“If you can’t figure out the software in five minutes, it’s too complex.”
Self-storage management software is more sophisticated than it was 10 years ago because the industry itself is more sophisticated. While you would love to have software you could learn in five minutes, you also want it to be robust enough to support and manage the new ideas and trends that grow and change in the industry every year.
When evaluating management software, make sure it will support your business rules and give you the type of reporting needed for your specific business requirements. If you include your manager or accountant in the evaluation, make sure they are aware of your longrange business plans and needs. Your management software should make you more productive and profitable. It is worth some study and training to use your software to its full potential so you can best organize your operations and maximize revenue.
“If the software is expensive, it must be better.”
The price you pay for your management software may or may not correlate to the quality of the product and service. When you select software to assist you in running your business, your initial investment may be a small part of the cost of the overall project, but will become a large part of your operation in organization, time and productivity.
“Support fees are extortion.”
Your software provider must keep up with the planned obsolescence of your computer operating environment. Self-storage management software interfaces with access-control technology, changing computer hardware and operating systems, payment processing, PDA software, point-of-sale software, the Internet and telecommunications technology. These interfaces constantly develop, and new ones are added every year. Your provider works to keep your software updated and gives you educational and technical assistance when you need it. Support fees are an insurance policy and business expense on which you collect many times over.
“As the owner, I don’t need to know how to use the software.”
Why not just give your employees the keys and the checkbook? Your level of familiarity with your management software should include knowing how to perform day-to-day functions. You may or may not need to personally train managers to use the software, but you should know enough about it to supervise, conduct and/or review proper facility audits. Take adequate precautions against fraud by knowing how employees can cheat. Set up user passwords and user-appropriate profiles so employees only access functions necessary to their tasks and all transactions they enter are tracked with user identification.
“My friend is good with computers, and he can create a database program to run my operation.”
Reinventing the wheel is not necessary or cost-effective. Take advantage of the software packages designed specifically for selfstorage, which are ready to go “right out of the box.”
“Any computer hardware will do.”
Change is constant in the world of technology. Purchase computer hardware that provides you enough processing speed, memory and peripheral ports for interfaced hardware—access control, digital cameras, PDAs, magnetic credit-card and check readers, etc. Incorporate basic precautions such as antivirus and utility software, as well as safe data-backup procedures. Also include a capital expenditure plan for renovating and/or replacing computer hardware on a planned schedule. Have an emergency replacement plan in place in case your hardware goes down.
“I can set up and install management software the day before my new facility opens.”
As soon as you establish your business phone number, Yellow Pages ad and website, you should be prepared to accept inquiries on rentals, take contact information, and reserve units or unit-type preferences. Your business phone can temporarily roll over to another number where you can accept calls to market your facility before your office is open. Your management software should allow you to enter contact information for potential tenants who inquire about rentals. You can start collecting valuable demographic information on where your inquiries originate to best budget your advertising dollars and enhance your lease-up period.
“Automating my business doesn’t affect my professional image.”
These days, most consumers are surprised to encounter a business that runs on a card system. They are also surprised to enter a modern looking facility, only to find a manager working with old computer hardware and software. Flat-screen monitors, wireless keyboards, a wireless mouse, and an under-the-counter, out of sight CPU communicates you have an up-to-date, “with it” operation. Many offices now have two or more networked workstations so employees can handle multiple transactions with customers simultaneously. Self-service kiosks and pay-at-the-gate systems further communicate an upbeat customer-service and convenience-business image.
“My software does everything I need it to do.”
Does your software really do everything you need it to do, or are your managers performing labor-intensive tasks that could be automated by software? If you don’t periodically evaluate whether you need to upgrade or update your management software, you may be risking a lack of productivity you can’t afford. Your managers could be working with updated and enhanced features that give them more time for marketing and renting units.
Take the time to investigate and comprehend the scope of features available in selfstorage management software. Make sure your software allows you to grow into features you may want to take advantage of later. There are many successful interfaces between management software and related technology. You may risk losing ground to your competition and leaving dollars on the table if you don’t take advantage of what is available to your business.
“It’s the software, not the people.”
The process of introducing or updating computer hardware and software for your business can be complex. The investment you make in hardware, software, people and training is much larger than your investment in management software. Some of the best features in software come from customer ideas and feedback. The quality of the relationship you build and maintain with your provider is essential to the successful operation of your business. A good management software tool—and a responsive, knowledgeable, honest and helpful team behind it—ensures your long-term success.
Tom Garden is president and Alison Kiesa is the sales and marketing director of Syrasoft Management Software LLC, which has produced management-software solutions for the self-storage industry since 1991. For more information, call 800.817.7706; visit www.syrasoft.com.