Escape the Day-to-Day Details

Susan Head Comments
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Recent surveys show that facility management is the most important issue facing owners today. The finding is unsurprising—day-to-day operations determine whether a facility succeeds or fails. But let’s face it, most owners don’t have the time or interest to closely manage their operations. They have more important things to do and possibly other businesses to run, which is why many are taking a serious look at professional management.

What does the service entail? First and foremost, a professional management company’s responsibility is to maximize facility income and operation while minimizing expenses. Easy to say, but harder to achieve—unless the company has years of experience in managing, leasing, supervising and developing income-producing properties.

A good management company will analyze a facility, regardless of size, and determine how to meet the challenges in the specific market. It will prioritize what needs to be done and when, and be organized and capable of giving the time, dedication and attention to daily operations of the facility.

Since most owners have invested big dollars into their facilities, their immediate focus is to open the doors and begin leasing as soon as possible. But first, they must make sure they’re ready to meet the needs of their customers and have all ancillary services and internal systems in place. This is where a competent management company will be expected to do its job.

There will be much for your third-party management experts to consider. how will they handle internal operations such as accounting, human resources and maintenance? What about sales and marketing?

For example, advertising must be attended to. Small but important details such as the size of a Yellow Pages ad will impact business. And what information should be included in the ad, what elements should be more prominent—facility name or phone number? The decisions may seem incidental, but someone must be responsible—and who is better equipped than a professional management company?

Personnel

Management companies have sufficient personnel to handle everything that needs to be done for your facility, which is a significant advantage for operations. They can conduct demographic research to determine who is in your market, whether it be residential, commercial, retail, schools or military. Then, they can create marketing programs to reach those potential customers. Depending on the need, brochures can be developed, as well as direct mail, radio spots, fliers and websites.

Think about this: A conscientious owner has invested a good deal of money in advertising and marketing. But how can he be sure his marketing dollars are bringing in business? A good management company will be able to track and monitor all marketing activity. It will have systems in place to make sure all calls are being answered no matter when they come in. 

Management companies are also responsible for setting up and implementing the financial activities of the facility. Duties include preparing budgets, paying bills, handling bank accounts, conducting audits and providing monthly financial statements to the owner.

Sales Role

Facility owners can’t depend solely on advertising, marketing or word-of-mouth to generate business. With today’s increased competition, they must look for every opportunity to gain additional income: selling retail items, managing onsite truck rentals, and creating a referral program for tenants or real estate agents.

It’s vital for a good management company to properly train self-storage facility staff in every aspect of the operation. This includes marketing, customer service, company policy, telephone techniques and controlling delinquencies.

For example, a well-trained manager knows curb appeal is an important onsite marketing tool. They’ll understand that women are major decision-makers in choosing a self-storage facility and they insist upon a safe and clean place to store their valuables. Ultimately, a successful staff-training program should be ongoing because situations and personnel change; training is always a work in progress.

The more competent a manager, the more valuable he is to the owner. A well-trained manager should find out who the competition is and how best to use advertising and marketing. Who knows? A good manager’s leadership may result in a better use of ad dollars and might even result in budget adjustments. Wouldn’t it be great to downsize that expensive Yellow Pages ad?

Managing With an Owner

Sometimes an owner prefers to manage the facility, whether out of necessity or desire. Management companies can still offer assistance. For instance, to get new facility owners started, they may offer a service that gets them ready for opening day. Perhaps there are more complicated issues with which an owner and operator may need assistance, such as a lien/auction process, or an audit of the facility; if the owner operator has an unusual need, the company should be able to custom design training or consultation as necessary.

A professional management company can be the ideal option for owners who wish to gain the rewards and benefits of a successful self-storage business, without the worry of the day-to-day operations. It’s being done successfully every day in one of the fastest growing businesses in the country. 

Susan Head is vice president of sales and marketing for S&W Property Management, which provides management and consulting services to self-storage owners. She is also vice president of sales and marketing for Phone Advantage, a division of the company, offering offsite rental source for facility owners. For more information, call 888.817.9422, ext. 402, e-mail shead@sandwgroup.com

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