Self Storage, where she designed a 10-day manager-training program emphasizing marketing and sales, legal issues, and rental agreements. She left the company in 1989 to form SkilCheck. The company now has 17 employees. Krendl also conducts public and private seminars, and has written a plethora of training curriculums.

ARE YOU SEEING MORE WOMEN BUILDING CAREERS IN SELF-STORAGE?

Not particularly. We have a lot of men in this industry. I have seen a few more women in certain positions in self-storage where, in the past, these positions were typically reserved for men. There are few women developers, but more women in management.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEYS TO BECOMING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS OWNER?

I really have something I enjoy about being a boss—I want to constantly improve, and I have great customer-service skills. You really have to want to create something and have something that is a little above and beyond, and be willing to put in the effort. There’s a lot of responsibility.

HOW IS THE ROLE OF THE SELF-STORAGE MANAGER CHANGING?

I no longer hire resident managers. The property runs more effectively and efficiently when you have people who have a life outside of the facility. It can be a tough job living there. Sometimes the quarters are very small. It really opens the job market when you don’t have to hire a husband-and-wife team. There are a lot of people in this industry who think that’s the only way it works. But I can assure you, I am very successfully doing it at other properties. At all of the properties I’m managing, we have four to five employees. We have longer hours.

WHY IS MYSTERY SHOPPING SUCH AN IMPORTANT COMPONENT OF A SUCCESSFUL SALES PROGRAM?

Generally speaking, salesmanship is the most important aspect of a manager’s job, especially in this kind of competitive market. With the economy down, sales is obviously important. We rely heavily on the Yellow Pages. Every time the phone rings, the manager has to be at his optimal sales level or he will lose the sale to someone else. People generally call multiple facilities before they actually rent. They usually visit only one facility. Once they are there, the closing ratio is huge.

The cool thing about mystery shopping is every time the manager picks up the phone, he will think, “This could be the shopper.” This keeps his sales skills up. Ultimately, you can really see how mystery shopping affects a facility’s bottom line.


Donna May, President
Joshua Management Inc.

Age: 53

Donna May is the president of Joshua Management Inc. in Bulverde, Texas. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in real estate, and is a licensed real estate broker with self-storage listings in the neighborhood of $20 million. She has been a guest speaker at Inside Self-Storage conventions and a contributing writer to industry trades journals. May has also been a partner in nine self-storage projects. Joshua Management has opened 13 new facilities and manages 16. The company has 34 employees.

ARE YOU SEEING MORE WOMEN IN SELF-STORAGE MANAGEMENT?

Self-storage is a much more visible business venture than it used to be. As it has become more a part of mainstream commerce, more women have entered the field. Real estate investments, in general, used to be a maledominated career choice. But over the last two decades, women have taken great strides and, in some markets, significantly outnumber their male counterparts—particularly in familyrelated investments such as apartment building and self-storage facility management.

AS A HIGH NUMBER OF CUSTOMERS ARE WOMEN, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES OF HAVING A FEMALE MANAGER?

As construction has become more sophisticated, more amenities that appeal to women have been incorporated. Things like enhanced lighting, see-through doors in climate control, convex mirrors to view around corners, air fresheners, and intercoms to the office are all intended to make female customers feel comfortable and safe in the facility. Although male managers can relay these benefits to their female customers, a woman-to-woman presentation is intuitively more comfortable. Men talking about safety issues can sometimes seem condescending to women, and they may hesitate to ask safety-related questions to avoid the appearance of vulnerability. Having a woman manager on site allows conversation to flow freely about the aesthetic and safety advantages of the facility. Sixty to 65 percent of our sales are to female customers.

HOW CAN MORE WOMEN BUILD A CAREER IN SELF-STORAGE DESPITE IT BEING A TRADITIONALLY MALE-DOMINATED INDUSTRY?

There are only two female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Similarly, in self-storage, the farther up the ladder one goes, the more difficult in becomes. But, as more women enter the industry as store managers, it becomes easier for females to attain mid- and upper-level management positions. There are also many successful female-owned management companies that promote women’s achievements, and many selfstorage associations have female board members. The stepping stones are there. Ultimately, it is the drive of the individual and the investment she is willing to make in her career that determines how much she can achieve.

HOW IS THE ROLE OF SELF-STORAGE MANAGER CHANGING?

Self-storage is becoming very competitive in many areas of the country. Managers today have to employ all of the skills of running a successful business to compete. They must understand the financial concepts of business management as well as master the day-to-day requirements of leasing and sales. They must be aware of their marketplace and competitors and know how to sell their product in that environment. They must be aware of the changes in the demographics in their community and customer base so they can make their facility as appealing as possible to their potential clientele. Changes in the ethnicity, income or gender of customers may necessitate a change in management style. Since there are more facilities to choose from, selective marketing and/or advertising have become especially important.

WHAT DO YOU SEE FOR THE FUTURE OF THE SELF-STORAGE INDUSTRY?

There are so many factors that influence our industry, it is very difficult to predict the future. The explosion in the number of self-storage facilities has created an unprecedented environment. Certain things remain steadfast. A demographically good facility location (population, income, accessibility, competition) is paramount to its success. And a well-managed business with great tenant service will always draw more customers than a listlessly managed facility. The industry as a whole is becoming smarter and more business-like. Managers are becoming more professional. As long as we continue to adapt to the demands of mainstream business, the self-storage industry will prosper—perhaps not quite as lucratively as it did in the early years, but as a solid business investment.


Mary Briggs, President
Kevin Howard Real Estate

Age: 57

Mary Briggs is a former elementary school teacher with a bachelor’s and master’s degree. She left education in 1986 to form Kevin Howard Real Estate with her brother, Kevin, who was already working in the self-storage industry. The duo started with three facilities in 1986 and now owns and/or manages 54 properties in Oregon and Washington. The company has 10 full-time employees in the main office and on-site resident managers at each facility. Mary is also a broker in Washington and Oregon.

ARE YOU SEEING MORE WOMEN CHOOSING CAREERS IN SELF-STORAGE?

Somewhat. In our organization, most of our administration and area supervisors are women. We do have several men now in these positions, but when we first started, nearly all of our employees, except Kevin, were women.

WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS OWNER?

Because of the increase in competition, a selfstorage facility needs to have professional management. It’s becoming more and more difficult for mom-and-pop operations to succeed in the industry because of the increase in competition. A company needs to offer a full range of services. A good website is necessary. We keep abreast of new trends and ideas in the industry, and we have the ability to try something new.

HOW CAN THE INDUSTRY ADDRESS OVERBUILDING?

From our end, we get calls almost every day from people who have a piece of property or have their eye on a piece of property and want to develop it. We try to show them the economics of building a facility in an area already overbuilt. We try to help people build wisely.

WHAT IS YOUR PREDICTION FOR THE FUTURE OF SELF-STORAGE?

The overbuilding will stop. In the Northwest, it is becoming more difficult to find property that economically warrants putting a self-storage facility on it. In the past few years, more industry buildings have been converted to self-storage, and that will likely continue but on a smaller scale.


Tammy Ross, Owner
Cutting Edge Self-Storage Management & Consulting

Age: 40

Tammy Ross and her husband, Stephan, began their careers in the self-storage industry in 1985 as resident managers with National Self Storage. They then joined Executive Self Storage and moved to Florida to oversee the company’s East Coast operations. In 2000, the couple formed Cutting Edge Self Storage Management & Consulting. Based in Salt Lake City, Cutting Edge provides third-party management, consulting and feasibility studies. The company currently manages 15 properties across the country and has 35 employees. The Rosses are also developing three properties they will own and manage.

ARE YOU SEEING MORE WOMEN IN SELFSTORAGE MANAGEMENT?

Absolutely, and it is exactly what the industry needs. Intelligent, strong women are becoming much more prevalent in all areas of the self-storage industry. When I first began working in self-storage as a resident manager in 1985, there were very few women in positions of power in the industry. Now, you are not only seeing women working in the marketing and operations side of the business, but also in development and construction. I see this as an exciting and necessary change to the industry.

AS A HIGH NUMBER OF SELF-STORAGE CUSTOMERS ARE WOMEN, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES OF HAVING A FEMALE MANAGER?

With a female presence in the office, you create a softer side to management. Women tend to take pleasure in a beautiful and clean atmosphere at a facility. They handle high stress situations well and are wonderful with collections and phone calls. However, there is a trend emerging where men are showing more interest in office work and women are beginning to venture out and enjoy the development side.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OBSTACLES YOU OVERCAME TO MAKE CUTTING EDGE MANAGEMENT SUCCESSFUL?

In late 1999, my husband and I were working for different self-storage management companies when we were faced with the situation of leaving the industry or venturing out on our own. After much deliberation and discussion with some of the leading experts in the industry, we decided to form Cutting Edge. We were and continue to be very fortunate in making the company a success, largely due to the amazing 14-year education we received working under many industry leaders. One of the biggest hurdles we encountered was just getting the word out that we had gone out on our own and were looking for new clients.

HOW IS THE ROLE OF THE SELF-STORAGE MANAGER CHANGING?

The role of the self-storage manager has morphed from caretaker/office manager to one of an outgoing marketing and retail sales approach. The old saying, “If we build it, they will come,” no longer applies to storage. Now it is, “If we build it, we must give them a reason to come.”

WHAT DO YOU SEE FOR THE FUTURE OF THE SELF-STORAGE INDUSTRY?

The future of the industry is turning to state-of-the-art everything to compete with the sometimes overbuilt markets we are forced to survive in. The Internet is becoming a vital aspect of our business as the generations of tomorrow and our future customers use it for all of their needs. They don’t rely on Yellow Pages for information, and they seldom use the newspaper.

I also see things becoming much more focused on customer service. As our lives become busier and we become much more convenience-oriented, I predict changes such as more on-demand delivery of portable-storage units and 24-hour automated payment and rental kiosks.


Nancy Martin
Vice President of Sales and Marketing
Chateau Products Inc.

Age: 40

Nancy Martin has a degree in retail merchandising from Chamberlain College in Boston. She joined Chateau Products Inc. in 1995 after 15 years in retail management. Bradenton, Fla.-based Chateau is a supplier of locks, and retail and packing supplies.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OBSTACLES YOU OVERCAME TO MAKE CHATEAU SUCCESSFUL?

When I joined the company, Chateau was already very successful. I added my retail merchandising and sales background, and the business kept growing.

ARE YOU SEEING MORE WOMEN IN SELF-STORAGE MANAGEMENT?

Since I have been in the industry, the majority of self-storage managers have been women.

AS A MAJORITY OF SELF-STORAGE CUSTOMERS ARE WOMEN, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES OF HAVING A WOMAN MANAGER?

A woman understands the customer service a woman wants.

WHY IS SELF-STORAGE BECOMING MORE OF A RETAIL-ORIENTED BUSINESS?

Most self-storage facilities have great exposure to the busy traffic areas, so they make a natural, convenient destination point for a moving and packaging store. It is easy to drive up to the door and load your car, and it is easy to find parking. Some self-storage managers will help load the boxes and supplies into the car for the customer.

HOW IS THE ROLE OF THE SELF-STORAGE MANAGER CHANGING?

Self-storage managers are becoming experts in sales and marketing to generate traffic into their stores; merchandise and display their products; manage the inventory; and lead the product sales through knowledge and good people skills. The self-storage manager is the most important part of the business, and the majority of managers are honest, hard-working citizens. I have enjoyed our customers tremendously over the last eight years.

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