By Tony Jones
There are some undeniable truths when it comes to self-storage facility maintenance. Mechanical components such as rolling doors, access gates and HVAC systems will eventually need service or repair. Standard fixtures like paint, flooring and pavement need care or will look unkempt over time. Landscaping also requires regular attention. No matter the size or location of your facility, site upkeep is essential.
This is why self-storage managers are often responsible for daily, weekly, monthly and annual maintenance tasks. But sometimes chores are too time-consuming or difficult for an operation to tackle internally. It may make financial sense to hire an outside company, particularly if it saves the manager from missing calls and visits from customers.
Do you outsource maintenance at your facility? If not, why not? Following are some common misconceptions associated with hiring a maintenance company and the truth behind them, bolstered with insight from operators and vendors on costs, quality, seasonal issues and more.
Myth 1: Outsourcing Is Too Expensive
Facility managers can perform most maintenance tasks/repairs themselves to save money.
This is a decidedly mixed bag. Whether it’s cheaper to have a manager handle most maintenance depends largely on the skill of the manager and the extent of the task or repair. Most operators believe general duties can be performed cost-effectively in this manner, but outsourcing certain jobs is sometimes a necessity.
“We don’t outsource our regular facility maintenance because it’s cheaper to have us do it,” says Keith Monaghan, who manages A-1 Westside Storage in Bend, Ore., with his wife. However, they do outsource fence and gate repair, drain-basin cleaning, significant snow removal, asphalt work, and the painting of RV-parking lines and curbs.
“In general, if the task requires special tools or training, we have the professionals take care of it,” Monaghan explains. “The owner doesn’t shy away from paying for services that we need if we can’t do them in-house.”
Landscaping is one of those duties that sounds manageable but sometimes proves more cost-effective to outsource. MZC&D, a senior member of the Self-Storage Talk (SST) online community, says he was surprised by its affordability. “We recently had some landscaping done, and I thought for sure they would be way more [expensive] than what I could do it for. But surprisingly, they were able to do it for less than what I could rent the equipment for.”
SST member and self-storage owner mseguin believes managers should stay focused on customers. “When it comes to landscaping, depending on the property, we use company maintenance personnel and contract landscapers. In either case, we want our manager to be in the office answering calls, and not mowing the lawn and pruning trees.”
This is where the issue of affordability gets tricky. Saving the cost of hiring a maintenance company is one thing, but is it really a good use of resources to put managers on the job at hand? For Pogoda Cos., which owns or manages 38 facilities in Michigan and Ohio, the answer has a lot to do with the size of an operation and the scalability of its infrastructure.
“For storage facilities with less than 1,000 doors, it is more cost-effective for the facility manager to perform most maintenance tasks/repairs vs. an outside company,” says John George, Pogoda’s vice president of operations. “Utilizing a facility manager’s known abilities to perform in-house maintenance tasks that are at an acceptable safety level is cost-effective and helps ensure continued high standards for the facility.”