5 Ways for Independent Self-Storage Operators to Compete With the REITs

By Mel Holsinger Comments
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4. Look for Ways to Save

How about your operational costs? Can you reduce them so your profit margin is greater, even without an increase in occupancy or rates? You better believe it. Shop around for the goods and services you need with your local vendors. You may be able to negotiate a better rate for your waste removal if you find you don’t need as large a dumpster as you have, or perhaps you can reduce the frequency of pickups.

Many times, independent operators bemoan the fact that the larger companies seem to get the best deals, but you would be surprised. If you agree to pay your bills in a timely manner (not 30-days plus), you’ll be impressed by how much you can save. Many companies offer a 2 percent to 4 percent discount if you pay a bill within 10 to 15 days. Add that up over the course of a year, and it can be significant. The point is operators can save money if they simply take the time to look at each and every detail of their business, not just the revenue but the expenses.

5. Be a Friendly Competitor

Instead of having the attitude that you’re fighting the REITs, join them. Be their ally rather than a foe. Simply put, several of the REITs recognize they might not be able to fill every potential customer’s need. Reach out to them and see if they’ll put you on a list of preferred competitors and send you business they cannot accommodate. For example, say you have RV parking and they don’t. Make sure the local REIT competitor knows that, and ask him to refer you.

This may come as a shock, but all of the REITs are comprised of people. Many, if not most REIT employees are just like you and me—they care about their country, family and, yes, communities. Reach out and befriend them. You may be surprised at how much they can help you in your business.

I know it’s popular to bash the REITs, but I would rather look at them as an older brother who, while he may be bigger, smarter and richer than me (at least for a while), still puts his pants on one leg at a time. In business, this means they’re trying to get the same customers as us. We just have to outwork and outsmart them and we’ll do fine.

Mel Holsinger is president of Professional Self Storage Management LLC, which oversees the operation of more than 40 facilities in Arizona, Colorado and Texas. Holsinger has been in the self-storage industry for more than 25 years. He is a frequent speaker at Inside Self-Storage World Expos and other industry events, a contributing writer to Inside Self-Storage magazine, and a founding member of the Qualified Storage Manager training program. To reach him, call 520.319.2164; e-mail mel@proselfstorage.com; visit www.proselfstorage.com.

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