Full Speed Ahead: Inside Self-Storage World Expo Attendees Cruise Toward Success

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New self-storage owner Bill Beddoes had one goal in mind when he registered for the 2013 Inside Self-Storage World Expo: become more knowledgeable. After purchasing a facility in Michigan about a  year ago, followed shortly by a second acquisition, Beddoes discovered that operating self-storage is vastly different from his previous retail endeavors. “Any time you’re moving forward in a new business, you need to be prepared,” he says.

Owner of My Self Storage facilities in Clarklake and Leoni Township, Mich., Beddoes was among the hundreds of self-storage owners, managers, developers, builders and potential investors who attended last week's ISS Expo in Las Vegas. The four-day event included education, exhibits, networking events and more. Hosted once again at the Paris Hotel & Casino, the event drew attendees from all over the world.

Troy Bix, vice president of Inside Self-Storage, looks on as Jon Reddick, president of Sentinel Systems Corp., cuts the ceremonial ribbon at the opening of the ISS Exhibit Hall on April 3.“The show started and ended with a bang,” says Troy Bix, vice president of Inside Self-Storage (ISS). “Investors are ready to jump into this industry, and owners are ready to amp up their operations.”

Building Momentum

While last year’s show vibe was all about recovery, this year's attendees and exhibitors report they’re ready to move forward—and they’re eager to learn. “Recovery mode is past. We’re into opportunity mode,” says Steve Hajewski, marketing manager for Trachte Building Systems, which designs, manufactures and erects pre-engineered and customized steel self-storage systems. “Customers are now looking to expand and take advantage of pent-up demand due to the lack of construction for the past five years.”

There’s also an influx of potential investors who are new to the industry, and a bevy of younger entrepreneurs. “The industry is no longer a ‘flash in the pan,’” says Mel Holsinger, president of Professional Self Storage Management, which provides third-party management services. “Self-storage is a real contender for investment dollars. And we’re also back on the path for new development.”

Caesar Wright, president of Mako Steel Inc., which designs, supplies and installs steel buildings for the self-storage industry, agrees. “The vibe was really good.  I definitely got the feel that people were looking to build again. Over the recent months, our quote activity has been up 30 percent compared to last year. I still feel lending is the strongest challenge developers face, but no question it seems to be loosening up a bit.”

Education Rocks!

The expo education program featured more than 40 seminars on a range of topics including social media, development, online marketing, collections and budgeting.Always a draw, this year’s expo education included more than 40 seminars and four workshops. This year's seminars taught attendees how to do things like capitalize on technology, create a self-storage budget, use social media, plan a new development, manage staff, reduce legal risks, improve collections, expand and existing facility and more.

“I found the seminars on Internet advertising and social media to be very useful,” says Marianne Cordova,  president of The AMS Group LLC, which operates three facilities in California. “The message was clear that today is a different world from 2008 in more ways than one. Not only is the economy significantly different, but methods of advertising and connecting with potential and exiting customers have changed dramatically. Additionally customer expectations have changed. We, as an industry, must change also.”

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