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Opening a New Self-Storage Facility: A Manager's Guide to Success

Mel Holsinger Comments

Often, the ultimate success of a new self-storage facility hinges on the people hired to run the day-to-day business. As the manager, it’s your job to help the owner maximize his investment and fill the facility quickly.

Given the opportunity to launch a new site, managers are usually excited and motivated, have lots of new ideas and are looking forward to the challenge. But you may have some apprehension as well. Let’s explore how you can benefit from this experience and create a successful self-storage opening.

Working With the Contractor

When opening a new self-storage facility, there are specific tasks that need to be completed by the owner, the manager or a management company. In this article, we’ll refer to owner or manager, but keep in mind that either or both can or should be involved in the opening process.

A pre-opening checklist is a must, and getting things done on time is vital to a successful opening. In most cases, the manager should be chosen several months before the completion of construction, but it should be at least a month in advance.

The owner should introduce you to the construction superintendent, letting him know you’ll be on site from time to time but will not interfere with construction. Keep in mind that while many superintendents will be polite to you, most don’t want to hear about your personal experiences and what you would do differently if you were the owner. The construction company is following the plans it was given, and any variation from those plans will generate a “change order,” costing the owner more money.

That said, an experienced manager can provide feedback on what may help the operation run smoother, for example, the placement of computer hardware, the layout of the retail-sales area, the location of the maintenance unit, the number of electrical outlets for the office and apartment, the numbering of unit doors, etc. Actual examples can be helpful, and the construction company can often make these kinds of changes without incurring significant costs.

Preparing in Advance

Logistics. The owner should ensure all applicable licenses have been applied for and received. It’s embarrassing and frustrating to be ready to open only to be delayed because of the business license.

The appropriate insurance coverage should be purchased well in advance so there are no problems. Proper state and federal identifications as well as workers’ compensation insurance should be in place before opening the doors.

All appropriate utility companies should be contacted to ensure service will be ready when the store opens.

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