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No-Computer Disaster Plan: Operating Self-Storage Without Technology

Jim Chiswell Comments
Continued from page 1

Without being able to hit the “F6” key to automatically bring up your vacant unit list, do you know what units are ready to rent? When I managed a portfolio of 35 stores, it was a pet peeve of mine to walk into one of the facilities and ask the manager where the closest, vacant 10-by-15 was—and get a blank stare.

I know some days are crazy with the phone ringing and people walking in with questions, but everyone should find time to print out a vacancy list and know what products they have for sale.
Have a Disaster Plan

A “disaster” doesn’t have to mean the roof to the office has blown off or the third-alarm firefighters have arrived at your door. It could be as simple as an electrical surge or lightning that fries your computer. Until you get another computer, install the new software and load the backup data, that pencil had better be sharp and ready to go.

Some owners and managers have a file cabinet in the back of the office containing all of the manual paperwork necessary to keep the facility running. Items like a receipt book to provide a professional-looking receipt along with a separate record of the payment can be a gift sent from heaven. A stack of credit card charge slips with a step-by-step procedure outlined with telephone numbers can keep you in business. If you rely on your computer to print leases, having a dozen pre-printed would put a smile back on your face.

In the Disaster Recovery Journal, Geoffrey H. Wold writes, “The primary objective of disaster recovery planning is to protect the organization in the event that all or part of its operations and/or computer services are rendered unusable. Preparedness is the key.

The planning process should minimize the disruption of operations and ensure some level of organizational stability and an orderly recovery after a disaster.” Does your planning live up to that standard? I know that after my near-death computer-server experience, mine will.
Today’s Challenges Are Tomorrow’s Profit

This is the theme for the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Washington, D.C., Oct. 5-8. This expo comes at a watershed time in America’s history. Will we be on the verge of an economic recovery or dragged kicking and screaming closer to the abyss? ISS has engaged a number of industry veterans from the owner, manager and supplier ranks to provide third-party feedback. The group is called the Educational Advisory Committee. I’m very proud to have been asked to serve on this board.

There has never been a more important time to gather and discuss the issues, problems and opportunities facing our industry than now. As we consider what lies ahead in 2010, I urge every owner to take a hard look at his budget and consider investing in his future by attending as well as bringing key team members to share in the year’s last major tradeshow and educational opportunity.
Jim Chiswell is the owner of Chiswell & Associates LLC. Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence and customized manager training for the self-storage industry. He has served for a number of years on the Inside Self-Storage Editorial Advisory Board, is a moderator on the interactive online community and is faculty member of the Self-Storage Training Institute. He can be reached at 434.589.4446; e-mail; visit

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