Marketing can be an additional challenge. Marketing training becomes one of the most difficult tasks when working in a foreign country. The usual low-cost methods we employ in the United States—Penny Savers, shared mailings, Coupon Clippers, etc.—don’t exist. You have to become educated in the various cost-effective media available, and then design a campaign that is culturally appealing and descriptive. Remember, you are attempting to attract an unfamiliar audience. Here is where a good website is critical. The Internet has proven to be one of the most active resources in these markets, generating on average more than 60 percent of all leads.
Even with today’s technology—e-mail, Internet and Vonage or Skype—it’s not like you can hop on a plane and go fix an issue every month. The travel coordination and logistics, not to mention the expense, poses another challenge. Having good "point" people becomes critical. This is not always easy. Even when you hire someone fluent in English, sometimes the translations just don’t always express the thought or idea you’re trying to convey. In addition, many of the nuances of our industry that we take for granted are as foreign to untrained people as the language itself. Attempting to communicate these ideas long distance just adds to the complexities of managing from afar.
The challenge is to first gain a good comprehension of the local culture. This is assisted greatly by working with someone from that market or who is familiar with the local culture. Together we take what is proven to work in the United States and integrate it into the design for the local operations.
Adaptability is the key phrase here. I never approach any of these situations the same way. Keeping an open mind and having the ability to be flexible appears to be the key ingredient for success.
David Blum, an industry consultant, is president of Blum Management Services Inc., based in South Florida. He is also past president and founder of the Florida Self Storage Association. Mr. Blum has more than 13 years of experience in self-storage and more than 38 years of business experience. For more information, call 954.255.9500; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.blumms.com.