It wasn’t that long ago that we lived in a world of high- and low-tech businesses. Now everything is technology-based, and every job function involves technology skills of some kind.
Self-storage is no different; but as an industry, we've been slow to adopt technology, more hesitant than most to embrace it. This has to do with the roots of the business. No one built storage facilities because they wanted to run a technological enterprise. People built them because storage was a great way to create passive income with a low customer and employee touch.
Conversely, employees who work the front lines at self-storage facilities generally don't take the job to use their computer-science degrees or MBAs. Most managers are attracted to the position because they like interaction with customers, the variety of daily tasks, the opportunity to be outside part of the day, and doing some physical activity. Customer service and retail, not technology, is usually the background of successful self-storage managers.
We could be nostalgic for the “good old days” when no on needed to worry about any technology, or we could use tech tools to get the business where we want it to be. Owners and developers want storage to produce a passive income and yet be easy to manage. Technology can help with that. Property managers want to spend time with their customers and enjoy diverse work activities. Technology can help with that, too.
Let’s take a closer look at the technology available for self-storage managers today and how it can help them be better at their jobs while pleasing upper management and investors.
Talk to Your Vendors
The first place to look for ways technology can help you is anywhere you already employ it, such as your facility-management software. Chances are you’re only using the product to a very small fraction of its full potential. There could be report capabilities or other features you’re not using.
Contact your vendor and ask for a tutorial or training materials. Also ask what enhancements and features they’ve added since you last had training with the company. You may be surprised to see just how little you’re using of the suite of tools the company developed with operators in mind. In addition, software companies continually add new features and enhancements to their products to help make a storage business easier and more efficient to manage. Some form partnerships with other vendors, adding new capabilities that could make you a “knowledge worker” and “techie.”
Ask for Time to Learn
Your superiors may not know that current times require you to be more skilled and educated about available technology and how to use it. Ask your supervisor to carve out four or five hours a week so you can study and implement new technology in which your company has already invested. You might be surprised what you find.
Most of you are probably using Microsoft Excel or Word to create customized reports or track items particular to your property. I’ve been using these two programs for as long as I can remember, yet every day I’m reminded of how little I actually know about them. I bet you could get your boss to pay for an online class or one at your local community-education center. The classes are inexpensive and will give you added confidence that will help you learn and implement all the great software features your current vendors offer that you’re not yet using.