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A Self-Storage Owner's Guide for Getting Serious About Business and Setting Goals for 2010

Benjamin K. Burkhart Comments

On a recent visit to a self-storage facility, I encountered a manager who left me shaking my head. As I approached the office and looked through the window, I could see a pair of boots on the front desk, attached to some ragged old jeans. I thought, “Hmmm ... The maintenance guy must be taking a break in the office.”

As I entered the office, I noticed two, ah, gentlemen behind the counter. One was watching TV, and the other appeared to be doing bookwork. With no phones ringing, a TV blaring, and no other customers around, the “boots on the counter” guy asked me if I could hang on a minute.

Perhaps the president was buying another industry or something, and I just didn’t get the memo. After a minute or so, and some light conversation, I learned the guy doing bookwork was the owner, and “boots” was his son, the manager. Are you serious?

It’s amazing the number of owners out there who operate with little more sophistication than a lemonade stand. Complacent managers and distracted owners translate to weakening bottom lines. Can you make money that way?

A lot of self-storage owners have for many years. Keep expenses low and hope for the best. But that’s not good business, and as we all know from recent experience, the best is not bankable. If you want your business to be profitable in the long term, you’d better get serious now. Otherwise, you’ll lose.

Developers, owners and managers should look for better efficiencies, tactical marketing initiatives, and ways to sharpen their competitive edge, no matter what stage of the self-storage life cycle they’re in—development, startup, leaseup, stabilization or sale. The key is to get serious about your business. This article targets the self-storage owner, who always holds the keys to success or failure.
Exercise and Strengthen

No matter how good you’re doing, you can get better. And when you’re struggling, there are probably opportunities being overlooked. The whole point of opening our doors every day is to make a profit, not just pay the bills. Focus on being profitable because it’s good for you and good for our industry as a whole.

First, take a hard look at your manager. Don’t be cynical, but as the lifeblood of your operation, your managers deserve a lot of attention. Start this process with a manager’s self-evaluation. The best way to improve the manager’s performance is to engage involvement.

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