Thoughts From the Road: Are We Heading for a Cliff?

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Spring Cleanup

With many of us still scraping ice from car windshields, it’s hard to concentrate on the spring season just around the corner, but now is the time to plan your Spring Clean-Up Campaign. When can new flowers be planted outside the office? When can the sweeper company clean the salt and sand from the drive aisles? Get the paint and supplies ready so touchups can be done on good-weather days.

All these send positive signals to existing customers as well as the prospects driving by your facility each day, and especially to walk-ins seeking a storage solution to their problems. It’s a great time to repaint the office and re-merchandise moving and storage products. Remember, there’s never a good excuse for dust on a box or display. Simply reorganizing displays can give your sales area a fresh appearance.

It’s also a good time to make sure every vacant unit is surveyed, because “vacant” doesn’t always mean “ready to rent.” This is the time to fix roll-up doors that stick—not when you’re demonstrating ease of use to a prospective customer. The days of getting away with saying, “I’ll have that door fixed before you move in” are over. Your rental units should to be ready for sale and move-in the minute you open the door. Plan now for spring to take maximum advantage of each day.

How About Your Rental Agreement and Procedures?

Spring cleanup shouldn’t be limited to buildings and landscaping. Every rental agreement should be reviewed annually and updated as necessary. Working on countless facility audits for clients over the years, I am always surprised to discover that most rental agreements haven’t been updated to integrate all the latest changes based on court cases and legislation since the facility first opened.

Numerous issues have been litigated, resulting in recommendations for more accurate language. You might need to add mediation and arbitration clauses or mold exclusions. Consult a self-storage attorney and have him comb through your rental agreements. You can also visit www.selfstoragelegal.com, created by industry attorney Jeffrey Greenberger, for an array of legal topics focused on storage.

The same is true for letters, forms and procedures. When was the last time you took an objective look at the communications your managers are using each day? Should reminder letters to delinquent tenants be revised to present a more positive message? Are your rules and regulations up-to-date with issues of smoking on the property or speed limits?

You’ll need more than just taking the broom out this spring. Get your magnifying glass and take a close look at all the things that represent you legally to customers. I guarantee this will give you additional peace of mind for the rest of the year. 

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. He has served for a number of years as a member of the Inside Self-Storage Editorial Advisory Board. He can be reached at 434.589.4446; visit www.selfstorageconsulting.com

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