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Managing Your Overseas Storage Operation

David Blum Comments
Continued from page 1

Law of the Land

When you’re doing business in any foreign country, it’s important to become familiar with the local labor laws. In Europe, you become "married" to your employees as there are very strict rules for termination. In Brazil, the employee tax rate is almost 90 percent of the base pay due to a form of socialized medicine.

Each country has different rules that will apply. Remember, this industry is new to these markets so many precedents have yet to be established. Tread cautiously. You don’t want to be placed in a position where lack of knowledge leads to situations where new laws are established to negatively impact an emerging industry.

One of the most interesting aspects of this process has been translating terms we’re familiar with into the local language. In some cases, actual translations may not be appropriate. It’s not uncommon to bypass attempting literal translations in favor of introducing the American term instead. In many countries, the term "self-storage" is now commonly being used to identify the product and service. Of course, in France this was modified somewhat and is now known as "self-stockage."

Many of these emerging countries look to the United States for state-of-the-art products, such as software and security systems, designed specifically for self-storage. Keep in mind, many of them have not yet completed translations for all the words and terms visible to employees on their systems.

In some cases, we have created "cheat-sheets" for employee references to allow them easy use and access to security systems. In addition, we must translate not only the lease agreement, but all the various letters these systems print, as well as all the customer forms used in daily operations.

Software and Marketing

Although software and security companies are growing rapidly in the European market, some countries, such as Israel (where we estimate that there are only five or six facilities), translations haven’t made economic sense. In fact, most of what we have seen is rudimentary, locally designed Excel-style spreadsheets. And because they don’t use electronic security systems, no interface is required.

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