Inside Self-Storage Magazine: Got Treasure?

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All of you will eventually be faced with this problem, even several times a year: A customer moves out and leaves behind a variety of items he’s decided he shouldn’t be responsible for discarding. Maybe he doesn’t want to deal with it. Maybe he thinks it’s part of your job. Whatever his reasoning, in the end, you’re stuck with his leftovers.

In many communities, organizations like the Salvation Army and Goodwill have become very fussy about what they will take for donations. That might be the reason for the success of 800.GOT.JUNK, now one of the fastest growing franchises in America. This firm gets paid to dispose of other peoples’ stuff.

Another national organization, the Freecycle Network, is one every self-storage owner should look into as a possible solution for abandoned goods. The website for this relatively new group, www.freecycle.org, explains its story:

The Freecycle Network is made up of many individual groups across the globe. It’s a grassroots movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. Each local group is run by a local volunteer moderator (them’s good people). Membership is free ... The Freecycle Network was started in May 2003 to promote waste reduction in Tucson’s downtown and help save desert landscape from being taken over by landfills. The Network provides individuals and non-profits an electronic forum to ‘recycle’ unwanted items. One person’s trash can truly be another’s treasure!

My eldest daughter successfully used this organization during a recent move. “I gave away a lawnmower (that I’m not sure worked), an old TV, a seed spreader (with bags of old fertilizer), motor oil and even a large area rug,” she says. “Everyone that came seemed grateful, and it made me feel good that someone else could put these things to use. Otherwise, I would have had to pay to dispose of them.”

I have looked at participation within my own community and been amazed at the depth of FreeCycle. It may be a great way to give away those treasures customers leave behind. In fact, active participation in your city or town could actually produce business opportunities.

Got Rondos?

To answer that question, you need to know what a rondo is. It’s not the latest candy or some exotic wine blend. A rondo is an apartment unit that is converted to a condominium.

The national trend of apartment-to-condo renovation will probably set an all-time record by the end of 2005. Real Capital Analytics Inc., a national research and consulting firm, reported that 70,800 apartments were converted to condo ownership in 2004. By June 1, 2005, total conversions for the year had already reached 43,900. Most appear to be occurring in Las Vegas, Miami, North Virginia and South California.

The reason self-storage owners should closely follow this trend in their communities is very simple: potential customers. An apartment owner who sells a property for conversion immediately seeks to expel the current renters, which is one storage opportunity. Then the condo buyers will likely need temporary storage as they prepare to move in. Finally, many of the apartments being converted are already short of storage space, which translates into long-term business.

Make an effort to meet with conversion developers in your market and monitor this trend in years ahead. It could become a fantastic source of referrals.

‘Tis the Season to Decorate

As we approach the December holidays, many storage owners are thinking about decorating the outside of their facilities was well as their offices. Self-storage has always battled with local communities about signage, so operators should take advantage of this time of year to draw a little extra attention to their sites.

In general, owners who encourage their managers to decorate tastefully and give them a reasonable budget are pleasantly surprised by the additional pride of ownership the entire management team assumes. To add to the fun, many communities host decorating competitions. Check with local officials at the chamber of commerce to find out about events in your area.

This is a wonderful time of year to support neighborhood organizations in holiday activities like food drives and Toys-for-Tots initiatives. These make great opportunities to give back to the community, foster good will and possibly generate new business.

Finally, a decorated office changes the entire mood of the space, not only for employees and established customers but prospects as well. It’s OK to have some fun at work! I hope those of you who decide to ornament your facilities will send me an e-mail with pictures to share in a future column.

ISS 15th Anniversary Expo

Set aside Feb. 28 to March 3 to join self-storage professionals as they gather to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Inside Self-Storage Expo in Las Vegas. The host hotel, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, is one of the finest meeting venues in the city. I am honored to have participated in every expo over the past 15 years and look forward to being part of this historic event.

Early indications show the tradeshow will be the biggest of 2006, including the participation of both established and new vendors. The ISS team is planning cutting-edge educational programs and roundtable discussions for industry veterans and newcomers. There’s also time allocated for networking with owners, managers and seminar speakers from across the country. A special, full-day developers’ seminar will take place on opening day. In short, the event provides an opportunity to talk one-on-one with some of the most knowledgeable people in the business.

I look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas. For more information, visit the website at www.insideselfstorage.com/expo.

Jim Chiswell is the owner of Chiswell & Associates LLC. Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence and customized manager training for the self-storage industry. In addition to being a member of the

Inside Self-Storage Editorial Advisory Board, he contributes regularly to the magazine and is a frequent speaker at ISS expos and association meetings. He can be reached at 434.589.4446; visit www.selfstorageconsulting.com.
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