Finding a Vendor
The software industry has become lucrative for manufacturers. New self-storage suppliers appear every year. Many quickly come and go, so find out how long the software vendor has been in the industry, then limit yourself to those who have conducted themselves ethically. If they have, you will have no trouble finding customers who use their products and approve of their practices.
Ask yourself: Does this vendor have enough industry knowledge? This gives the vendor the ability to write helpful software for your business. The software should be rich in features specific to self-storage. For example, while QuickBooks is a valuable accounting program for many businesses, comparing it to software written for self-storage exposes its shortcomings. QuickBooks is a general-accounting program, not self-storage-specific.
The package written for a storage business will have many more features to benefit your day-to-day operation, such as rental activities, automatic lien processing, late fee and mailing capabilities. Both programs can track money, but software for self-storage will save thousands of staff hours each year.
You probably already know what I’m going to say: You get what you pay for. Software providers price their packages based on system features, market value and their competition. Behind the scenes, your vendor must support the product with any software fixes, produce upgrades, provide qualified technical support and pay handsomely for future development. If the provider doesn’t charge accordingly for the product, it simply won’t be around to help you.
Instead of focusing on the dollar amount, consider the value that comes from using a solid management program. The product will assist in collecting every penny owed to your business and save hours of manpower. Your new program will undoubtedly pay for itself over time.
Obviously, a program light on features will cost less than one with more features. Some providers have a base price for their product then charge for add-ons and specific features. If you choose not to purchase add-ons, you can save money and still get a quality management software program.
Each management software program will be different in appearance, operation and cost. They may operate differently while doing the exact same thing. One product might require more steps to perform a move-in, accept a payment or transfer a tenant compared to another product. A good management program is powerful enough to benefit your operation but accessible for your managers’ use.
Remember, the choice of management software should not be based on a single feature. Look for the best overall product for your business, the vendor’s tenure, integrity and customer service, and how you will be treated after the purchase.
David Essman is the director of marketing for Sentinel Systems Corp. of Lakewood, Colo., which has manufactured self-storage management software and security systems since 1975. For more information, call 800.456.9955; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.sentinelsystems.com.