Talking With Bob Schoff: Observations of a Self-Storage Veteran

Teri L. Lanza Comments
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5. As chairman of the SSA Board of Directors and immediate-past president of the AZSA, what do you see happening on those fronts? How are the associations battling legislative challenges and working to help operators?
 
We’ve been involved in self-storage industry trade associations from the beginning. It just makes sense to work together for the good of the industry and learn from each other.
 
One of the important functions of the associations is keeping on top of legal and legislative issues. The laws the self-storage industry operates under reside mostly at the state level, so local representation is very important. With model legislation and monetary support from the national SSA, most states have been able to enact self-storage-specific laws.
 
The SSA is the industry’s most effective lobbyist and is “on guard” to provide a voice in the face of regulatory activity. It has fought recent efforts to enact late-fee and abandoned-records regulations as well as new sales taxes on self-storage rentals. Additionally, SSA is working with AZSA and other states to improve outdated self-storage lien laws. The changes will really affect the bottom line of all storage operators by eliminating costly Certified Mail/return-receipt mandates and expensive newspaper advertising as part of the collection process. Both associations have promoted specialty insurance licensing, enabling operators to offer point-of-rent insurance. The economy is forcing legislators in Washington to reconsider and update bankruptcy laws, so the SSA is promoting self-storage-friendly adjustments to protect operators when tenants file for bankruptcy.
 
Further focus for the SSA and AZSA are legal, research and data, and education issues. The self-storage associations are needed now more than ever because relevant, real-time information is at a premium.
 
6. How do you see technology affecting the day-to-day operation of self-storage sites, e.g., Internet, remote viewing capabilities, etc.? How is your organization incorporating technology into its own facilities?
 
When I first got in the business, one of the biggest technology advancements was carbonless paper and the peg-board accounting system. How cool it was to just write a receipt and post all the entries at the same time! It’s hard to believe we used to keep track of everything by hand.
 
Today, managing a self-storage facility requires the skill of a symphony conductor to allow all the technologies to work together and make beautiful music. The self-storage management company must integrate the point-of-sale software, accounting system, gate system, website, security system and e-mail with all of its operating policies. We recently moved our office, and a big surprise to me was the small amount of paper files we had compared to the last move. I soon discovered how far we have come under the direction of the next generation.
 
The Internet has allowed us to have real-time, in-store digital video and a live “dashboard” accounting overview of each facility. Bills and accounts-payable are received, scanned into the accounting system at the store level, and electronically sent to corporate for approval and payment. All income activity is electronically transmitted from the stores to our home office general-ledger system and reconciled to the bank statement. Operations manuals, forms, procedures and a company forum are all available online. The forum allows all of our facility managers to share ideas, ask questions and gain knowledge with regard to self-storage management and the company.
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