By Robert Vespa
Mobile self-storage is the fastest growing segment within the storage industry. More and more consumers are learning about mobile storage as an option and using this service. Also, in ever increasing numbers, they're choosing to use containers to move their households in lieu of traditional movers. With these trends in place, how does a self-storage operator get into the mobile-storage business? There are two primary methods: invest in containers or become a franchisee.
To determine which model is right for your operation, first consider what you’re trying to accomplish as a business owner. Are you attempting to capture the occasional customer interested in mobile storage? This strategy allows you to add a few customers to your existing base. The second strategy is that of building mobile-storage into a standalone business. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each model.
Let’s assume you’re just trying to capture some customers who would otherwise go elsewhere. The real difficulty here is where to store the containers. Most will not fit into your existing facility. The only options may be to store them outdoors on your current property, or locate some warehouse space you can rent.
Today, there are some very good manufacturers that offer containers that can be exposed to the elements and left outdoors. Even if your current location would support something like this, you’ll still need a delivery system to provide the service. You can certainly find those in the marketplace as well. The advantages of this approach are clear: You can grow at your own pace, the initial investment can be limited, and you’ll have no real obligations going forward.
However, this strategy has its downsides as well. You’re not actually growing a business but developing a line extension that may be an additive to your business. With this option, you can never really get to scale on your business, and you’ll have to figure it out on your own. You’ll likely make some mistakes and burn a lot of man hours along the way. Finally, there’s no network that would give you access to cooperative market or leverage for interstate moves if this is a segment you want to participate in as well.