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

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Round-the-clock rentals and payments are available through our website. A central call center allows us to keep payroll costs in line, yet it expands our hours of operations since payment and rentals can also be accomplished over the phone. The call center also allows us to hire one high-quality employee rather than two mediocre ones. It’s amazing to me that we and our clients can now see who’s running the office, when they logged in and how much business they have done, right on our laptops.
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7. What are the future plans of National Self Storage? What is the company’s survival strategy in these tight times?
 
National Self Storage sold 70 stores in 2005 but retained its trademark, management company and key employees. Since then, our small, family-run business has acquired ownership in five self-storage properties and manages another 10. We have recently found a capital partner and are looking to acquire at least 50 more storage facilities. Right now, we’re targeting the western half of the United States.
 
We have also packaged our management services a la carte so customers can pick and choose services on a flat-fee or percentage basis. Small operators just can’t afford all the bells and whistles individually; we can provide them now at a fraction of the cost.
 
One good thing coming out of tight times and our being small is we can eliminate inefficiencies and have been working on improving our operations. The management technologies we discussed earlier were integrated this year, so the platform, although new, has been rigorously field-tested and is easily implemented in new projects. We have lost some business by owners trying to save expenses, but we feel professional self-storage management is critically important, now more than ever. Unless you have the economies of scale and modern techniques of a larger operator, survival today is much more difficult.
 
8. Any closing words of encouragement or insight for our readers?
 
We are in a down cycle right now, but I’ve always said it’s better to be in the business and own self-storage than not. We may not see the growth of past years, and we might even see some declines, but not like many other businesses.
 
The lack of financing, while painful for the construction sector and those looking to refinance, will prevent significant new self-storage product (supply) for the next several years. Self-storage has one of the best, if not the best, loan-default rates. I think financing will become less of a problem, but do expect much, much more conservative lending terms.
 
A few words of wisdom: Don’t let your product fall into disrepair. Invest in modern technology, keep professional management, boost your marketing efforts, and you will see self-storage is a great business!
 
Bob Schoff can be contacted at bschoff@nationalselfstorage.com. For more information about NSS, visit www.nationalselfstorage.com.

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