References: You should be able to get reliable references on any third-party management company. Talk with their managers for opinions. In addition, is the company a member of the state and national organization? Does it contribute articles and/or provide training to a larger audience such as at national conventions? You want someone who stays at the forefront of the industry.
Sample exhibits: Look for exhibits within contracts, making sure you understand and agree to the formats for these reports. These might include the monthly cash-flow statement, pro forma and budgets, or other report samples. If you require specialized formats or reporting, make sure this is discussed during negotiation. There are numerous reports available from today’s self-storage operating software, so review what is included in the standard reporting package. Others may be available at no cost.
Extra services: If you are expecting to receive high-level attention, such as daily phone calls or weekly meetings, extended reporting and more sophisticated marketing plans and programs, be prepared to pay more. Anything can be had for the right price. However, if you demand all these services and want the largest possible discount, you may have to choose which of these is most important to you. It’s not likely you’ll get both discounted rates and expanded services.
Owner training: Many companies provide owner-training classes and other specialized reporting. Ask if this is available and included in your contract.
Reputable management companies frequently have longstanding relationships with industry vendors of all types and this usually results in discounts to clients. This would include property insurance, retail supplies, access-control and software providers along with industry-specific online and marketing service companies. Well-established firms negotiate better price points and services than a single owner may be able to achieve. Oftentimes, we are asked to review new technologies and products and provide feedback.
Other benefits to look for include:
- Better evaluation of software and technology
- More knowledge of legal requirements and regulations
- Lower insurance rates
- Bulk-purchasing discounts
- Reduced liability through requirement of customer storage insurance and better standard operating procedures
- Innovative sources of ancillary income
When deciding who should manage your property, expect a full menu of services and seek expertise that goes beyond operational issues. For success, partner with the company that brings an owner’s mindset to the table and can develop strategies that meet the owner’s business goals.
Owners today should expect management to improve the property’s performance in ways that ultimately contribute to the bottom line. After all, improving the income is the way everyone involved gets paid.
M. Anne Ballard is president of Atlanta-based Universal Management Co., which provides global consulting for evaluations, feasibility studies, training and development services. The company also offers full-service fee management in the United States, where it manages more than 35 locations. For more information, visit www.universalmanagementcompany.com.