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An Outside Assessment: The Self-Storage Management Audit

Jim Chiswell Comments

The topics of third-party and remote management are vital for existing self-storage owners, as well as for builders and investors who are entering the industry through acquisition or development. We know that facility managers provide the character and customer-service image of our businesses. Now, the quality of site management is emerging as one of the key indices of facility success.

Because we've been building to meet the pent-up demand for storage space for several years, in many cases, facilities filled up despite the quality of the management and not as a result of it. Those times have changed forever. While I always recommend that owners consider engaging a third-party management company when buying or building a facility, I now find myself discussing the topic with those who have already operated their own stores for years.

If you are a self-storage owner, consider bringing in an industry expert to provide you with an objective arm's-length assessment of your site. A consulting engagement that involves sharing the statistics of your current operation and complete marketing strategy with someone outside your company will force you to ask yourself important questions.

For example, when I ask an owner for a copy of his tenant ZIP-code marketing report and customer-longevity analysis, he often candidly explains that he didn’t realize his software could produce those types of reports. Knowing exactly where your customers come from can provide significant insight into the the effectiveness of your marketing dollars. Knowing that your 10-by-20 or 10-by-30 customers stay an average of 10 to 20 months longer could impact the deals you're willing to make to capture that type of tenant.

In countless cases, an outside review can quickly identify problematic items that owners have ignored or managers thought were proper. The robotic reply from some employees, “We do it that way because that is the way we have always done it,” could point to an underlying lack of critical knowledge or misunderstanding about vital day-to-day operational details.

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