There are very few things I enjoy discussing more than technology. Ever since my parents gave me an Atari 2600, after suffering in silence to get the machine at a real estate sales seminar, I have been hooked. Technology is rapidly changing the way we live. From cars that talk to us to phones that think for us and software that will solve our greatest problems, the time to leverage these ideas at our self-storage facilities is now.
Technology has to accomplish three things to be worthwhile. First, it has to allow you to better leverage yourself. It doesn’t make sense to use a tool that doesn’t allow you to improve. Second, it has to fit within your existing procedures and systems. If a piece of technology doesn’t integrate into your operation, it’s worthless because you won't use it. Third, it must show you some kind of return, even if it’s just extra time with our family or an enhancement of your existing business.
Let’s review some technology that meets these criteria and will help you and your self-storage business right now.
One of the biggest challenges surrounding technology is the vast amount of options available. Narrowing your choices is a necessary exercise. Let’s start with the basics: Google. When most people hear this word, they automatically think of a search engine; but Google has become so much more.
For example, Google has developed an easy and cost-effective enterprise segment called Google Apps for Business, "a cloud-based productivity suite that helps you and your team connect and get work done from anywhere on any device," according to the company description. One of the things it allows you to do is create Gmail e-mail addresses tied to your current domain name. So if your website is xyzselfstorage.com, you can create an address like firstname.lastname@example.org, powered by and accessible through Gmail. You can create as many personalized addresses as you want, and all you need to access them is an Internet connection.
The app also supplies you with a calendar tool that allows you to share different calendars with your group or make public calendars so your customers can search events at your facility. If you manage multiple sites, this feature is phenomenal. You can schedule lien sales, community events and more.
You also get access to Google Hangouts, which includes instant messaging and the ability to hold online meetings using a webcam. This is an excellent tool for training and general meetings.
Finally, Apps for Business provides access to Google Drive, Docs Sheets and Slides. Drive is an online-storage system, similar to Dropbox or Box, that allows you to selectively share files among your group. Individual facilities may only need limited access to files. Drive is a great way to control access and share documents, and the cost is extremely reasonable. Google currently charges $5 per account per month.